Reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the pond is the most important step you can take for keeping the pond healthy. Here are four things you can do today to stop the flow of phosphorus.

1. Practice Pond-Friendly Lawn Care
2. Pump out your septic system regularly
3. Grow A Native Plant Buffer
4. Use Phosphate-Free Dishwashing Detergent

1. Practice Pond-Friendly Lawn Care (and make sure your landscaper does too!)

Don’t fertilize. The best way to reduce phosphorous is to eliminate fertilizers, which are generally rich in phosphate. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the impact: a pound of phosphorous can theoretically generate 500 pounds of algae or weeds if all other nutrients are present, as they are in our pond.

Test soil. If your heart is set on fertilizing, at least have your soil tested to determine if it is really necessary, and if it is, how much to apply.

Use phosphate-free fertilizers. Choose fertilizers that are phosphate-free. If you hire a lawn maintenance company, insist that they use a phosphate-free fertilizer. (The middle number denotes the amount of phosphorus)

Water the lawn with pond water. If you live on the water, then use pond water to water your lawn. It contains all the nutrients your lawn needs, and some of he water will return to the pond with the phosphorous filtered out.

Leave the leaves. Originally our ponds were surrounded by forests, and the leaves on the forest floor protected the pond. The decomposed leaves formed humus that reduced erosion, absorbed water, and also filtered out much of the phosphate before rain runoff reached the ponds.

Development has replaced much of the forest, making the benefits that leaves provide all the more important.

Where you can, leave leaves on the ground, especially on pond front property.

Control weeds without chemicals. The best form of weed control is through proper lawn care. That’s how you give grass a competitive advantage over weeds.

Cut lawns to a length of 3 inches or longer. This longer length enables the grass to develop a healthier root system, which, in turn, helps the grass survive drought, disease, and insect damage. The deeper roots also do a better job of removing nutrients.

Mow often. No more than 1/3 of the grass blade should be cut off at a time. Grass adjusts better to frequent cutting than to infrequent mowing that cuts back more severely.

Leave the clippings on the lawn. They contain valuable nutrients that feed the healthy grass. Frequent cutting reduces the length of the clippings and they will sift down through the grass more easily and then decay, fertilizing the soil.

Sharpen the blade on your mower. This way, the grass is cut clean. Damaged ends allow diseases to enter and also result in a more rapid loss of moisture.

2. Pump Out Your Septic System Regularly

Our septic systems and holding tanks arguably contribute more nitrates and phosphates to the pond than any other source. It is important to keep these systems well maintained. If you haven’t had your septic tank pumped in the last two years, you should do so. When you have the tank pumped, have the pumping service assess the condition of your tank and need for pumping more frequently.

Other environmentally-friendly tips include:

  • Install low flush, incinerating or composting toilets.
  • Use low flow pressure devices to reduce the volume entering your tank.
  • Use a garbage can, NOT a garbage disposal unit.

3. Grow A Native Plant Buffer

A vegetative buffer planted along the shoreline filters out the nutrients that contribute to pond eutrophication.

A minimum buffer width of 5-10 feet is recommended. However, greater buffer widths provide both increased filtration and a wildlife habitat benefit.

The easiest way to establish a buffer is to let the area along your pond shore go unmowed, and let nature take its course. A quicker method is to plant native plants with deep root systems that can capture the nutrients. Grassroots typically extend down only a few inches, so other plants are preferable.

4. Use Phosphate-Free Dishwashing Detergent

State law has banned the use of phosphates in laundry detergent, but automatic dishwashing detergents still contain phosphates.