Lawn & Garden


Test your lawn BEFORE watering. Step on a patch of grass; if it springs back, it doesn’t need water.

  • One inch of water per week from rain/irrigation is enough to keep a lawn green. Just one inch of water per week from rain OR irrigation is enough to keep a lawn green.
  • Always follow town watering restrictions for public health and safety.
  • Don’t overwater, as it can cause harmful fungus outbreaks.
  • Follow weather reports, or set up a simple rain gauge to determine how much rain has fallen.
  • Avoid watering when it’s windy, to limit evaporation.
  • Water the lawn – not sidewalks or driveways.
  • Don’t water when it’s raining! (We’ve all seen this happen…)


  • Mow regularly and cut it long. Set mower to its highest setting and remove less than 1/3 of the grass when you mow. Taller grass shades the roots and slows evaporation.
  • Sharpen mower blades. Dull blades shred grass instead of slicing it.

Healthy Topsoil

  • Create a layer of rich, organic loam 6” to 8” thick to retain moisture, encourage deep roots, and harbor beneficial earthworms.
  • Supplement topsoil by letting grass clippings and shredded leaves decompose on your lawn.
  • To build topsoil faster, apply a thin layer of rich loam or compost once or twice a year.


Lawn fertilizers, pesticides, yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains after a heavy rain fall and pollute our water ways.  Excessive amounts of phosphorus, a component of lawn fertilizer, creates weed and algae growth, causing significant water quality problems.

  • lawn aeratorMake sure that you’re treating your lawn properly. Get your soil tested before you fertilize at UMass Extension.
  • Choose phosphate-free or organic fertilizers, and sweep up excess from paved areas.
  • Use lawn chemicals sparingly. The best times to fertilize are the late spring and early fall.
  • Never fertilize before a heavy rain storm!

More tips for a healthy lawn

  • Avoid pesticides, which kill beneficial earthworms. If grubs become a problem, apply milky spore. Once established, milky spore can protect against grubs for years!
  • Overseed with drought-hardy fescue grass seed in early September to crowd out weeds. Apply compost, dehydrated manure or peat moss on newly seeded areas, especially bare spots, to hold moisture and help establish new grass.
  • Create compost for use on the lawn and in your garden. Add leaves, weeds, fruit and vegetable wastes, and crushed eggshells. Avoid meats and highfat items like peanut butter.
  • Aerate your lawn to improve drainage and allow your lawn’s root network to absorb more water.

Create a Water Smart Garden

  • Landscape with drought tolerant, native plants to reduce water use by 20-50 percent.
  • Plant according to various zones in your yard (hot/sunny, cool/shady, moist, dry, etc.)
  • Use compost when you plant to help with soil water retention.  Add leaves, weeds, fruit and vegetable wastes, and crushed eggshells to your compost pile.  Avoid meats and high fat items like peanut butter.
  • Spread mulch around plants to retain moisture.

When watering your garden, consider these tips:

  • rain-barrel-&-watering-canUse rain water by redirecting your downspouts toward your plants, or by using a rain barrel.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs, gardens, and beds, in order to apply water directly to the roots, where it’s needed most.
  • Water your plants deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, consider placing ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.

A rain garden is a depression in the ground that’s filled with a special soil mixture and combination of plants, which assist with cleaning the polluted stormwater runoff that comes from impervious surfaces such as parking lots and roof tops.

rain garden plantingDuring a heavy rain storm, rain water runoff filters through the plants and soil on its way to a nearby waterway, removing contaminants in the process.  The cleaned water then either joins the groundwater or flows into an adjacent waterway.

Rain gardens can be very manicured, or more “wild” and natural looking.

The Umass/Amherst Agriculture and Landscape Program is an excellent resource for information on rain gardens.

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