Are Fertilizers and Lawn Products Safe If I Have a Well?
With warm weather and longer days arriving to Raleigh, if you’re like most homeowners, you’re ready to get outside, eager to plant your vegetable and flower gardens and bring your lawn back to life after a drab, gray winter. Perhaps you even use fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides to keep your garden free of bugs and weeds while keeping your lawns green and thriving. However, those chemicals you put on your lawn can soak into your soil and possibly contaminate the ground water.
If you rely on well water for your home, you may be concerned if fertilizers and other lawn products are safe to put on your yard. Fortunately, there are numerous things you can do to keep your yard and garden healthy and flourishing while keeping your water clean and safe.
How Fertilizers and Insecticides Affect Groundwater
Fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides primarily affect groundwater in two ways: soaking into the earth and penetrating the water table, called leaching, and through runoff, in which they are carried into a stream or directly into the well water itself by excess water or precipitation
As the fertilizer and chemicals are placed on plants and grass, they will make their way down into the soil. Whether or not they reach the groundwater depends on these factors:
- Depth of the groundwater: in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina, well water depth varies from 30 feet to hundreds of feet deep.
- Soil conditions, including the texture and makeup. For example, loose, coarse soil allows water to travel faster and is filtered less before reaching the water table.
- Persistence of the chemical: how long it takes to degrade and break down. Chemicals that break down slowly are more likely to reach the groundwater
- Solubility: how easily does the chemical dissolve or break down in water? Highly soluble chemicals are more likely to reach the groundwater.
Runoff is a much more pressing concern when dealing with fertilizers and lawn chemicals. If your yard is on any kind of slope, rain, and even watering the lawn, can carry chemicals that are still highly concentrated into nearby streams. In some cases, they can run directly into your well, creating a dangerous situation.
Using Lawn Care Products and Fertilizers Safely with a Well
While it is natural to be concerned about using weed killers and fertilizers when you have a well, there are ways you can do it safely to maintain safe well water.
When using a garden hose to spray chemicals, if there is a drop in pressure, a siphoning action takes place, pulling water back into the hose, which can also pull chemicals directly into your water supply, unless your hose has an anti-siphoning device. The same applies when using a hose to fill a tank or container with chemicals in it. Make sure the nozzle of the hose is above the fill line to prevent backflow.
Follow the Label Carefully
Every pesticide and fertilizer should have directions on how to use it properly, including dilution ratios, how to handle it, and how to dispose of excess properly. These instructions are advised and approved by the EPA with safety and prevention of contamination in mind. Also, don’t use more than the recommended amount, as that can not only lead to a higher likelihood of contamination, you may damage your lawn or garden.
Keep a Safe Distance
Store, mix, and spray fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides as far from your well as possible, taking care to avoid mixing or spraying uphill from any well or water source. This goes for all wells, even unused ones, that may be on your property.
Safe Disposal and Storage
When you’re done using your lawn products, keep them covered and stored well off the ground to prevent them from leaching into the soil and also out of the way of children and pets. If you have leftover items, don’t pour them onto the ground or into a ditch or stream, consider sharing them with your neighbor or a friend or take them to a hazardous waste collection site.
Alternatives to Traditional Fertilizer and Pesticides
If you’d like to feel confident that you’re keeping your water free from chemicals consider more environmentally-friendly, safe options to chemicals to get a green lawn and healthy garden:
- Keep your grass on the taller side, about two to three inches, to prevent weeds from growing.
- Spray vinegar to kill weeds and grass in unwanted locations.
- Discover organic and natural solutions for pesticides and herbicides.
- Use a fertilizer with a 3-2-1 ratio or nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium.
Test Your Well Water
If you’re not sure about the safety of your well water, or you do use these chemicals regularly, have your well water tested every two years for heavy metals, nitrates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It’s recommended to test for pesticides every five years, but if you do use pesticides regularly, you may want to consider testing more frequently.
Contact Your Well Water Specialists in Raleigh
At A & T Well and Pump, we understand the importance of safe, clean water for you and your family. If you’d like to learn more about well inspection and water testing, we encourage you to reach out to us at (919) 291-4063 or by filling out our contact form below.