Martin County hopes businesses can help curb fertilizer use

Martin County hopes businesses can help curb fertilizer use

Fertilizer bans went into effect in Martin County last week as they have for the last few years every summer.

It's all part of the effort to reduce the number of harmful nutrients entering local waterways.

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Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus should not be used on landscaping or lawns from June 1 to Sept. 30 in Martin County.

Martin County adopted lawn fertilizer controls in 2011 that restrict phosphorus and nitrogen all year long.

Experts say the fertilizer runoff after heavy rains contributes to a variety of environmental impacts including the growth of algal blooms that block sunlight from reaching seagrasses, robbing water of oxygen and threatening underwater life.

Linda Gallucci says beautiful plants can still be grown without fertilizers.
Linda Gallucci says beautiful plants can still be grown without fertilizers.

Linda Gallucci knows the beauty of a well-landscaped yard.

It's been her family's business for decades, selling bromeliads, orchids and decor at Blooming Freedom, Inc. in Palm City.

She said they use only slow-release nitrogen, but a trick for healthy blooms might surprise some customers.

"You don't have to use fertilizer to get a great quality plant," Gallucci said.

But in the landscape design sector of her business, she sees fertilizers are often overused when seeking a lush green yard.

"I do see, I mean, handfuls of fertilizer. They're not even measuring. They're not doing anything, and these are the houses that are on the water," Gallucci said.

While fertilizers are useful during the dry season, experts say you don't need as much during the summer.

Fertilizer runoffs can often make their way into local canals and lagoons, creating an environment for algae blooms.
Fertilizer runoffs can often make their way into local canals and lagoons, creating an environment for algae blooms.

The risk they pose to waterways during the rainy season has led dozens of communities along the Indian River Lagoon to ban fertilizers from June to September.

Martin County officials will be asking more than 30 businesses this month that sell fertilizers to help them educate homeowners and inform them about the ban through signs posted at their businesses.

They will also work to promote the products that follow the ban.

Businesses that agree to participate in the campaign will be advertised as Florida-friendly on the Be Floridian Now website.

John Maehl explains the importance of residents complying with the fertilizer bans.
John Maehl explains the importance of residents complying with the fertilizer bans.

"We know that our water quality is most threatened by nutrient-loading, and we know there is an element of nutrient-loading from the application of fertilizer," said John Maehl, Martin County Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager.

The county will be sending the businesses flyers to post in the businesses that help educate customers on how to buy fertilizers that are least impactful to local waterways.

Maehl said customers should focus on the three numbers on the front of fertilizer packaging.

The first two refer to nitrogen and phosphorus. Maehl said customers year-round should choose fertilizers where the middle number representing phosphorus is 0.

During the dry season, Maehl said fertilizer containing nitrogen is allowed, but it must be 50 percent slow release.

There are exceptions to the ban, including agriculture, golf courses and sports fields.

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