Some Florida cities and counties have passed local ordinances that pose serious risks to ensuring healthy and properly maintained landscapes. Contrary to their intentions of improving water quality, these ordinances often promote just the opposite.
Fueled by false and often inflammatory narratives that challenge the well-documented environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits of sustainable landscapes and greenspaces, those ordinances severely restrict the responsible use of fertilizers even by licensed lawn-care professionals and BMP-trained homeowners. The worst of these restrictions, summertime fertilization blackouts (bans), starve greenspaces during their critical growing season, are not supported by science, and have not resulted in a single shred of evidence that they have benefited impaired waters. Further, these bans are not supported by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the State’s water management districts, nor any academic research institutions.
Florida’s green industry professionals want to do their part to minimize potential nutrient loading into waterways via improper fertilization. We support the FDEP’s Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Use of Fertilizer on Urban Landscapes (FDEP Model Ordinance) as updated to ensure the education about, and adherence to, proper fertilization practices. And while we do not support blackouts or bans, the usage of such bans which provide an exemption for licensed lawn-care professionals and BMP-trained homeowners can be a useful tool in getting to part of the real problem — which is those users who through neglect or ignorance are careless with fertilizers — by leaving them on driveways and sidewalks, and by blowing their grass clippings into storm drains.
There has been a great deal of scientific, peer-reviewed research conducted on nutrient leaching and runoff from urban lawns, and the conclusions are crystal clear – fertilizer properly applied to healthy turfgrass results in insignificant leaching or run-off, even under extreme conditions of rain, slope of landscape, or excess fertilization. Experts agree that a dense vegetative cover of turfgrass reduces pollution and non-point sources of run-off that otherwise would flow into waterways.
Many misconceptions surround the relationship between urban landscape fertilization and nutrient loading into Florida waterways. Properly allocating various non-point sources of nutrient loading, particularly nitrogen, into waterways is very complex and dynamic. There are many different current and legacy sources of nitrogen in an urban environment, such as atmospheric deposition and septic tank leaching, which are major contributing factors to elevated nitrogen levels in waterways.
Please be sure to visit our Helpful Resources page to read the latest fertilization leaching and runoff research, as well as news and information on various forms of non-point source pollution.
All Floridians share the common goal of protecting Florida’s water bodies from harmful nutrient runoff and leaching. Licensed lawn-care professionals and BMP-trained homeowners are the first line of defense in responsible nutrient management and should be treated as partners in a mutual effort to protect Florida’s water quality.