Green Yard Certification Checklist ( .PDF )
Today, your lawn is your little slice of heaven. Soon, it also may be a billboard for how environmentally friendly you are.
Lawrence is in the process of becoming the first city in Kansas to create a program that allows area residents to have their lawns certified as an environmentally friendly "green yard."
"One yard really can make a difference," said Crystal Miles, the city's horticulture manager who helped develop the program with the Douglas County Extension Service.
Here's how the program will work: Area residents can go to a Web site - www.kansasgreenyards.org - to download a yard certification checklist. The checklist has approximately 55 categories for participants to check. Each category - they range from controlling the output of your sprinkler system to your use of organic mulch - that is met gives the participant a certain number of points. If you get to 36 points or more, you have a certified "green yard."
People can send the completed checklist - along with a photo of the yard - to the Douglas County Extension Service to receive a sign to place in the yard.
"That's meant to show your neighbors that you understand what you do in your yard affects them and that you care about that," said Jennifer Smith, the horticulturist with the extension service. "It is easy to think what you do is your own little bubble."
But when it comes to yard fallacies, that one ranks right up there with the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.
Case in point: Smith said many area residents routinely add pollution to the Kansas River without even knowing it by partaking in one of the more common of spring rituals: fertilizing the lawn.
Smith and Miles said many people fertilize at this time of year despite evidence that suggests lawns don't absorb much fertilizer in the spring.
"A lot of it is washing off and going into the storm drain and right into the river," Smith said.
The better time to fertilize is in September, Smith said. Other tips include letting your lawn grow to a taller height before mowing. Smith said 2.5 to 3.5 inches is the optimum height for most fescue grasses. The less you mow, the less gasoline you use and the less carbon emissions you emit into the atmosphere.
Also, Smith and Miles suggest just leaving the grass clippings on the ground. Smith said they help the lawn absorb water, and the idea that the clippings will create a thatch problem that will suffocate the yard is overblown.
The Lawrence program - dubbed Green Yards and Communities - is modeled after a statewide program in Florida and city programs in Columbia and Springfield, Mo.
"People here have really been receptive to it," said Frank Gordon, a stormwater outreach coordinator for Columbia and Boone County.
He said that 90 to 120 people attend a series of workshops the city sponsors three times a year and that follow-up surveys showed many people were sticking with the practices.
People can begin signing up for the Lawrence program anytime, but a major push will be made in May when information is included in all city utility bills.