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Published June 09, 2010, 12:00 AM

Are you obeying fertilizer laws?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding homeowners and turf grass professionals that lawn care practices make a big difference in the quality of lakes and rivers.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding homeowners and turf grass professionals that lawn care practices make a big difference in the quality of lakes and rivers.

One element of good lawn care is to understand and follow state laws related to fertilizer use.

State law prohibits application of fertilizers to impervious surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, or driveways. Fertilizer left on these surfaces can easily be washed into storm sewers and nearby lakes, streams or rivers.

Minnesota also prohibits the application of fertilizers that have a phosphorus ingredient, except under certain situations for a new lawn. This prevents runoff of phosphorus into nearby lakes, where it can greatly accelerate algae growth.

To verify that fertilizer contains no phosphorus, check the middle number of the series of three numbers that appear on every bag of fertilizer sold in Minnesota. The middle number should be zero, indicating it has no phosphorus.

In addition to observing these laws, homeowners and turf grass professionals can help protect the environment by following five simple “best practices” for lawn care:

1. Get a soil test to determine the lawn’s fertilizer needs. The University of Minnesota can provide this service – check for details online at http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu.

2. Apply fertilizer only at the recommended rate as listed on the label.

3. Check the weather – don’t apply fertilizer immediately before a storm or rainfall.

4. Clean up the mess – if fertilizer lands on an impervious surface, sweep it up immediately.

5. Stay out of the street – keep fertilizer, soil, leaves, and clippings out of the street.

For more information about the connection between water quality and lawn care practices, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/waterprotection/lawncwaterq.aspx.

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