With the traditional start of the South Florida wet season, June 1, elements of the Lee County rules for fertilization application are once again enacted. This regulation on fertilizer use in Lee County sets limits on the amount and type of fertilizer you can use on your lawn and landscape. Of particular concern are the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, which contribute to harmful algae blooms in area waters.
The Lee County fertilizer ordinance sets limits on both how much fertilizer can be applied at one time, as well as how much can be applied over the course of a year. The limits are measured in terms of a 1,000 square foot area. These limits are proportional, depending on whether the area you fertilize is larger or smaller. Application of nitrogen and phosphorous is prohibited between June through September.
While the prohibition applies to both homeowners and professional services, professionals are also mandated to go through training and certification. Homeowners interested in attending training on proper landscaping and gardening techniques are encouraged to contact the Lee County Extension Services regarding the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program.
To calculate how much nitrogen and phosphorus is in your fertilizer, you'll need to check the fertilizer label. Look for the three-number description, like 6-6-6, 15-0-15, or 16-4-8. These three numbers represent nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, respectively. Specifically, they tell what percentage of the fertilizer, by weight, is made up by the three nutrients. So, by weight, a 16-4-8 fertilizer is 16 percent nitrogen and four percent phosphorus. In turn, 10 pounds of that same fertilizer would contain 25.6 ounces of nitrogen and 6.4 ounces of phosphorus.
Given that 1,000 square foot area, the regulation sets a limit of no more than four ounces of potassium per application, and no more than eight ounces per year. It also limits the amount of nitrogen to no more than four pounds per year. Any nitrogen must be labeled as at least 50 percent slow-release. And neither nitrogen nor phosphorus can be applied during the rainy months of June through September. These precise limits are designed to get homeowners, association members and landscape professionals to think of the connection between fertilizing practices and the quality of our area waters. The real trick is to fertilize as little as possible and only when and where it's needed.
With these regulations, Lee County asks the cooperation of lawn and landscape professionals, homeowners and homeowner and condo associations, to "Do Your Part: Fertilize Smart."
For more information on Florida Yards & Neighborhoods and classes for homeowners as well as professional landscapers, visit lee.ifas.ufl.edu/fyn/fynhome.shtml or call 239-533-4327.
For details on the Lee County fertilizer ordinance and tips, visit www.FertilizeSmart.com.