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Season: Spring

  1. Best Management Practices for Winter Maintenance Managers

    The latest copy of the Maine Environmental Best Management Practices Manual for Snow and Ice Control can be found at the link below.  Winter maintenance is an important practice at the intersection between public safety and environmental health, and should be carried out with thought and due diligence.

    Maine Environmental Best Management Practices Manual for Snow and Ice Control

    From the manual… 

    The purpose of this manual is to present tools and best practices for snow and ice control, when they should be used, and their limitations. The manual establishes clear and consistent guidelines for municipalities and contractors to achieve an acceptable level of safety balanced with cost and environmental impacts of chlorides and abrasives on Maine’s land and water resources by promoting the understanding of the tools, best practices, and limitations for snow and ice control. The manual will also help snow and ice control professionals increase their understanding of when to use and when not to use these tools and practices. In addition, it encourages progressive changes in snow and ice control practices that will help reduce salt/sand use and environmental impacts while meeting the safety and mobility needs of roadway users. By adopting and following the standards, snow and ice control professionals can show due diligence in their snow removal practices.

    This manual provides options for consideration and presents decision makers with a set of best management practices (BMP) that have the potential to reduce chloride use and potentially limit the impacts of chlorides or abrasives on infrastructure, investments (such as equipment and vehicles) and the environment without reducing the level of service.

    Adapting BMPs to local needs and conditions:
    We encourage you to test, document, and refine the practices from this manual based on your local experiences, and send comments to Maine Local Roads Center for future updates of this manual:

    Maine DOT Maine Local Roads Center, Attn: Peter Coughlan –

  2. Topdressing

    Healthy lawns need healthy soil. Most homeowners do not have enough good soil to grow a healthy lawn. Topdressing with the right compost is the solution!

    Why use compost?

    • Contains organic matter and nutrients.
    • Improves soil structure and health (lawns need 6-inches of good soil to thrive.)
    • Enhances root development.
    • Reduces need for fertilizers.
    • Increases soil’s ability to retain water.

    Just a few easy steps:

    1. Have the compost delivered to your home and dumped in a convenient location. (Make sure the dump truck does not drive on the lawn!)
    2. You’ll need a wheel barrow, metal rake and lawn rake.
    3. Dump wheel barrow loads of compost all over the lawn, 3-4 feet apart.
    4. Push and fan out these piles with the flat end of a metal rake.
    5. Lightly rake, fanning out with the lawn rake so the grass blades poke through.

    Most lawn care professionals will topdress for you.

    When is the best time?

    • Late summer or late spring.
    • If you have very little topsoil: twice a year for 1-2 years.
    • If you have 6-inches of quality soil there is no need to topdress.
    • If aerating: topdress afterward.
    • Dry weather is always best. If the compost is dry and lightweight, your job is much easier.

    Know how much you need

    • 1/4 to 3/8 inch layer of compost spread over the lawn.
    • 1,000 square foot area needs roughly .75 cubic yards of compost.

    Find the right compost

    • Find finished compost: it should smell earthy and sweet and should not be steaming hot.
    • Know what it’s made of: many local sources are organic and contain shellfish. They are great for lawns and gardens.

    Next steps:

    • Overseed with a low maintenance grass seed.
    • Apply compost tea.

    Important note: Topdressing is not recommended if you live on a waterbody.

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
    Learn more at:

  3. Overseed

    Overseeding is the process of spreading seed over an existing lawn to rejuvenate the grass, fill in thin areas and incorporate low maintenance seed mixes that require less water and fertilizer.


    • Rejuvenates lawn.
    • Thickens grass.
    • Crowds out weeds.


    • You can overseed at any time during the growing season.
    • Best time is mid-August through mid-September.
    • Next best time is in May, after spring cleaning your lawn.

    Best methods

    • Overseeding is the ideal next step after aerating and topdressing your lawn.
    • For best results, spread 1/4 to 1/2 the normal seeding rate recommended on the bag.
    • Lightly water to ensure seed to soil contact.
    • Keep soil lightly watered for the next three weeks.
    • Make sure the soil is moist but not soggy.

    Don’t seed in the shade

    • Grass needs 6 hours of daily sunlight to thrive.
    • Don’t waste time and money trying to get grass to grow in the wrong place.
    • Try shade tolerant native groundcovers that require little or no maintenance.

    Use a low maintenance mix

    • Mixes mainly comprised of fescues and perennial ryegrasses are best suited to tough Maine summers and winters. Most varieties of shady mixes contain a good blend of these grasses.
    • An ideal low-maintenance mix will contain roughly 60-70% fescues and 30-40% ryegrasses with at least two varieties of each species.
    • Look for “endophyte enhanced” for natural insect resistance.

    Many of our partner stores stock low maintenance seed mixes. Look for some of the following:

    • YardScaping or BayScaping Mix
    • TuffTurf Mix
    • Cottage Mix
    • Shady Mix

    Tip: Adding 5% white clover to your seed mix will provide a source of nitrogen to naturally fertilize your lawn!

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
    Learn more at:

  4. Groundcovers

    Grass needs at least 6 hours of sunlight to thrive. For very shady areas where grass won’t grow, consider these perennial groundcovers.


