Kathleen Cue is and Extension Educator - Horticulture.  The counties she serves are Burt, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Dodge, Saunders, Stanton, Thurston, Washington and Wayne.    

How The Misuse of Lawn Fertilizer Affects Water Quality

 As I walk through the neighborhood close to my office, I see white granules that have accumulated along the street’s gutter. Up ahead, there is a lawn care company busily at work, making its way down the block from client to client. How does the lawn fertilizer end up in the street? It could be the spreader the applicator is using, or it could be the worker using the leaf blower, pushing granules onto the street as he clears off the sidewalk. Upon questioning them, the lawn care people are aware the fertilizer in the street is from their work, but they confess to being unaware of the harm this poses to water quality and aquatic life.

 If you’re shrugging your shoulders at this point and asking, “What’s a few fertilizer pellets in the street really going to harm?” let me draw a connection for you.

Fertilizers washed into storm sewers end up in creeks, streams, ponds, and lakes. This nutrient enrichment promotes algal growth, some of it highly toxic to wildlife and pets that drink from surface water. Abundant algae growth leads to eutrophication, a condition that depletes water of oxygen and leads to fish kills. Water with high nutrient loads smell bad, reducing recreational value for fishing, boating, and swimming.

 The N-P-K ratio found on the fertilizer bag is the percent by weight it contains of nitrogen, phosphorus (as phosphate), and potassium (as potash). Of these, nitrogen and phosphorus are the biggest problems in lakes and streams. Best case scenario is that the fertilizer applications are made to growing turf roots to take up fertilizer nutrients. Things that get in the way of root uptake are drought stress, plant dormancy, erosion, and frozen soil. Anytime fertilizer isn’t in plants, then conditions for nutrient movement into lakes and streams becomes a probability. 

 Fertilizers left on hard surfaces are easy to spot and the most easily corrected.  Sweeping or blowing fertilizer and turf clippings, which are also a source of nutrients, from paved surfaces onto lawns is a simple solution.  Whether you do your own or hire a lawn care company, the final step before putting away/ loading the lawn equipment is to clear paved surfaces of any fertilizers, pesticides, and lawn clippings, returning these materials to the lawn where they’ll do the most good.

 Water quantity is uppermost on many peoples’ mind these days as the drought deepens, making it paramount that we take care of the water we have.  Water quality affects us all.   Source: Purdue Extension   Print Version

Sign Up for the Master Gardener Volunteer Program 

Many Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (NEMGV) are winding up their projects for the 2022 gardening season.  The MasterMary Spath and John Foust Gardeners who manage the Growing Together Nebraska gardens have donated 536 pounds of produce to food pantries in Washington County and 2858 pounds in Dodge County, boosting access to fresh food for the food insecure. Master Gardeners work in after-school garden programs, teach others about good gardening practices through the horticulture helpline, and promote healthy pollinator habitats through demonstration gardens.  

NEMGVs are taught the newest University-led education one can receive.  So, are Master Gardeners just about pulling weeds and making things pretty?  Absolutely not! Master Gardeners are first and foremost teachers, reaching people where they are to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for Nebraskans. 

Extension Master Gardeners have a long history of helping people and communities in Nebraska. Starting in 1976, volunteers have been educated in a wide range of all things garden, extending from horticultural insects to soils to plant diseases.  Education is virtual, allowing Master Gardeners access to quality programs from their home computer, bridging remote locations and long distances.  

Who are Nebraska Extension Master Gardeners? They are your neighbors...community members...they are the new people in town, or they have grown up here... they are young, old, and every age in between...they have lots of gardening experience or very little.  No matter the differences of how, where, and why people are called to the Master Gardener Volunteer program, there is one common thread—a love for gardening that spills over into sharing with others.  

 If you’d like to make a difference in your community or you have a love of gardening you’d like to share with others, then please consider attending an informational meeting for the 2023 NEMGV program.

November 15, 5:30 pm, Dodge County Extension Office, 1206 W. 23rd St., Fremont NE     Print version

 The informational meeting provides answers about the classes and volunteer requirements. If you have questions or would like to learn more, feel free to contact me at kcue2@unl.edu, or by calling 402.727.2775

The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

If you like to garden and are interested in helping people, the Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program may be a good fit for you.  People can find out more at the Master Gardener informational meeting by contacting the Dakota County Extension Office. 

Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the class work and volunteer activities of the program, as well as ways Master Gardeners improve the lives of residents of their communities and state. .

 Master Gardener classes cover important topics like Integrated Pest Management, diseases of fruit trees, proper tree planting and pruning, insect pests, and a host of others, all designed to lay the groundwork for Master Gardener Volunteers to have the necessary skills to grow healthy plants and foster a green environment. All classes are taught by UNL faculty and Extension staff.

The Extension Master Gardener horticulture helpline and open clinic hours are:

Mondays, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, Washington County Extension, 402.426.9455
Tuesdays, 1:00 to 3:00 pm, Cuming County Extension, 402.372.6006
Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, Dodge County Extension, 402.727.2775