Monroe County Board of County Commissioners recently passed a fertilizer ordinance with the intent of limiting nutrient applications to turf and landscape plants. Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, have the potential to contribute to water pollution through surface water runoff and soil leaching. The ordinance titled, Monroe County Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes, is contained within Chapter 12, Article 2 of the Code of Ordinances. It spells out certain restrictions, requires the use of best management practices, and requires proper training and state certification by those applying fertilizer commercially or as a part of their business.
The new fertilizer rule would only affect unincorporated areas of Monroe County and would not apply to the City of Key West, Village of Islamorada, City of Marathon, City of Key Colony Beach, and City of Layton. However, the Village of Islamorada is currently reviewing their fertilizer ordinance to adopt the language contained within the county ordinance. Additionally, it should be noted, section 12-27 sates, “…….to the extent of any conflict within sections within this Article, the more restrictive is deemed to be controlling.”
No landscape or turf fertilizers are to be applied May 15th through October 31st. This coincides with our rainy season, where the potential for nutrients being deposited into our waterways is increased. Additionally, no fertilizers are to be applied during a flood watch, flood warning, tropical storm watch or warning, or hurricane watch or warning, regardless of the time of year.
“Fertilizer-free zones” are to be established and no fertilizer applications are allowed within 20 feet of any waterway, including any surface water, shoreline, canal, or wetland; this includes any seawall, breakwater, bulkhead, dock, or rip-rap. There is an allowance to apply fertilizers in this zone to newly planted turf and landscape plants for a period of 60 days, which would begin after the initial 30 days after planting, a period when plant roots are just starting to extend into the surrounding soil.
Liquid fertilizers containing nitrogen, which includes those intended for foliar application, are prohibited. Fertilizers containing phosphorus are also prohibited, unless a soil test has determined the soil is deficient in phosphorus. Granular fertilizers containing nitrogen, applied to turf and landscape plants, are required to contain at least 65 percent slow-release or water insoluble nitrogen per the guaranteed analysis on the label. No more than 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is to be applied in any calendar year.
Fertilizer is not to be applied to any impervious surface, such as sidewalks, driveways, and streets. In the event of a fertilizer spill, those materials should be immediately picked up or removed and applied to the landscape or put back into the appropriate container. It is prohibited to wash, sweep, or blow fertilizer into any surface water, stormwater drain, or fertilizer-free zone.
Golf courses and high impact areas in public parks and public athletic fields are exempt from this fertilizer ordinance since they are already governed by a set of specific Best Management Practices guidelines that are referenced in Florida Administrative Code 5E-1.003. Fertilization of fruit trees and shrubs are not to exceed University of Florida, IFAS maximum recommendations. Organic material that is intended to improve the physical condition of the soil are exempt such as compost, mulches, and other similar material. Lastly, tree trunk injections performed by a certified arborist are exempt from this ordinance.
Training and certification. This ordinance also expressly states that all commercial and institutional applicators shall obtain the Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Certification as directed in Chapter 482.1562 of the Florida Statutes. To obtain the limited certification, green industry employees and/or managers are required to attend the Green Industries Best Management Practices training (GI-BMP). These classes are offered by Monroe County Extension Service and individuals needing to get certified, or renew their certification, can contact our office for our training schedule.
For a schedule of our upcoming classes visit our Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-monroe-county-31022637923
To access the Monroe County Fertilizer Ordinance: https://library.municode.com/fl/monroe_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CH12ENNAREPR_ARTIIUSAPFE