Fertilizer may be good for lawns but bad for our water

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Fertilizer, when over-applied or applied right before a rain, may be washed into storm sewers by rain and flow into our residential ponds, roadside canals, and Indian River Lagoon. The excess fertilizer contains nitrogen and phosphorus and once in our waters, it may cause harmful algae blooms.

Besides looking unsightly, excessive algae reduce oxygen in the water and harm the aquatic environment. This usually results in fish kills and harms beneficial sea-grasses in the Indian River Lagoon. So, when we fertilize our lawn we could also be fertilizing our ponds, canals and Indian River Lagoon.

Have you ever seen the instructions, “Water in after application,” on a fertilizer or pesticide label? The meaning of this is often misunderstood.

If a product label directs the applicator to “water in,” it means that you need to apply just enough water to activate the product – about a quarter of an inch (1/4″). Unfortunately, some people apply fertilizer or pesticide right before a rain, so the rain can “water in” the product. Applying fertilizer or pesticide right before a rain is just throwing money down the drain. Heavy rain can easily wash products off the landscape and into a storm drain, where they end up in a residential pond or roadside canal, causing pollution.

This means your treatment isn’t effective and you’ve wasted much of your money and time. Do not apply fertilizer or pesticide if rain is expected within 24 hours. For more information on keeping a beautiful landscape and a healthy environment, visit http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/FFL/fertilizing-appropriately.html

What do insects and diseases have in common with fertilizer? Insects and diseases thrive on over-fertilized plants. By applying fertilizer responsibly, you can have fewer lawn pests and cleaner water.

Tips for avoiding lawn pests:

• Apply a low-nitrogen fertilizer that is mostly slow-release content. Example: 10-0-10 with 8% slowly available nitrogen

• Reduce the amount of fertilizer you apply if you irrigate with reclaimed water. (It already has some nutrients in it.)

• Don’t fertilize over septic system drain fields. (There are already a lot of nutrients being released.)

Remember, only rain goes down storm drains: all other water MUST go to sanitary sewer unless approved permits have been issued for the discharge.


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