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Helping Your Lawn Recover From Chemical Spills

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I’ll never forget the time I was working as a property manager of a seven acre estate. The homeowner, a stickler for perfection, expected nothing less than a flawless lawn. No expense was spared in my management practices. I watched over and cared for that lawn more than some folks probably do for their children. With this in mind, you can probably imagine my devastation the day I showed up for work only to find two large yellow spots in the lawn. To make matters worse, the spots were located in the most noticeable area possible. I watched in horror as the spots gradually changed from pale yellow to dark brown over the next several days.

Inspect Area For Pests, Diseases and Irrigation Issues

During this time I thoroughly inspected the area for pests and diseases. No sign of either. I observed the spray pattern of the irrigation system to ensure the area was receiving proper water amounts. It was. I was perplexed. Then one day I noticed the homeowner’s son washing his car with a gas-powered pressure washer in the same area as the dead spots. At first I didn’t think much of it. However, I realized immediately what was to blame for the spots when I observed the homeowner’s son refueling the pressure washer on the lawn, spilling and dribbling gasoline everywhere thanks to a leaky nozzle and carelessness. The mystery of the dead spots was solved. 

Mistakes Happen

chem spillI share this example because it’s a common mistake committed by most folks at some point in their lives. Whether it’s gasoline, herbicide, oil, fertilizer, salt or even pet urine, chemical spills happen from time to time. Lawn mowers run out of fuel in the middle of a lawn, herbicide sprayers leak, vehicles parked on lawn can drip oil and fertilizer spreaders can tip over. 

Preventing Chemical Spills

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most chemical spills can be prevented simply by taking a few extra precautions. Take some extra time to inspect chemical sprayers to ensure they’re leak-free. Avoid parking vehicles on the lawn for extended periods of time or else place a container under the vehicle to catch leaking oil. Use an organic, slow-release type fertilizer instead of synthetic, quick-release types. Refuel lawn mowers and other equipment only on pavement or use dripless spouts and funnels to make sure no fuel is spilled on the ground. Designate a certain area of the yard for your dog and train it to do its business there. Use a non-toxic liquid ice melt instead of rock salt to help driveways and sidewalks remain ice free. 

Recovering After a Chemical Spill

dead grass by Laura AppleyardOf course accidents will happen. When they do, such as in my example, there are a few things you can do to help your lawn recover as quickly as possible. First, remove the dead turf from the area and dispose of it. Don’t place it in a compost pile since it will be contaminated. Next, dig up the first 4-5 inches of the soil and dispose of that as well. If possible, run a hose to the area and drench it for at least 20 minutes. This will help dissipate any chemicals that might still be in the soil. After this add fresh soil and reseed.

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