Did you know that Hernando County has a Fertilizer Ordinance? This is an attempt to mitigate the amount of nitrates entering our water ways. The Weeki Wachee River exceeds its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of nitrates. This means it takes in more nitrates than it can process and dispose of. This results in excessive algae growth. Too much algae can lead to a lack of photosynthesis for the underwater plants. As these plants die, they absorb oxygen, creating a lower count of dissolved oxygen in the water and potentially leading to fish-kill. We saw this occur in the Indian River Lagoon this past May.
Hernando County has a “black out period” of January 1st – March 31st in which homeowners may not fertilize their lawns. This rule is really easy to follow, because our warm season grasses are semi-dormant and don’t need to be fertilized during this time frame. Most of the roots slough off during the winter. Therefore, there is nothing to utilize the fertilizer, and you are wasting your money as well as sending the fertilizer right down to the aquifer, or risking losing it in stormwater runoff, where it could end up in the nearest waterway.
Residents have to be diligent, because fertilizer is still able to be purchased during that time frame. This doesn’t mean you are able to apply it during the black-out period. Also, you will find information which recommends that the first fertilizer application should occur in mid-March. Those recommendations do not take local county ordinances into consideration. In the long run, it won’t kill your lawn if you follow the ordinance and wait until the beginning of April.
Professional fertilizer applicators must have a license to apply fertilizer to their customer’s lawns (even if the customer buys the fertilizer.) They must also be registered with Hernando County Permitting. If they fit those qualifications, they may apply slow-release fertilizer only during the black-out period.
Year round compliance with the fertilizer ordinance includes the following:
Ask your fertilizer professional if he or she has a certificate of training through the GI-BMP program. (Green Industries – Best Management Practices.)
Watch the weather and don’t fertilize when the National Weather Service calls for a heavy rain, flood, tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning, or when the soil is still saturated.
Avoid fertilizing new plants, turf seeding or sod until at least 30 days after planting.
Do not fertilize within 10 feet of a water body without using a deflector shield, drop spreader or a liquid applicator with a visible and sharply defined edge. It’s recommended to use plants that don’t require fertilizer for those areas.
Immediately clean up fertilizer that spills on your driveway, sidewalk or street with a broom. Never allow fertilizer, grass clippings, pet waste, plant debris, gasoline or oils to be washed, swept or blown off sidewalks or roadways into storm drains, ditches, canals, water bodies or wetland. If you have a small spill, sweep in back into your lawn. If it is a large lump, use a dust pan to return it to your spreader or the fertilizer bag.
Visit www.extension.hernandocounty.us to read the full ordinance.