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Environmentally-Friendly Fertilizer

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These fertilizer tips can save money, time and aquatic life.

Every yard and neighborhood in Brevard County is connected to water bodies. In waterfront communities, the connection is obvious. However, in other neighborhoods, the connection may be more gradual and unnoticed.

Whether you live near the lagoon or miles away, the decisions you make about fertilizer can impact the health of local waterways. Your fertilizer may start in your lawn or garden, but — once it rains — it can get washed down to storm drains, ditches, streams, or rivers.

The phosphorus and nitrogen present in fertilizers fuel the excessive growth of algae. This can smother natural vegetation, depleting oxygen and resulting in dead fish.

Fortunately, there are small changes you can make to protect the lagoon — and the aquatic life who call it home.

Lagoon Loyal fertilizer sign

For fertilizer tips while you shop, look for this sign at your local garden center. Don't see the sign? Let Brevard County know by calling 321.633.2016.

compliant fertilizer bag

CHOOSE A ZERO-PHOSPHORUS AND AT LEAST 50% SLOW-RELEASE NITROGEN FERTILIZER.

Have you ever noticed a body of water that looks brown or discolored? The culprit may have stemmed from your very own lawn. After receiving word about discolored water in the Indian River Lagoon, researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners from the St. Johns River Water Management District and the University of Florida took water samples to find out the cause.1

The offender? A bloom of brown tide algae. Brown tide algae can spike shellfish, fish deaths, and cause seagrass loss, which is a major source of food for manatees. Manatees may move to other locations or feed in shallower areas, which may put them in harm’s way of nearby boats.

How can you help? If you choose to fertilize your lawn, select a fertilizer with zero phosphorus and at least 50% slow-release nitrogen.

Most Florida soil is rich in phosphorus. Phosphorus is mined from Florida to fertilize crops in other states. Only add phosphorus if a soil or plant tissue test shows you need it.

fertilizer 16-0-8

Look for the 3 numbers listed on the bag.

N-P-K

16-0-8 indicates Nitrogen (N) - Phosphorus (P) - Potash (K). P is always in the middle.

16-0-8 fertilizer numbers

If the number in the middle is 0, it contains 0 phosphorus.

While zero nitrogen is preferred, slow-release or water-insoluble nitrogen (WIN) fertilizers don't need to be applied as often as quick-release fertilizers, and produce more even growth. The result? A lawn that looks great and costs less to maintain.

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Unless N=0, look on the bag for “slow-release nitrogen” (ex: 8), then look for "total nitrogen" (ex: 16).

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Divide "slow-release nitrogen" by "total nitrogen" (8/16=.50).

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If the number is .50 or greater, it’s at least 50% slow-release nitrogen.

Ordinance-friendly fertilizers Analysis
(N-P-K)
% Slow
Release
Dr. Earth Super Natural Fertilizer 8-0-2 100
Espoma Organic Lawn Food 9-0-0 84
Scotts Liquid Turf Builder 29-0-3 59
Alligator Brand Premium Landscape Fertilizer 16-0-8 50
BioAdvanced Science-Based Solutions 3-in-1 Weed & Feed for Southern Lawns 35-0-3 50
Expert Gardener Ultra Lawn Fertilizer 29-0-4 50
Expert Gardener Ultra Weed & Feed 29-0-10 50
Pennington Ironite 1-0-1 50
Scotts Green Max Lawn Food 33-0-2 50
Scotts Turf Builder Bonus S Southern Weed & Feed 29-0-10 50
Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food 32-0-10 50
Scotts Turf Builder Southern Triple Action 29-0-10 50
Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass 22-0-24 50
Sunniland Bahia Weed & Feed 20-0-6 50
Sunniland St. Augustine Weed & Feed 20-0-6 50
TurfGro Professional 16-0-8 50
TurfGro Professional 24-0-11 50
TurfGro Professional Insect Control 15-0-15 50
TurfGro Professional Weed & Feed 16-0-8 50
Vigaro Florida Lawn Fertilizer 29-0-2 50
Vigaro Florida Weed & Feed 29-0-2 50
Vigaro Weed & Feed for Bahia 28-0-3 50
Summer-friendly lawn supplements Analysis
(N-P-K)
% Slow
Release
Command Natural Soil Builder N/A N/A
Espoma Greensand 0-0-0.1 N/A
Harrell’s Micro 0-0-30 N/A
Scotts Lawn Response Lawn Nutrient Supplement 0-0-4 N/A
Sunniland Super Iron Plus 0-0-0 N/A
Know of Another Friendly Fertilizer? Send Us The Info.
rainfall washing down stormdrain

THINK ABOUT YOUR TIMING.

No matter where you live, surface water that leaves your landscape as runoff (either due to rain or over-watering), together with any fertilizers and pesticides in that runoff, can eventually drain into a water body, such as the lagoon.

To minimize the impact, plan ahead.

Did you know that Florida receives 80 percent of its rainfall during the summer? Heavy rain can wash fertilizer away from your lawn and into local waterways. Nearly 81,700 pounds per year of total nitrogen and 4,200 pounds per year of total phosphorus enter the lagoon watershed from excess fertilizer application.4

This “nutrient pollution” negatively impacts algal bloom and aquatic habitats.

Do your part to help the lagoon and other local waterways by going fertilizer-free June 1 – September 30.

During the rest of the year, check the weather forecast before fertilizing the lawn. Is heavy rain predicted? Wait until the skies clear back up to apply fertilizers and pesticides. That will help lessen the impact of both on the lagoon.

Timing is everything. By skipping fertilizer during rainy periods, you can save money — and the environment.

green grass curb with clean street free of grass clippings

USE GRASS CLIPPINGS AS ORGANIC FERTILIZER.

