Lawn Maintenance Fertilizer Containing Phosphorus To Be Restricted in 2013

REMINDER: Test Your Soil Before Applying Lawn Fertilizers

Virginia is about to sign into a law, a set of measures that will restrict the sale and usage of fertilizer containing phosphorus.  It will go into effect in December 2013 and is expected to have an immediate impact on water quality.  Of the annual 230,000 lbs phosphorus that currently is reaching Virginia rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, this law will yield a 22% reduction of the pollutant by 2017.   Virginia and 8 other states including Maryland, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Wisconsin now have restrictions or bans on both the selling and the application of fertilizers containing phosphorus on home landscapes.   Nationwide, other states are expected to follow.  Exempt from these laws are organic fertilizers and the use of phosphorus in fertilizing of newly seeded lawns.  Also exempt, are fertilizers used in agriculture, arboriculture, and nurseries.  Scotts, the nation’s largest producer of fertilizer for home usage, recently announced it will phase out the use of phosphorus in all its lawn fertilizers by the end of 2012.  All manufacturers are expected to do the same.

Most established lawns do not need phosphorus, however, phosphorus is important for root growth and is considered critical in establishing new lawns. While, existing lawns require little if any phosphorus. the majority of commonly used lawn fertilizers include phosphorus in their nutrient mix.  In fact, the overuse of phosphorus and nitrogen is a major source of what is called ‘non-point-source’ or ‘diffuse’ water pollution.

Excess phosphorus is a source of serious problems in our natural waters.  It feeds algae in lakes, streams and bays causing an ‘algal bloom’.  Eventually, the algae dies and the decomposition process robs oxygen from the water, creating “dead zones” where fish and other marine creatures cannot survive.

Virginia’s law will …

  • prohibit the sale of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus or compounds containing phosphorus
  • require that lawn fertilizer packages be clearly labeled with information on how to properly fertilize and reduce polluted runoff, including awareness of proximity to storm drains and drainage ditches.
  • require proper training of lawn service companies to apply fertilizer according to nutrient management standards.
  • bar the use of de-icers containing urea, nitrogen, or phosphorus.
  • Require retail establishments to …
    • provide signage that informs the public of the new law and noting the effects of phosphorus on state waters
    • post signage about the restrictions of usage.
    • separate phosphorus-containing fertilizers from phosphorus-free products in stores.

For more info on the new laws go here:  http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?111+ful+HB329  (2011 law)

And here: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+ful+HB1210 (amendments)

For more information on how to test your soil to determine optimum growing conditions for any kind of planting, please contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Help Desk at 703 228 6414 or via email at mgarlalex@gmail.com

For information on having a speaker from the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia Speakers Bureau on lawn care or other sustainable landscape and gardening topics please contact Master Gardener Coordinator Kim Haun at khaun@vt.edu

www.ext.vt.edu Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity employer.
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Arlington office of Virginia Cooperative Extension (703) 228-6400/TDD/PC 1-800-1120 during business hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM to discuss accommodation at least five business days prior to the event.
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