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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan,, 804-786-2292.

Date: March 12, 2003

Soil loss adds to gardening, yard chores this spring

(RICHMOND, VA) - It's probably not surprising to find erosion in your yard following some unusually frequent precipitation. Exposed roots, stones or rocks, narrow rills, gullies or built-up silt in low areas result from erosion.

[Good for you if you thought ahead and mulched bare areas to prevent erosion. If not, remember this tip next fall when you collect leaves - don't lose them to the landfill; keep them for mulch and to make soil amendments for your garden.]

Erosion is a destructive process. Besides exposing plants and looking bad, soil that washes away ends up as sediment in nearby waters. A solution is groundcovers - any plant material that covers the ground surface so you can't see the soil and keeps rain from striking directly upon it.

Turf grass is the most common groundcover, but in Virginia you have options for other low-growing plants native to your area. Groundcovers provide many benefits, such as conserving soil moisture during periods of extreme heat and filling narrow, odd-shaped areas that are hard to mow or edge.

Once eroded areas are fixed, think about your lawn's health as spring approaches. Start by calling your local Cooperative Extension office about a soil test kit.

The test results tell you in plain language if lime is needed to restore the soil's natural chemical balance. The report also tells you what type fertilizer you need and how much.

Don't automatically fertilize in the spring. Closely follow recommendations covering the proper time of year to apply fertilizer. Doing so assures the greatest plant response with the least chance of damage or drainage water pollution.

It's pretty safe to wait until summer to fertilize warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass and zoysia grass. Wait even longer - September through November is best - to fertilize cool-season grasses like tall fescue, perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass.

Spend less on fertilizer and plastic bags by leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. Proper mowing is very important: Cut no more than one-third of the grass plant at any mowing. A typical quarter-acre lot generates 3,500-4,000 pounds of grass clippings per year! Now consider the disposal costs.

For a month-by-month guide to an environmentally sound lawn and garden or a lawn fertilization brochure, contact the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation at 1-877-42WATER. Or call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. Add hardy plants to your landscape - request regional (mountain, Piedmont and coastal) native plant lists from DCR - or contact the Virginia Native Plant Society at (540) 837-1600.


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