Streets & stormwater division
Orange County Lawn Fertilizer
October 6, 2009, the Board of County Commissioners passed a new
lawn/turf fertilizer ordinance in an effort to help protect Orange
County surface waters. The new fertilizer rule goes into effect March
1, 2010. The rule is in effect throughout Orange County.
Orange County Environmental Protection
Division (EPD) demonstrated to the Board of County Commissioners
that in order to adequately address urban fertilizer contributions
to nutrient loading to the area’s many lakes, streams, rivers, and
wetlands, it is necessary to institute more stringent standards than
those established by the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection’s Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use
on Urban Landscapes (January 2009).
use lawn fertilizers that contain zero phosphorus and no less
than 50% slow-release nitrogen
Apply no more than
one pound (1 lb.) of nitrogen per 1000 square ft. at any one
not fertilize lawns when severe storm warnings are in place or
within a three-day cone of uncertainty for tropical storms or
hurricanes. No fertilizing during Florida's rainy season of
June 1st to September 30th (trained applicators are exempted)
ten (10) foot buffer zone must be maintained next to all lakes,
ponds, streams, canals, wetlands, and stormwater ponds
spreaders must be equipped with a shield positioned to deflect
fertilizer from impervious pavement, rights-of-way, stormwater
drains, ditches, and conveyances
up fertilizer that falls on driveways, streets, and sidewalks
not blow fertilizer, lawn clippings, and leaves into streets or
down storm drains
Commercial applicators and individuals applying fertilizer are
required to follow the practices outlined in the new ordinance. EPD
will conduct an education campaign to inform residents, business,
and lawn care professionals about the new lawn fertilization
ordinance, good stewardship practices to keep other nutrients from
entering surface waters and wetlands, and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™. Training to be able to properly fertilize during the black-out
period can be obtained through Orange County Extension as well as
programs accessed through the Orange County EPD website.
Homeowners, businesses, and HOAs who wish to learn more about
installing, designing and caring for their landscapes are encouraged
to seek landscape education from Orange County’s
Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program (FYNP). For
a list of free FYNP and Florida Friendly Landscaping™ classes refer to EPD
upcoming events at www.ocfl.net/epd or contact the Orange
County Cooperative Extension at 407- 254 – 9200.
Please click here to download a printable copy of this new ordinance.
Lawn Fertilizer Doesn't Just Fertilize Lawns
Excess lawn fertilizer and nutrients can be carried by runoff into storm drains.
Lawn fertilizer, especially when applied incorrectly, fertilizes a lot more than just your lawn.
Excess nutrients are carried by runoff into ponds and lakes. The same nutrients that help grass grow also help algae and pond
weeds grow, leading to algal blooms and excessive aquatic plants that are not only unpleasant to look at and to swim in, but
also affect food quality and habitat for fish and other organisms.
Does this mean environmentally aware citizens are doomed to have unattractive lawns? No. By following
a few simple recommendations, you can make sure that you're not contributing excess nutrients to your streams and lakes.
Shoreland homeowners and businesses should also consider the water quality and
wildlife benefits of a more natural setting for lakefront property.
Responsible Fertilizing Practices
1. Start with a soil test.
Make sure your lawn needs fertilizer, and find out how much you should be applying. Your test
results will include recommendations on what nutrients you should add to your lawn
When you buy fertilizer the package will be labeled with three numbers.
The first number indicates total nitrogen (N), the second indicates phosphorus
(called available phosphate (P2O5) and the third, soluble potash (K2O).
Look for a middle number of zero, which indicates phosphorus free fertilizer.
2. Choose the correct product.
If you had a soil test, be careful to read the labels and buy the correct fertilizer. If not,consider
using phosphate-free fertilizer (and therefore phosphorus-free). WHY?
Lakes and streams may be phosphorus limited. When excess phosphorus from lawn fertilizer and other sources enters streams
and lakes, algae and other plants have all they need (read more about the role of phosphorus in your
3. Apply the product correctly.
The following tips are taken from "Mugaas, R.J., 1995.
Responsible Fertilizer Practices
for Lawns University of Minnesota Extension, Publication #FO-06551-GO.
The Role of Phosphorus in Your Watershed
- Fill granular fertilizer spreaders on a hard surface where any spills can be easily
cleaned up. NEVER wash off fertilizer spills into the street or other hard-surface areas where they can easily enter
storm sewers and ultimately surface water areas. Wash off granular fertilizer spreaders over turfed areas to prevent
runoff of fertilizer from hard surfaces. Fill and clean liquid fertilizer applicators over turfed areas for similar reasons.
- Close the gate on the fertilizer spreader when crossing hard-surface areas or go back and sweep up the
material. Reuse it another time or put it back into the spreader.
- Try to use a drop spreader, which is more precise but slower than a rotary type spreader near
surface water. Next to shoreline areas, apply fertilizer around the perimeter of the property with a drop spreader to create a
safety zone. The rest of the area farther away from the shoreline can be fertilized with a rotary spreader. Since the perimeter has
already been done with the drop spreader, it is not necessary to hug the shore because fertilizer may get into the water. The same
kinds of precautions should be taken when using liquid fertilizer.
- Avoid getting fertilizer into natural drainage areas or pathways on a property. These areas may not
necessarily be hard-surface areas, but they can carry fertilizer directly into the surface water before having the chance to
infiltrate into the surrounding turf/soil area.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn area to decompose and recycle nutrients back to the turf area.
They should not be blown or raked into street gutters or onto sidewalks and driveways where they may be carried with runoff
water to surface water. Nutrients released in water through decomposition may cause undesirable algae and vegetative growth.
Phosphorus (P) is relatively sparse in natural soils and exists primarily as the phosphate molecule that tends
to stick to soil as water moves through it. Therefore, in the absence of human-caused impacts, P concentrations
in the surface and groundwater that flows into streams and lakes tends to be very low and so usually regulates
the potential amount of algal growth in the system. In pristine parts of the world, there is also very little
phosphorus in precipitation and in the dry portion of atmospheric inputs referred to as dry fallout.
Human activities lead to increased inputs of P in streams and sometimes in groundwater and even in atmospheric
inputs. The most obvious sources are from municipal wastewater (sewage) treatment plants and from industry and
are called point sources that are regulated by monitoring loads at the ends of their discharge pipes and setting
strict limits. Diffuse, or non point sources, are much more difficult to measure and to control. Agricultural
fertilizer-P is a major source of phosphorus pollution in streams throughout the US.
The major sources of P to most urban streams and lakes are non point,
are all controllable to a large extent by homeowners and/or local community agencies and typically include:
- soil-P from erosion (construction sites, road banks, shoreline disturbance, lawns & gardens)
- road runoff (street sweepings of crud that accumulates between rainfalls)
- roof runoff
- lawn clippings
- excess lawn fertilizer runoff
- sewage from leaky sewer lines or from improperly constructed or maintained on-site septics drainfields
Lake internal inputs
Over long periods of time, urban lake sediments become greatly enriched in phosphorus and then release a portion
back into the water. This internal release can occur sporadically and may exceed annual inputs from surface waters.
In productive, moderately deep lakes that stratify thermally in summer
and become anoxic (no oxygen) in their hypolimnetic bottom waters, large amounts of this historically deposited
phosphorus is released from the sediments into the water. It can then be mixed into sunlit surface waters during
windstorms and fuel algal blooms. Turbulence from the wind can also resuspend high-P sediment from shallow areas,
as can boat and jetski wakes. This latter source is worsened when the shoreline and nearshore zone submergent and
emergent vegetation (weeds) have been removed since they stabilize the bottom sediment and act to dissipate wave energy.
(Graphics for this article are from