Torch Conservation Center encourages Torch Lake residents to join local conservation organizations this summer in keeping Torch Lake blue by ending fertilizing.

With summer just around the corner, homeowners on Torch Lake are ready to get back out onto the water and into the sun. But summer, and the lake as we have known it, is threatened by the growing presence of algae both at the surface and lakebed.

Algal growth can be attributed to the addition of nutrients from fertilizers used on lawns that run directly into the lake. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), anywhere from 40-60% of fertilizer applied to lawns find its way into lakes. Nitrogen, the nutrient in fertilizer that encourages grass to grow, also encourages algal growth.

Many homeowners around the lake have already vowed to not fertilize. The Walker’s cottage on Torch Lake has been in their family since 1914. They say they have never fertilized their lawn in its long history. “If you want a bright green lawn, you’re going to have a bright green lake,” Suzanne Walker said.

There are alternatives for keeping lawns healthy. Homeowners could opt for natural fertilizer, a technique where grass clippings are left in the yard after it is mowed. As the grass clippings decay, they leave behind organic matter and nutrients important for healthy grass growth. To prioritize sustainable watering practices, irrigate the lawn with lake water—water from the lake has minerals to build the soil and nutrients to replenish grass.

“We let the clippings naturally decay into the lawn to give nutrients back into the lawn,” said Betsy Dole, another Torch Lake homeowner, “But fertilizer goes hand in hand with water. If we grow more native plants and grasses, we won’t need as much water. If we grow grass that is not native, like typical lawn grass, it requires a lot of attention.”

Around the lake, homeowners are spreading the word to stop fertilizing by posting signs along the roadside of their properties. The signs read, “Keep Torch Blue, Don’t Fertilize!” and can be retrieved for free from the Torch Lake Protection Alliance (TPLA). You can contact TPLA’s Bruce Hulteen by email at for your sign. Keep in mind that Torch Lake Township’s sign ordinance prohibits such signs.

Signs for Clam Lake, Lake Bellaire and Grass River reading “Be Wise—Don’t Fertilize” can be claimed by contacting TLA’s Todd Collins via email at Both types of signs can be picked up at Alden’s TRUE BLUE Gallery starting Memorial Day Weekend 2021.

“If a person were pouring a glass of water and someone came up and said, ‘I need to put some fertilizer in there,’ they would be horrified,” Walker said, “Would you put that in your drinking water? Would you let your kids and grandkids go swimming in a pool full of pesticides in it? Of course not.”

For more information on how to kick the fertilizer habit, visit

Photo(s) by Leigh Patton