Support your lawn and save the bay
Mary Butler’s lawn has already seen a significant change since laying down compost last year, as seen in these before and after photos.

Courtesy photos

Support your lawn and save the bay

Story By: GLENN ROHRBACKER
4/11/2019


 

Can taking care of your lawn actually be a key step in saving the Great South Bay? It turns out, it may be one of the best things you can do.

The Center for Environmental Education and Discovery (CEED) and Friends of Bellport Bay are teaming up again for their CEED and Soil Sale, which will provide people with organic and non-GMO products to apply on their lawn. The seeds are wild birdseed that are also non-GMO. 

“We want to do anything we can to help with environmental concerns,” said Rebecca Muellers, a co-founder of CEED. 

CEED and FoBB, along with partner SOS for Your Soil in St. James, are advocating against chemical fertilizers that are posing a threat to the bay. Fertilizers with chemicals come with about 25 to 30 percent nitrogen, when lawns actually use only about 5 to 10 percent. The rest is washed away into the groundwater system, which is eventually flushed into the bay. 

“Guess what loves nitrogen? Algae,” said Mary Butler, treasurer of FoBB. “We are literally creating algae blooms.” 

The excess nitrogen creates algae and causes brown and red tides. It also contributes to the deterioration of marine species and the local ecosystem. Cutting it off at the source, by reducing algae growth, can help to restore the ecosystem, according to the organizations. 

CEED is offering organic compost, which would replace the fertilizer a person may currently be using. The soil takes microorganisms from the compost and mixes together, creating a rich environment for grass or plants to grow. The pesticides in many commercial fertilizers kill weeds, but also kill the microorganisms that produce healthy plants. It’s a cycle that keeps happening, according to Shamma Murphy, of SOS Soil. 

The impact only grows as people continue to use compost, Murphy added. It will eventually take care of itself within five to seven years, as it mixes with the natural soil. The effects seen depend on the current condition of the lawn, but anyone can begin to use compost, without much, if any, preparation. Murphy said a turnaround can be seen within about 18 months. Once you see earthworms, your lawn is in good shape. 

“That’s always a sign of a good, healthy soil,” Muellers added. 

The sale is at the end of April, which is about the ideal time to put down the compost. If it goes down before the weeds begin to grow, it can become strong early. If fertilizer has been used previously, it will eventually flush out. CEED and FoBB found grass seed that is ideal for South Shore homes, known as Summer Stress, which can deal with different weather types, wear and tear, and doesn’t require much work. Murphy recommends placing the seed three times in spring, with 10-day increments, to fill in any gaps and prevent crabgrass. The organizations are trying to educate the public so they realize they can have a healthy lawn at a reasonable cost for not much work. For those who want to take a middle step between fertilizer and compost, CEED will also be selling Esposa, a low-nitrogen form of fertilizer. 

“People go with the most conventional way because they don’t know how to get the results they want organically,” Murphy said. 

The organizations are hosting a preorder period until April 20, so they can have the materials ready for pickup on April 27 and 28. The order form can be found online at ceedli.org or can be picked up at their headquarters, 287 South Country Road in Brookhaven. There will be limited extra supply on the pickup days, so CEED encourages people to preorder now. The pickup times are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28. Experts will be on hand to answer questions about applications, benefits and more.