Re-use your grass clippings to save money and enrich your soil. Your grass clippings are made of 90 percent water and decompose quickly, according to the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. After grass clippings decompose, they provide nitrogen to the soil that’s equal to one to two fertilizer applications per year.5

After mowing, blow grass clippings back onto your lawn. They’ll decompose and return nutrients back to your turf. You could even use a mulching mower blade to cut grass into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition. You can also use those clippings as mulch for your garden.

Keeping grass clippings out of the street also keeps them out of the lagoon, where they would decompose and add to the accumulation of muck. Muck causes algal and phytoplankton blooms, which then block sunlight to essential seagrasses — and even consumes oxygen fish need to survive.

Simply blow your grass clippings and leaves back onto your lawn. You’ll save money on fertilizer and mulch — and the lagoon will be free from grass and lawn clippings.

native landscape waterway buffer

DESIGNATE A “MAINTENANCE-FREE” ZONE BETWEEN YOUR LANDSCAPE AND THE WATER LINE.

Make sure to mentally or physically designate a “maintenance-free” zone, where no fertilizers or pesticides are applied. This area should be at least 10-feet between your landscape and the water line. By doing so, you’ll be protecting local waterways (such as the lagoon) from runoff filled with nutrient pollutants.

Excess nutrients increase algae growth in the lagoon. When algae decomposes, it creates odors and decreased oxygen levels, which result in dead fish. Do your part to protect the lagoon by creating a protective barrier between it and your landscaping treatment.

Want to be an environmental overachiever? Establish a 25-foot maintenance-free zone. The bigger, the better!

southern magnolia native plant

PLANT FLORIDA-FRIENDLY PLANTS.

Did you know that Florida-friendly plants don’t require fertilizers?6

They also require fewer pesticides than exotic plants, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Some of the lesser known benefits include that they require less water than lawns — and they help prevent against erosion. The deep root systems of certain plants can even increase the soil’s ability to store water. That can significantly reduce water runoff and, therefore, flooding.

Florida-friendly plants also provide nectar, pollen, and seeds to native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Imagine eating breakfast on your back porch while you watch local wildlife eat theirs, too.

How can you select plants that are well-suited for your area?

Start with “The Florida Friendly LandscapingTM Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design.” Make sure to double-check with your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office to confirm that those specific plants will work for your area. It can provide free, research-based gardening and landscaping information.

sweep up fertilizer spills

SWEEP UP FERTILIZER SPILLS.

Have you ever spilled fertilizer on your driveway by accident? (It happens to the best of us.) Simply sweep it up and put it back into the fertilizer bag. If you hose it down, it can end up in the storm drains and, eventually, the lagoon. Skip the water and stick with dry clean-up methods. Just remember: Use it, don’t lose it! Washing fertilizer away is like pouring money — and nutrient pollutants — down the drain.

Why This Matters to All of Us

Choosing an eco-friendly fertilizer and being mindful with your lawn care can help you save the lagoon, aquatic life, and your own hard-earned money.

The decisions made today impact the environment tomorrow — and what is left behind for future generations.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WHY THE LAGOON MATTERS TO ALL OF US.

BECOME LAGOON LOYAL

Earn points for making lagoon-friendly choices, like the above. Those points will add up to discounts at participating local businesses. Sign up to become Lagoon Loyal and get rewarded for helping the lagoon!

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Let’s Be Clear…Fertilizer FAQ

Every city in Brevard County has fertilizer application restrictions. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawn care service if they're aware of and honoring the ordinances. Remind them why it’s important.

Each year, thousands of pounds of excess, algae-feeding nutrients enter the lagoon from improper fertilizing. Every person (and lawn care company) really can make a difference, simply by making small changes to the actions they’re already taking (like choosing a zero-phosphorus and at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer and committing to the summer fertilizer ban June 1 – September 30).

Our lawncare choices don’t just affect the lagoon. They affect the health of our children, pets, wildlife, water supply, and all other water bodies, too. Phosphorus enters surface water due to human activity. Fertilizer, grass clippings and sewage/septic material all contribute to phosphorus levels in the lagoon. These sources can contribute to an over-abundance of the nutrient, which accelerates algae growth and hurts aquatic life, recreation, aesthetics, and property values.

Companies move to Brevard because of a highly-trained workforce, low taxes and high quality of life. An unhealthy lagoon is counter to attracting and retaining jobs. Help our economy by keeping our waters clean and healthy. Limiting fertilizers to phosphorus-free can eliminate one source of excess phosphorus in the lagoon.

SOURCES:
1 “Effects of Brown Tide in the Indian River Lagoon (2012).” myfwc.com, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/monitoring/historical-events/brown-tide/.
2 “Trouble With Phosphorus in Lake George.” www.lakegeorgeassociation.org, Lake George Association, https://www.lakegeorgeassociation.org/educate/science/lake-george-water-quality/trouble-with-phosphorus/.
3 “Fertilizer Buying Guide.” www.lowes.com, Lowe’s, https://www.lowes.com/n/buying-guide/fertilizer-buying-guide.
4 “Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Plan 2019 Update.” Prepared for Brevard County, March 2019, PDF File (Page 14).
5 “Grass-Cycling.” sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, 21 Feb. 2019, https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasota/natural-resources/waste-reduction/composting/what-is-composting/what-can-be-composted/grass-cycling/.
6 “Native Gardening.” www.fs.fed.us, U.S. Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Native_Plant_Materials/Native_Gardening/index.shtml.

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BENEFITS FOR THE LAGOON, BENEFITS FOR YOU!

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