You can Google “Florida fertilizer blackout” to find a map of counties that ban the application of nitrogen and phosphorus during the summer season. Marked in red, the ban region stretches from Citrus to Lee County on the west coast (minus a couple of small segments) and Volusia to Martin County on the east.
All have enacted ordinances forbidding the application of lawn and landscape chemicals that could wash away into the creeks, canals and bays during the rainy season.
That season has arrived. The fertilizer bans went into effect June 1 and extend through Sept. 30, when the threat of regular heavy downpours and potential for nutrient runoff is greatest.
We’re pleased to have these ordinances. Having struggled with a nasty, smelly, fish-killing red tide throughout much of the last year, Floridians in our area understand the need to keep waterways as clean as possible. More needs to be done. Yes. First step, though, is to forgo the chemicals.
Respect and follow the ordinance. Make sure your lawn maintenance company displays a Best Management Practices decal on its trucks.
Remember, as Sarasota County Water Quality Manager John Hickey put it in a recent news release, “While you may think that your own yard may play an inconsequential part in the overall effects of nutrient pollution, it is important to remember that collectively, all of the yards add up.”
Your home turf is part of the solution.
Until the end of September, don’t use fertilizer that has nitrogen or phosphorus on the label. Make sure the first two numbers on the label are 0-0 — not 5-10 or whatever.
Florida’s soils have plenty of phosphorus, naturally. Nitrogen will wash away. Applying those chemicals is not only a waste of money, but potentially harmful to our environment.
Note also that extension agents recommend mowing grass higher during the season in order to encourage root development. In addition, when mowing near a waterway, use a deflector shield to keep nitrogen-heavy clippings out of the water. Do not leave clippings in the road, especially not near storm water drains.
You can play your part, easily. Just don’t use the stuff this time of year.