Our lawns could be helping to fuel this year's red tide and blue-green algae explosion. Many fertilizers contain nutrients - such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium - that are food for the organisms, and storm runoff can put them into our waterways.
Stephanie Molloy, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Naples, said that homeowners and landscapers should avoid using fertilizers containing high amounts of phosphorus - since there's already plenty of phosphorus in Southwest Florida's soil.
"If we over-fertilize, or fertilize at the wrong time, they can get into our waterways," Molloy said. "That will help algae and other organisms grow, such as red tide organisms."
She said it's also important to limit how much fertilizer is used when heavy rain is expected, or when the soil is already saturated. She also recommends keeping any fertilized plants at least ten feet from stormwater drains, canals and other waterways.
"Ideally, grow what we call a 'no-no zone' near waterways, where you're planting native plants that don't require fertilizing," Molloy said. "That creates a buffer."
Many stores that sell fertilizer post signs, to remind customers that there are ordinances in place in to keep fertilizer pollution in check. In addition to the City of Naples, the City of Marco Island and Collier County have their own ordinances.
Molloy said that over-fertilizing is a problem, but is difficult to enforce.
"There is the possibility of fines," she said. "We try to work strongly to educate people."