Lawn Care & Watershed Protection

Lawn care practices are a critical factor affecting the health of the Glen Lake/Crystal River Watershed. Improper fertilizer use, pest control techniques, irrigation, and yard and pet waste disposal can have a detrimental impact on water quality. Please help preserve and protect Glen Lake and other nearby waterways by following these watershed-friendly practices.


Fertilizer damages water quality!

Commercial fertilizer products (whether chemical or organic) may be good for your lawn and garden, but they’re terrible for the lakes and rivers. Although nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are vital to plant growth, they are of great concern to water quality. Excess nutrients can turn sandbars into weed beds, cover clean rocky shoals with slime and moss, and cloud clear water with an overabundance of microscopic plant life. Phosphorus contamination, in particular, can literally choke fish and aquatic populations to death. If you must apply fertilizer, test your soil first to ensure it’s absolutely necessary and only use phosphorus-free products.


Lake water already contains nitrogen and phospdyhates. So, irrigate with lake water to naturally fertilize your lawn and garden!

north shore of big glen lake

Stop the spread!

Fertilizer is so detrimental to the health of the environment that Michigan has enacted a “Fertilizer Law.” This law restricts the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers in both residential and commercial applications.

HOW Excess Phosphorus Impacts Water Quality

“When excess phosphorus is applied on land, it may run into nearby lakes, rivers and streams. This runoff can lead to increased algae and aquatic plant growth which can have negative effects on water quality, fisheries, recreation, and property values. By restricting unnecessary phosphorus application, the phosphorus law will help maintain and protect Michigan’s vast water resources.” ~Source: MSU Website

Protect the watershed by only using phosphorus-free fertilizer!

Lawn Care Fertilizer Guidelines

If you choose to fertilize, follow these guidelines to protect the water:

  • Don’t waste your money by buying more fertilizer! Conduct a soil test before fertilizing. Most Michigan soils already contain sufficient levels of phosphorus for plant growth.
  • Avoid the use of fertilizer within 30 feet of the water
  • Use phosphorus-free or low-phosphorus products
  • Choose slow-release nitrogen products
  • Ensure fertilizer is free from pesticides and herbicides (I.e., no weed-and-feed)
  • Limit application to 2-3 times per year

Watershed-Friendly Fertilizers: What To Look For…

The three numbers on every package of fertilizer indicate the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and soluble potash. Look for products where the middle number (representing the nitrogen content) is zero. The percentage often following these numbers indicates the percentage of slow-release nitrogen. The higher the percentage, the greater the slow-release component.

grassy yard up close

Recommended Lawn Care Products Include:

If you choose to fertilize, follow these guidelines to protect the water:

  •  Clean Green 7-0-0
  •  Lake Safe 20-0-20
  •  Espoma Organic Weed Preventer 9-0-0 (91%)
  •  Espoma Organic Lawn Food 9-0-0 (84%)
  •  Ferrell Lawn Fertilizer — Custom Blend 5-0-5 (70%)
  •  Jonathan Green Organic Lawn Fertilizer 10-0-1 (95%)
  •  Less Professional Turf Fertilizer 32-0-10 (67%)
  •  Organica Lawn Booster 8-0-1 (94%)
  •  Soil Science 5-0-7 (High)
  •  Sustane 18-1-8 (79%)
  •  Turf Nurture 15-0-7 (75%)

Lawn Care Practices That Protect the Watershed

How else can you care for the watershed while caring for your lawn & garden?


There are natural ways to irrigate your lawn for better lawn care.

  • Use lake water to irrigate your lawn and garden – It naturally contains nitrogen and phosphates to fertilize your plants and lawn
  • Measure your water use – Over-watering leaches nutrients from the soil and causes run-off into the lakes and river. Frequent shallow watering can also be detrimental – it encourages shallow rooting, crabgrass invasion, and disease. The appropriate level of irrigation will moisten the soil 4-6 inches deep, equating to about 1 inch of water. 
lawn care sprinkler head grass up close
beetle nymph up close


Most pest problems can be avoided by utilizing best practices for mowing, watering, and fertilizing. If you do need to treat for an infestation, consider these guidelines:

  • Avoid using pesticides near wells, streams, wetlands, or any other body of water
  • Identify the insect you’re trying to eliminate and utilize a product which targets it specifically, rather than to spray a general insecticide
  • Use the minimum amount of pesticide necessary
  • Be sure to check the weather forecast to avoid pesticide application prior to rainfall, and never apply chemicals to bare or frozen ground

Natural Pest Control Techniques

Try these natural, watershed-friendly pest control technique before turning to pesticides:

  • Encourage natural predators
  • Change habitats favorable to pests
  • Time planting and harvesting to avoid peak times of pest presence
  • Choose pest-resistant plant varieties
  • Maintain optimal plant growth conditions to maximize their resistance to disease
  • Diversify plantings to avoid susceptibility to one type of pest
  • Apply natural parasites and insect hormones to disrupt the normal life cycle of pests

Yard & Pet Waste

Grass clippings, leaves, and animal waste all contain phosphorus. Follow these guidelines to keep excess nutrients from entering the lakes and river:

  • Refrain from blowing debris into the water
  • Never burn yard waste! Ashes and smoke particles concentrate nutrients into soluble forms which dissolve too quickly into the water Too much, too fast!
  • Bag and properly dispose of yard waste. You can also create a compost pile for organic materials
  • Locate compost piles away from the water and protect the watershed by providing a constant source of organic material to fertilize your lawn and garden