Fertilizer and Pesticide Guidelines
Sandy South Florida soils allow nutrients to drain away from root systems quickly, so fertilizing can be a routine part of lawn care if done responsibly. While many plants and grasses can thrive without fertilizer, there are times when you will want to or need to fertilize. It is important to know when and how often to fertilize, as well as what type of fertilizer to use.
A good general purpose landscape fertilizer is phosphorous-free and contains only 15 percent of both nitrogen and potassium. This will be printed on the fertilizer bag’s label as 15-0-15. The fertilizer should contain micronutrients, and one with 7.5 percent slow-release nitrogen is recommended. If phosphorous is necessary for lawn maintenance, the fertilizer should contain 0.2 percent or less as Fort Lauderdale soil is naturally high in phosphorus.
When necessary, fertilizer application is recommended twice per year, once in spring and again in the fall. It should be applied at a rate of no more than one pound per thousand square feet.
A good rule of thumb when applying fertilizer is “less is best” to protect the environment. Excess fertilizer runs off yards and into nearby canals, coastal areas and the Everglades. Special attention should be given to avoid over fertilizing as it creates nutrient rich runoff that can lead to uncontrolled growth of aquatic weeds, algae, and invasive plants. Aquatic weed control is a great concern to water control and drainage districts because it is their single greatest expense.
Even if fertilizer is applied at proper rates, too much water following fertilizing can result in leaching or runoff. Just ¼ inch of water is all that is needed for fertilizer to seep into the lawn. It is especially important to avoid fertilizing just before a heavy rainfall.
An alternative to using fertilizer is composting, which can improve soil fertility. Whatever method you choose, please remember that fertilizing your lawn is a choice, not a necessity. Following proper lawn care and fertilizing guidelines can result in a healthy, aesthetically pleasing lawn with minimal or no impact to the environment.
Use Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers with Care
There are alternatives to using traditional insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer that are effective and less harmful to the environment. You can avoid polluting the environment by following these tips and suggestions:
- Take special care when applying insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer to yards
- Carefully follow manufacturer's directions.
- Buy and apply only the recommended amount of each product.
- Apply insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer to grassy or landscaped areas only. Driveways and sidewalks should be avoided.
- Clean up excess amounts of insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer and never hose them into storm drains.
- Avoid applying insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer near waterways or if rain is expected.
- Leftover quantities of insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizer should be stored in a dry area free from rainfall.
For more information on fertilizing your lawn properly and other landscaping information, visit UF/IFAS Extension: Florida-Friendly Landscaping: The Smart Way to Grow.
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