Fertilize Responsibly This Summer: Zero Nitrogen Equals Clean Water Bodies

Public Health & Safety

While summer rains cool us down, they also wash fertilizer off our yards and fuel algae growth in our lakes, rivers and springs. We all know a healthy lawn adds to the beauty of our home, but equally if not more important, clean water bodies add to the beauty, ecology and economy of our community. So how can we achieve both healthy lawns and clean water bodies?

We can accomplish both by adhering to Orange County’s Fertilizer Management Ordinance, which had some important changes go into effect on June 1, 2022. A key provision of the ordinance states that Orange County residents and businesses can only apply fertilizer with zero nitrogen and zero phosphorus to their lawns and landscapes from June 1 to September 30.

“Restricting the application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer is a critical measure that will help protect our rivers, lakes, springs and groundwater from nutrient pollution and associated algae blooms,” explained Julie Bortles, Environmental Programs Administrator, Water and Land Resources for Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division. “Having healthy waterways is essential to maintaining a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.”

The ordinance also stipulates that from October 1 to May 1 (non-summer months), fertilizer containing nitrogen is permitted, but it must contain at least 65 percent slow-release nitrogen. Other provisions include keeping fertilizer 25 feet from natural water bodies, limiting each application to one-pound total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet (maximum three pounds per year), and using zero phosphorus unless a soil test shows a deficiency.

Orange County, which recently was the recipient of a special award for its land conservation efforts from the Florida Wildlife Federation, has put initiatives in place with the understanding that an important aspect of quality of life in this region is tied to enjoying our water bodies, and we can only enjoy their benefits if they are healthy.

“This ordinance is one of many steps in the direction we’re headed to keep pollutants out of our rivers, lakes and springs,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings.

Residents concerned about the health of their lawns have options to keep their yards green this summer. Summer-compliant, zero-nitrogen fertilizers are available in local stores.

To learn more about ways to have a healthy lawn year-round without harming the environment, go to Orange County’s Fertilize Responsibly webpage.

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