Falmouth-Friendly Lawns

Are you concerned about the overgrowth of algae in Falmouth’s waters? DecliningP1100622 populations of shellfish?  Fish kills  in our ponds? You can be part of the solution to these problems by choosing to use no or minimal fertilizer (and no chemical pesticides) in caring for your yard.

The most Falmouth-friendly thing to do is to choose to embrace a natural Cape yard and abandon dreams of that green lawn. But if you simply must have green grass, here are some tips for having that lawn while having the least negative impact on our waters:

Falmouth Friendly Lawn Tips
6 inches of topsoil is ideal but if you don’t have it, add 1/4 ” to 1/2″ of top dressing every year.
Soil should have a pH level of 6.5-7.0. Modify as appropriate to reach this level.
Over-seed with a mix of fescues and perennial ryes. No Kentucky blue on the Cape!
Mow to about 3″ high and keep the blade sharp.
Leave the clippings on the ground in order to return nutrients to the soil.
Water the lawn with 1″ of water each week for deep roots. Use a tuna can placed on the ground to measure the water.
Try to avoid the use of fertilizers. If you must fertilize, do so only in the spring and/or fall with water-insoluble nitrogen. Grass clippings and atmospheric N are enough to keep a lawn healthy for years.
Avoid the use of chemical insecticides and herbicides. These, too, enter our waters and can have impacts on human health and the environment. 

Falmouth Friendly Lawns History

In 2005, the FWS Board of Directors approved the formation of the Fertilizer Committee to develop a campaign to educate Falmouth home and business owners about the detrimental effects on our local waterways of using fertilizers in yard maintenance. Out of this committee and its efforts grew the award-winning Falmouth Friendly Lawns (FFL) Program, which focuses on educating the public and business-owners on how to care for their lawns in ways that minimize adverse impacts to our water bodies and the environment in general. Fertilizers contribute significantly to the excess nitrogen problem in our bays, estuaries, and salt-ponds, and citizens can reduce their nitrogen footprints by employing the lawn-care techniques outlined in our’ Falmouth Friendly Lawn Brochure (currently being updated) and listed in the table to the right. Individuals interested in finding a professional versed in FFL sustainable techniques are encouraged to consult the FFL Honor Roll or contact FWS at info at falmouthwaters.org. 

In 2013, Falmouth adopted a Fertilizer Bylaw to reduce the nitrogen pollu!on entering our estuaries and ponds. The Bylaw only applies to grass; it does not apply to fertilizer use on flower and vegetable gardens, houseplants, farms or orchards, nor does it apply to planting or repair (of damage) of turf.

Falmouth’s Fertilizer Bylaw at a Glance
          Don’t fertilize your lawn right before or during a heavy rain or storm.

Don’t fertilize your lawn at all between October 16th and April 14th.
Don’t spread fertilizer on paved  surfaces. If you do, clean it up.
Don’t fertilize any lawn located with 100 feet of wetlands.*
If you do choose to fertilize  lawns within allowed parameters, fertilize sparingly.
Use yard waste, compost, or other primarily organic materials to improve soil.
Traditional Cape lawns endure for generations without fertilizer, and with very little water. Recycled grass clippings and atmospheric deposition are natural sources of nitrogen.  In many cases, this is all the input an established lawn needs.