In 1898, Sir William Crookes called on science to save Europe from impending starvation. The crux of the matter was a lack of nitrogen as fertilizer to grow food. It took until 1912 to develop a viable means of producing fertilizer.
Fritz Haber, a young German Jewish chemist, was awarded a Nobel Prize and the world averted starvation. Unfortunately, with a plentiful supply of fixated nitrogen, mankind was free to make unlimited explosives and two world wars ensued.
As if that isn't irony enough, here we are 100 years later and we are faced with how to control the use of fertilizer so that we don't lose one of our major sources of sustenance: seafood. Let me explain. Fertilizer that gets into our waterways accelerates the growth of algae, which quickly out-competes fish and shellfish for oxygen that is in the water. Without oxygen, these creatures suffocate (die). The world's oceans are becoming depleted by several stressors and fertilizer is a major one.
Interesting, but why the history and science? It's because last summer Collier County passed an ordinance that limits the use of fertilizer in landscapes, and understanding the "why" will hopefully motivate you to follow it (instead of because some new regulation says you have to!). The ordinance has requirements for commercial landscapers who apply fertilizer and also has restrictions and guidelines for everyone to follow.
If you hire a lawn maintenance company directly or through your property management company, your part is simple: hire a company that has received certification through the Florida-Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries training. They shouldn't be hard to find since the city of Naples has required this for several years.
Starting in 2012, the county ordinance requires all lawn maintenance and landscape businesses who apply fertilizer to have at least one employee trained in order to obtain a Collier County Local Business Tax Certificate.
As with any service, it's good to notice that the company is following a couple of basics in case somebody didn't get the memo. There should be no application of fertilizers during identified storm "Watch" or "Warning" periods and no fertilizer or lawn and grass clippings should be left on impervious surfaces or near water. Blowing this stuff into a storm drain is like throwing it directly into the lake since they are all connected. They should sweep it into the yard where it can do some good. Your commercial landscaper has taken the training, which they almost all agree is very informative and useful to them, so follow their advice. You may find that your lake will look and smell nicer with less expense.
These rules should also be followed by do-it-yourselfers to minimize expense and help insure the fertilizer nourishes your plants and does not contribute to nuisance algae growth in our waters. Other tips include using slow-release fertilizer; more is not better; measure your yard to determine how much fertilizer to buy; and follow package directions.
Well, this is an article about the county's ordinance and it purposely varies from the city's in this regard, but if you think it will cause confusion then we can leave it because I don't want confusion since I've been designated to answer phoned-in questions!
Florida-Friendly landscaping information is available to all. The Florida Yards and Neighborhood handbook contains excellent guidance. It is available at www.dontoverfeed.com along with the county's ordinance. If you live in the city of Naples or Marco Island, please check their ordinances as well.
We can have our beautiful lush landscapes and our crab cakes too if we can control our fertilizer use.
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Steve Preston is a senior project manager with the Collier County Land Development Services Department and Stormwater Pollution Prevention. The Greenscape Alliance includes local organizations and agencies with a common goal Protecting natural resources through innovative strategies that promote Florida-Friendly Landscaping practices in Southwest Florida. For more information about the Alliance and its members, visit www.rookerybay.org/greenscape-alliance.html