Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station | [Cooperative Extension of Salem County]

Turf Management for a Healthier Lawn:

Turfgrass management for water conservation and water pollution prevention

Jump to links for fact sheets and bulletins

As more and more of New Jersey’s landscape transitions to residential developments using turf as the dominant land cover, there is increasing concern with the way turfgrass is managed and its effects on soil health, surface water and groundwater pollution, and the depletion of drinking water supplies. 

Some benefits of a healthy turfgrass in a landscape include its ability to prevent soil erosion by either wind or water and its ability to help maintain healthy soils that allow rain water to infiltrate the soil and recharge groundwater.

On the other hand, potential negative aspects of using turfgrass relate to the high inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides that may be unnecessary in home lawn situations, but still may be applied by misguided property owners or managers.  Additionally, turf areas may require considerable investments of fuel and labor for mowing and other maintenance activities.

Choosing appropriate grass species and caring for the turfgrasses appropriately can greatly decrease the need for water, fertilizer, and pesticide inputs while maintaining a beautiful lawn.

In order to have an environmentally-friendly lawn, It is essential to conduct soil tests to determine the need to adjust the pH (degree of acidity) of the soil with lime and to determine the need for nutrients like phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.  Nitrogen applications should be based on best management guidelines and be appropriate to the intensity of inputs you desire.  Over-watering should be avoided by conscientiously irrigating.   Measuring the amount of water applied by using a flow meter on the spigot or by setting out empty tuna cans to determine how much water is being put down by sprinklers is helpful. 

Below are links to Cooperative Extension materials from several states giving guidance for the homeowner seeking to establish and maintain an environmentally-friendly lawn.  They range from simple brochures to rather in-depth turf management guides.

Link contents

Environmentally-friendly lawn care

Turf management guides

Liming and fertilizing

 Pest management and pesticides

Weed identification and indicator weeds

Special topics

Materials from turf classes and Water Savers program