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Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine

Just Say No to Phosphorus Fertilizer

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) urges homeowners and businesses to use phosphorus-free fertilizer as part of their summer lawn care routine to protect Michigan’s waterways.

            A state fertilizer law restricts the use of phosphorus fertilizers on residential and commercial lawns, including athletic fields, cemeteries, parks and golf courses. Both homeowners and commercial applicators must follow the rules.

            MDARD Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division Director Mike Philip says, “When excess phosphorus is applied on land, it may run into nearby lakes, rivers and streams. Phosphorus runoff can lead to increased algae and aquatic plant growth that could have negative effects on water quality, fisheries and recreation.”

            Most established lawns and plants do not require additional phosphorus for healthy growth. When purchasing lawncare products, consumers should review the product label to ensure it is phosphorus-free. Here are some more tips:

•           Do not leave fertilizer material on an impervious surface (driveways, sidewalks, patios, etc.) following an application. Sweep the fertilizer back onto the lawn or turf to be used, rather than potentially running off into a storm drain.

•           Keep leaves and lawn clippings out of gutters, streets and ditches.

•           Never wash or blow soil or grass clippings into the street.

•           Pick up pet waste promptly. It can contain harmful bacteria, as well as nutrients that cause excess algae and weed growth in lakes and rivers.

•           Help control soil erosion. When left bare, soil is easily washed away with rain, carrying phosphorus with it. It can be prevented by keeping soil covered with vegetation or mulch.

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