Fertilizer ordinance coming to Martin County, officials hope to protect waterways

STUART, Fla. - Jacqualine Smail has put a lot of effort into her Martin County yard.

 "Aren't those beautiful?" Smail asked, as she picked some flowers she uses to make leis.

When Smail and her husband purchased the home six years ago, the lawn was filled with dirt.

Since then, they've put countless hours into creating their vision, and taking advantage of the Florida sunshine.

"It's beautiful to have it year-round," she said. "That's why I think people take such good care of their plants. They want everything to be beautiful and manicured."

Residents like Smail and professional landscapers now have to double-check their bags. Martin County will regulate all fertilizer use in unincorporated areas, from June 1 st through September 30 th.

Deborah Drum, Manager of the Ecosystem Restoration & Management Engineering Department for Martin County, said what is put on the ground feeds directly into the Indian River Lagoon.

 "A lot of our water quality problems occur in the wet months, because that's when fertilizers are on the lawn," said Drum. "It rains every day. All of that just washes off into our local water bodies."

Drum said the two chemicals to watch out for are nitrogen and phosphorus.

With algae blooms choking the lagoon, Drum hopes this fertilizer ordinance will reduce the amount of harmful nutrients feeding into waterways.

"That's the whole reason we have this, is to protect our water quality locally," said Drum. "It all starts with people's homes."

When searching for fertilizers, officials recommend looking for the terms: "time-release," "slow-release" or "controlled-release" on the product label.

At least 50% of the nitrogen (N) in the fertilizer should be slow-release nitrogen. To determine how much nitrogen in your fertilizer is slow-release nitrogen, use the "Guaranteed Analysis" (or fertilizer content) label on your fertilizer bag.

For Smail, it's a wake-up call to change her products, but it's one that she welcomes.

"We do want to protect our wildlife and ecosystem, so I'm pleased about it," Smail said. "We'll be looking for fertilizer that's green."

For more information, please contact: Martin County Ecosystem Restoration & Management Division, 772-288-5927 ext. 3.

You can attend lawn and landscape classes offered by the UF/IFAS Martin County Extension Service. See http://martin.ifas.ufl.edu for upcoming events.


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