Van Buren Township


Our lawns can pollute our waterways. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides may be the solutions for a beautiful lawn and garden, but they can cause environmental problems to our lakes and streams. Fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus, two elements that increase plant growth in water as well as on land. When fertilizer gets into the water, it can cause excess plant and algae growth which robs the oxygen from the water, causing fish and other aquatic life to suffocate and die!

Select slow–release fertilizers to gradually feed plants. These products should contain little or no phosphorus. The numbers on the labels of fertilizers will help you identify which are low in phosphorus. The numbers indicate the percentages of nitrogen-phosphorous and potassium as potash. Low phosphorous brands have ratings on their labels such as 23-0-6, 30-4-4, or 26-4-4. Fertilizers containing abundant nitrogen (46-0-0, 33-0-0) are not recommended because they are highly soluble and can readily wash away or enter groundwater

Other Fertilizer Tips

  • Water sparingly after any fertilizer application to avoid causing contaminated runoff.
  • Fertilize in September or October to promote root growth rather than top growth. Deep roots withstand drought and resist disease. Strong roots store food produced in the grass blades for use in early spring.

Use fertilizers sparingly. Over-fertilizing actually encourages certain insects and diseases and increases maintenance needs.

  • Separate fertilizers from pesticides. “Weed and feed” combined products often add unnecessary herbicides to the landscape.
  • Use compost as an alternative to fertilizer. Compost contributes organic matter and gradually releases nutrients to the soil.
  • Do not apply fertilizer within 50 feet of a water body, including streams, ponds, and impoundments.
  • Avoid applying fertilizer to paved surfaces. If any fertilizer is spread on sidewalks or driveways, sweep it off before watering.

Michigan State University Turfgrass Science:  This is a comprehensive site on every aspect of fertilizers from what they are to how to apply them.

Soil Tests

How to Order a Soil Test Kit

Each area to be tested should have the same type of soil and have been treated the same.  For instance, if the soil in both the front and back yards is sandy and has been fertilized and watered in the same way, only one test kit would be needed. However, if you wanted to test your yard and your garden or, if the soil differed in the front and back yards, two (2) or more tests would be necessary.

The cost of each test is $9.00.  Please make the checks payable to:
“MSU Extension”

As soon as your check is received, the kit will be sent to you.  The kit includes instructions, an information sheet, and the box to hold the sample.  Send the sample to the address on the box.

As soon as the data is returned to the Extension Service, it will be examined, necessary comments will be added, and the information will be sent to you. It takes approximately 3 weeks for the soil test report interpretation to arrive in the mail.  Soil testing only tests for nutrient levels and pH. It does not test for diseases or contaminants in the soil.

Soil Test Kit Order Form

Name: __________________________________________________________
Address: ________________________________________________________
Number of kits: ________   @ $9.00 per kit  =  $___________ total enclosed.

Send to:
Wayne County, MSU Extension
640 Temple, 6th Floor
Detroit, MI 48201