A string of recent deaths have been tied to riding lawn mower accidents. Here’s how to stay safe.

Eileen Joyce, York Daily Record

It is estimated that when European settlers first came to Pennsylvania, 90-95 percent of the state was covered in forests. This natural landscape, absorbed, filtered and regulated the rainfall that entered the streams and rivers. Today, approximately 59 percent of Pennsylvania is covered by forest and in York County, it is only 28 percent. What does forestry have to do with lawns? Well, bear with me. Of the remaining 72 percent of York County, 39 percent is in cropland and 33% is designated as “other” which includes turf/lawns.

The Chesapeake Stormwater Network (CSN) estimates 19.1 percent of York County is covered with turf/lawns and includes York County in their top ten “turfiest” counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This illustrates the significant change that is occurring in the ecology of the county and of the new responsibilities that this seismic shift to lawns has given us. It is not just the Chesapeake Bay, but all of our local streams, ponds and waterways that are affected by what we do on our lawns.

Lawns are important. They slow water runoff, increase water filtration, stabilize the soil and catch dust/pollutants. However, our zeal to have the most perfect green lawn has resulted in practices that are detrimental to the health of the environment. Excessive application of fertilizers won’t necessarily improve your lawn; however, it may be wasting your time, money and causing damaging run-off and algae blooms.

So, how can we protect our waterways and wildlife and still have a green lawn? First, understand your lawn. Most lawns in the County are varieties of cool weather grasses such a Kentucky Blue grass, tall fescue, perennial rye and fine fescue. This is important. Cool weather grasses have most of their root production and growth in April, May and June, and then again in September, October and November. During the hot…