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Lawn maintenance around ponds

A friend of mine has a pond in their pasture. They mow the grass in the pasture for hay and get within 20-feet of the water. Most of the pond has tall grass and other plants and trees around it.

Some people have ponds that are located within a well-manicured lawn, and mow right up to the water's edge. But if you fertilize the grass, chances are some of the fertilizer is ending up in the pond. Fisheries Biologist Bob Lusk with Pond Boss Magazine says this adds nutrients to the water that it doesn't need.

"Most of the time water has plenty of nitrogen, for example, and plenty of potassium, you know, potash. And besides, water can absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere. So what happens is, when you get excessive amounts of nitrogen, it starts go grow things you don't want in the water, especially algae," says Lusk. "I've seen different kinds of algae show up around water areas that are adjacent to lawns that are especially over-fertilized."

He says if you fertilize the lawn correctly, the nutrients won't run off. But control also depends on the lay-of-the-land, the soil type, and climate.

"If you're in an area where you're prone to really heavy rains, a big thunderstorm that busts through like in areas like Texas, Oklahoma, the tornado belt for example, I think it's great to have a buffer zone around the edge of the pond," he says. "So that way, you've got a four, five-foot buffer area of native grasses that can catch whatever nutrients, or silt, or whatever tries to wash into a pond with heavy rains."

Lusk advises planting native turf grasses in the lawn beyond the buffer zone, which may reduce the need for fertilizer. If you like the well-manicured look, Lusk says it's okay to mow right up to the water's edge. Just be thoughtful about how lawn maintenance is impacting the pond's ecosystem. 

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