Lake Whatcom-friendly Lawns and Gardens

Lake Whatcom Guidelines

Because Lake Whatcom serves as our drinking water source, the City of Bellingham has adopted specific guidelines for materials and practices in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The City conducted testing of various landscaping products from multiple vendors to learn about phosphorus and fecal coliform bacteria content. In addition, the City has sought the advice of professionals in the landscape field regarding best available soil amendments. Based on this information, the City recommends the use of hog fuel mulch for the Lake Whatcom Watershed. This material provides for helpful soil microbes within a base material that is lower in soluble reactive phosphorus. Information about test results on this and other suitable materials is available from the City of Bellingham by calling the stormwater hotline.

Avoid Fertilizers and Pesticides

Avoid use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Phosphorus-containing fertilizers, mulches and soil amendments are prohibited within the Lake Whatcom watershed.

Mowing and Grass Management

  • If possible, replace lawn area with native landscaping to reduce nutrient pollution and yard maintenance.
  • For remaining lawns, mow periodically with the mower set to 2” or higher for most turf types. Higher grass absorbs more water and improves capture of grass clippings.
  • If possible, collect grass clippings and dispose offsite using services listed below.
  • If offsite disposal is not an option, use a mulching mower, being careful to mow at a high setting and during dry periods. Excess phosphorus from mulched clippings can end up in the lake where it feeds algae blooms, harming water quality and fish.
  • After mowing, sweep lawn trimmings away from the street and sidewalk. Lawn trimmings left on pavement can wash into storm drains, clogging the stormwater system and adding excess nutrients to our waterways.

Yard Waste Disposal

It might not seem intuitive, but yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings can cause pollution. You are required to manage it properly. Placing it near ditches, roads, and water bodies is illegal and causes pollution.

Yard waste piled near ditches, roads, or water can:

  • Cause flooding and cost money by plugging storm drains and culverts.
  • Degrade water quality and harm fish and wildlife because pollution from excess nutrients causes oxygen depletion in the lake.
  • Harm native habitat and vegetation by spreading invasive species.

Best choices for yard waste disposal:

  • Use FoodPlus! curbside service from Sanitary Service Company for yard waste, food scraps, and more. (360) 734-3490
  • Take it to Recycling and Disposal Services (RDS) at 4916 Labounty Dr., Ferndale, WA 98248. (360) 384-8011
  • Take it to Green Earth Technology at 774 Meadowlark Dr., Lynden, WA 98264. (360) 354-4936

A note about composting at home:
A well-managed at-home compost pile can be a good option for disposing of yard waste, but Lake Whatcom is sensitive to nutrients from compost piles and compost use.

If you live in the Lake Whatcom watershed, the best option for water quality protection is to dispose of yard waste offsite using one of the options listed above. If you do practice home composting, please follow best practices for water quality protection.

Reduce Erosion

Place hardwood chips, arborist chips, or hog-fuel mulch over soil to reduce erosion. Use a barrier such as bricks or wood to contain soil in the garden.

Conserve Water

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