    Gaultheria procumbens

    Grows up to 6 inches and spreads 4 to 6 inches annually. Favors welldrained, acidic soils with average moisture. Grows in partial to full shade. Leaves are evergreen and red berries remain on the plant and all winter. Young leaves and berries have a wintergreen flavor.


    Pachysandra procumbens

    Medium-sized herbaceous perennial evergreen groundcover. Fragrant, white flowers develop in the spring. Grows best in deep shade and prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soil. Slow growth rate; grows to 10” tall and forms a mat on the ground.

    Sweet Woodruff

    Galium odoratum

    Shade to partial shade; fast growing; quick to establish; beautiful, white spring flowers and attractive foliage through to snow. Is seldom bothered by pest or disease. Prefers slightly acid soil pH of around 5.0, and moist, well-drained soil in the shade. DEER RESISTANT.


    Cornus canadesis

    Grows approximately 6 inches in height and spreads easily. Favors moist, rich, acidic soils. Grows best in partial to full shade. Larger white bracts surround small green flowers. A red berry is produced in the fall and is attractive to birds. NATIVE.

    Lily of the Valley

    Convallaria majalis

    Grows from 0.5 to 1 foot high with a spread of up to 1 foot. Not the best choice for perennial bed but good for ground cover as it spreads easily and may need thinning. Small, white, bell-shaped flowers bloom in early spring and are fragrant. Prefers rich soil with medium moisture and partial to full shade.

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
    Learn more at:

  5. Rain Gardens


    Rain gardens are attractive and functional landscaped areas that are designed to capture and filter stormwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces. They collect water in bowlshaped, vegetated areas, and allow it to slowly soak into the ground. This reduces the potential for erosion and minimizes the amount of pollutants flowing from your lawn into a storm drain, and eventually into our streams and lakes.


    Rain gardens can vary in size, but are most effective when built to 20-30% of the drainage area. Rain gardens for single-family homes will typically range from 150 to 300 square feet, but even a smaller one will help reduce water pollution problems.

    • The garden should be bowl-shaped, with the lowest point of the garden no more than 6” below the surrounding land.
    • The sides should be gently sloping towards the center to prevent sudden drop-offs that could lead to erosion problems or walking hazards.
    • Rain gardens are often placed in a preexisting or created depression within a lawn, or in a location that receives roof runoff from a downspout.
    • To avoid flooding improperly sealed foundations, build your rain garden 10’ away from existing structures, and direct water into the garden with a grassy swale, French drain, gutter extension or other device.

    Rain gardens can be placed in sunny or shady regions of your lawn, but plants should be chosen accordingly, with the lowest point planted with wet tolerant species, the sides closest to the center planted with moist tolerant species, and the edges of the rain garden should be planted with subxeric (moist to dry) or xeric (dry) tolerant plants. It is also important to check the permeability of your soil. Sandy soils only need compost added, but clay soils should be replaced with a mix (50- 60% sand, 20-30% topsoil, 20-30% compost). After construction of the garden is complete, the entire area should be covered with a thick layer of mulch, preferably Erosion Control Mix.


    Replacement Soil mixes and Erosion Control Mix are available from local garden enters. Native plants can be purchased from your local nursery. Please see Native Plant Lists from this series for plant descriptions based on specific sun and soil conditions.


    Overall, once plants mature, the maintenance of a rain garden is very low. Watering is important during the first growing season, and some weeding is necessary after planting. As the garden matures, some of the perennials may need to be divided if plantings become too crowded.

    Credit: Maine DEP, Portland Water District.
    Part of the Conservation Practices for Homeowners Factsheet series, available at:

  6. Fertilizing

    New research shows that lawns need less fertilizer.
    Follow these tips to get great results at a lower cost to you and our environment.

    Do a soil test

    • You don’t know what your lawn needs without one!

    Fertilizer basics

    • Unless you have a soil test that identifies a need for phosphorus and potassium, all you need is nitrogen. Look for 10-0-0 on the bag (corn meal gluten is a good choice).
    • For free fertilizer, always return the clippings to your lawn.
    • If an unfertilized lawn is acceptable, then don’t fertilize!

    Older lawns – 10+ yrs old

    • Lawns older than 10 years need only clippings.
    • If fertilization is deemed necessary, start with 1/3 of the amount recommended on the bag label, monitor the lawn, and apply more only if the lawn needs it. Don’t apply more than 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

    New lawns – under 10 yrs old

    • Younger lawns need nitrogen.
    • Start with 1/3 of the amount recommended on the bag, monitor the lawn and apply more only if the lawn needs it up to a total of 2 pounds per 1000 square feet.

    When should I fertilize?

    • The best time to fertilize is between August 15th and September 15th.
    • Grass needs to be growing to take up fertilizer.

    Use slow release organic fertilizer

    • Improves soil health and fertility.
    • Slowly releases nutrients so they feed your lawn, not our streams, rivers and groundwater.
    • Most come from sustainable, renewable resources.
    • Look for corn meal gluten, a byproduct from milling corn. It’s a great source of Nitrogen for your lawn!

    Notes on synthetic fertilizers

    • Derived from natural gas, a nonrenewable resource.
    • Many contain soluble nitrogen that can wash into rivers and streams, wasting your time and money.
    • If you do use synthetic fertilizer, look for slow release nitrogen. Using slow release nitrogen helps ensure that your lawn’s root system takes in the nutrients before they wash away.

    Other tips

    Credit: Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.
    Learn more at:

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