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.
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.
Look for the 3 numbers listed on the bag.
16-0-8 indicates Nitrogen (N) - Phosphorus (P) - Potash (K). P is always in the middle.
If the number in the middle is 0, it contains 0 phosphorus.
Unless N=0, look on the bag for “slow-release nitrogen” (ex: 8), then look for "total nitrogen" (ex: 16).
Divide "slow-release nitrogen" by "total nitrogen" (8/16=.50).
If the number is .50 or greater, it’s at least 50% slow-release nitrogen.
|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|
|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 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
|Command Natural Soil Builder||N/A||N/A|
|Scotts Lawn Response Lawn Nutrient Supplement||0-0-4||N/A|
|Sunniland Super Iron Plus||0-0-0||N/A|
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
BENEFITS FOR THE LAGOON, BENEFITS FOR YOU!