In 2015, a survey was conducted of more than 600 Lakewood Ranch residents that showed they did not understand the link between landscape management and the health of the stormwater ponds. According to the survey:
65% of residents did not know about the Manatee County ban on summer applications of nitrogen fertilizer.
78% of them had fertilizer applied by professionals who should be aware of the rules (although half of the residents didn’t know that the county ordinance requires their lawn service to be certified).
48% of residents did not know that stormwater from their lawns and streets drained into stormwater ponds or that the ponds were connected to each other.
It is important that the public understand that summer rains wash fertilizers and pollutants from our yards into our creeks, bays, rivers, waterways and Gulf. Storm water runoff carries the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers into our waterways causing harmful algal blooms, damaging marine habitat and killing aquatic life. This is why many municipalities and counties throughout Florida have passed ordinances restricting fertilizer use.
Bans on use of nitrogen fertilizer are in effect from June 1 –September 30 in Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties as well as the city of Tampa. These restrictions apply to both residential and commercial properties and lawns maintained by lawn care professionals. The ordinances prohibit the use of any fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus during the June-September time period and require at least a 50 percent slow release fertilizer the rest of the year.
The counties recommend the following:
Green up with iron. Iron products with micronutrients keep lawns green through summer.
Get better dirt. Add compost to improve your soil and give your garden a boost.
Use Florida-friendly plants. Plants adapted to Florida need less fertilizer, water, pesticides and overall care.
Keep the clippings. Leave grass clippings on your lawn. They can supply up to 50% of the nitrogen your grass needs.
Keep grass clippings and landscape debris from being deposited into stormwater drains, ditches, surface waters, or roadways to reduce runoff.
Mow high for health. Mowing short stresses grass and makes it vulnerable to disease, pests and drought.
Remember to keep fertilizer at least 10 feet away from any body of water. Sweep any fertilizer granules that fall onto sidewalks, streets or driveways back into the landscaping. Make sure you use a deflector shield on all fertilizer spreaders. If you hire landscape services that include fertilizer applications, make sure your landscape professional has received a “Limited Certification for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer” license through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Remember that other parts of the state may have different ordinances so you should check with your local authorities for specifics.
Photo courtesy of North Londonderry Twp. PA