A Municipal Guide to Promote Turf Management for a Healthier Lawn


Americans have had a long standing love affair with their opulent green lawns.  Across the nation, countless hours are spent on lawn care.  As a result, household water consumption in the summer months almost doubles from irrigating lawns.  Many people even continue to water their lawns while it is raining!  The excess of society in maintaining lawns has resulted in wasted potable water and runoff of pollutants to local waterways.  Society can do better.

A healthy lawn in Egg Harbor Township, NJ; Doebley & Dad, LLC

What is a healthy lawn?

  • A healthy lawn provides environmental and aesthetic benefits without wasting water or contributing pollutants in runoff. 

  • A healthy lawn should be hearty enough to resist damage by insects, diseases, and other stresses. 

  • A healthy lawn Provides good vegetative cover to prevent soil erosion. 

  • A healthy lawn will infiltrate rainwater, which reduces stormwater runoff and recharges aquifers. 

  • A healthy lawn can be considered attractive depending on the owner’s tolerance for weeds and less-than-manicured appearance. 

  • A healthy lawn is appropriate for recreational activities for the yard such as children’s play and picnics. 

  • A healthy lawn should not be overwatered and in some cases not irrigated at all.  

  • A healthy lawn needs minimal fertilizer, especially since fertilizers become pollutants in rivers, lakes, and drinking water.

This Municipal Guide will discuss programs and activities that can be taken by municipalities to help their residents maintain healthy turf areas while conserving water and minimizing the runoff of pollutants.  These programs are based upon research and the results of demonstration projects that have been performed by Rutgers Cooperative Extension and other professionals throughout the country. 

Important facts in the quest for a healthy lawn

1.  A healthy lawn starts with healthy soil

What should be the pH of soil? Is it too acidic or too alkaline?  What type of nutrients does soil need?  How much organic content does soil need?  How much clay should soil have?

2.  A healthy lawn cannot flourish in soil that is heavily compacted

If the soil is over-compacted, water will not infiltrate and will pool on the surface.  If water cannot get into the soil, the roots of the turfgrass will be shallow, resulting in an unhealthy lawn.

3.  Select the appropriate variety of grass

What considerations should be known about when selecting the appropriate variety of grass? 

4.  Lawns need water; not too much and not too little

How much water does a lawn need? 

5.  Mowing at the correct height is important to maintaining a healthy lawn

Understanding the appropriate height and frequency for lawn mowing can help prevent insects, weeds, and disease. 

6.  Fertilizer application

How much fertilizer does a lawn need?  Are there other sources of nutrients other than fertilizer?

7.  Turf restoration can be difficult

Resources on how to design and implement an environmentally sensible lawn care program without incurring a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money


The most important thing to remember is that a healthy lawn can be established and maintained without creating negative environmental impacts such as increased runoff of lawn chemicals and sediment that can degrade waterways.  Additionally, healthy lawns can be maintained without wasting water.  Water conservation has become much more important in New Jersey, and good lawn management practices can result in healthy lawns without wasting potable water.

Educating homeowners about the importance of good lawn management practices may be more difficult than educating professional landscapers because homeowners may have less knowledge about horticulture.  Motivating homeowners to adopt good lawn management practices will likely depend on addressing their values to effect behavior change.  Education tactics might change, for example, if a group of homeowners value a more environmental approach, as opposed to an aesthetically perfect lawn.  By adopting such practices, the homeowner will be able to save money and protect themselves and their loved ones from unnecessary exposure to lawn chemicals.


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