Below are some of the frequesntly asked questions (FAQs) raised during our current program on nutrient management in urban landscapes.  The program covers several topics including stormwater, steps to sustainable landscape management and soil testing.  

Stormwater

Q: What is stormwater?

A: Stormwater is rainfall that does not infiltrate into the ground or evaporate.  In urban areas it is largely due to impervious surfaces (such as roof tops, sidewalks, and roads) as well as removal of vegetation and compacted soils.

Q: Why is it an issue?

A: The two major issues associated with stormwater are 1) excess water quantity which leads to sewer overflows and flooding and 2) reduced water quality because it transports pollutants from our roads, rooftops, and lawns directly to area streams, ponds and other reservoirs.  This leads to destruction of aquatic habitats and may limit recreational use of our water bodies. Additionally, because much of our drinking water is derived from surface water, increased pollution results in increased treatment cost.

Q: What are some of the ways homeowners can reduce stormwater runoff?

A: Capture or store rainwater on your property.  Divert downspouts from hard surfaces into rain barrels and flower beds or install a raingarden.  Plant trees to intercept and uptake stormwater.  Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces by using permeable pavers, gravel, or permeable concrete instead of traditional concrete or asphalt.  

Q: What is the stormwater fee?

A: Also known as a water quality management fee, this is a fee assessed by some counties on developed properties.  The funds are used to maintain storm sewer infrastructure and implement other projects to improve water quality.

Nutrient Issues in Stormwater

Q: What is an algal bloom?

A: A dense population of algae growth that is fueled by excess nutrients. Loss of habitat, oxygen depleted zones, public health concerns resulting in closure of recreational areas to impacts to drinking water supplies

Q: What is a harmful algae bloom (HAB)?

A: Algae blooms that contain toxin-producing cyanobacteria.

Q: What are some of the health effects of HABs? 

A: Different toxins present different symptoms ranging from skin irritation to respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.  

Nutrient Management

Q: Are using lawn clippings bad?

A: No.  Lawn clippings provide about 25% of the fertilizer needed by your grass so leave them on your lawn or put them in your compost.  

Q: Can I soil test my compost?

A: Yes.  When using compost as an additive in homeowner-sized gardens, UK’s regulatory services recommends conducting a routine soil test plus an additional test for soluble salts, since salts can be a problem with compost. 

Q: How much nitrogen (N) only fertilizer should I be applying?

A: For most established Kentucky lawns, 1 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. in two applications annually (total of 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area) should be sufficient to maintain a healthy landscape. 

Soil Testing

Q: Where do I take my samples to be analyzed?

A: Your county Cooperative Extension office will submit your samples to the testing lab.  They will provide you with sample information sheets and soil test bags.  The cost varies by county, but is general less than $10 per sample.

Q: How do I collect my soil samples?

A: Soil samples should be collected from various areas of your yard depending on use or plant type (ex. front yard lawn, flower bed, vegetable garden, etc.).  Working by area, collect samples from random locations using a shovel, trowel or probe to a depth of 4-6”.  Combine samples in a bucket and mix thoroughly then place in a paper or plastic bag.  Wipe off tools before moving to the next area.  Allow samples to air dry, if necessary.  You should have enough sample to provide between 1 and 2 cups of soil for each area.