Frequently asked questions

When is the fertilizer blackout period?
What do the three numbers on my fertilizer's label mean?
What is slow-release nitrogen?
Can I use fertilizer that contains phosphorus?
I want my grass to look good and have always used a fertilizer that contains phosphorus. What if I want to keep using my favorite fertilizer?
Can I use a fertilizer that contains nitrogen?
How do I know if my fertilizer contains enough slow-release nitrogen?
How do if I know if my fertilizer contains nitrogen or phosphorus?
What is a fertilizer-free zone?
I use a lawn company. How am I supposed to know what kind of fertilizer they use on my lawn?
I have a lawn service business and often apply fertilizer for my clients. How do the fertilizer rules affect me?
I own a business and I often have one of my employees apply fertilizer to the landscaping. How do the new fertilizer rules affect me?
Can I still use my rotary spreader for applying fertilizer?

Q:When is the fertilizer blackout period?

A: The fertilizer blackout period is June 1 through Sept. 30 of each year. During this period, no fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus can be applied.

Q: What do the three numbers on my fertilizer's label mean?

A: The three numbers shown on your fertilizer's label are the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5), and potash (K2O) contained in the fertilizer.

Q: What is slow-release nitrogen?

A: Slow-release nitrogen in a fertilizer means the nitrogen is in a form that delays its availability for a plant to uptake and use or that is in a form that extends its availability for use by a plant. Similar terms used to describe the form of nitrogen include "controlled release," "timed release" and "slowly available."

Q: Can I use fertilizer that contains phosphorus?

A: No. Fertilizer that contains phosphorus is prohibited unless you obtain a soil test that indicates a phosphorus deficiency (see FAQ on soil tests).

Fertilizer with nitrogen and/or phosphorus cannot be applied:

  • June 1 through Sept. 30 (the blackout period); or
  • If flood, tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for Volusia County; or
  • If heavy rain is expected in the Volusia County area (two or more inches within a 24-hour period).

Q: I want my grass to look good and have always used a fertilizer that contains phosphorus. What if I want to keep using my favorite fertilizer?

A: The soil in central Florida normally contains enough phosphorus to meet your turf's nutrient needs. If you continued using your old fertilizer, you would be in violation of the fertilizer ordinance unless you have a soil analysis that showed your soil is deficient in phosphorus. The soil test must be verified using the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) approved testing methodology. If it can be verified that your soil lacks phosphorus, you may apply fertilizer containing phosphorus, but it must be applied as described in the Florida Administrative Code, Fertilizer, 5E-1FAC. The test results are valid for no more than two years. To find out more about soil testing, contact the University of Florida/Volusia County Extension at 386-822-5778.

Q: Can I use a fertilizer that contains nitrogen?

A: Yes, you may use a fertilizer that contains nitrogen from Oct. 1 through May 31. However, if you use a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, at least 50 percent of the total nitrogen must be slow-release. (See FAQs on slow-release nitrogen and determining amount of slow-release nitrogen.)

No fertilizer with nitrogen and/or phosphorus can be applied:

  • June 1 through Sept. 30 (the blackout period); or
  • If flood, tropical storm, or hurricane watches or warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for Volusia County; or
  • If heavy rain is expected (2 inches or more within 24 hours) in the area.

Q: How do I know if my fertilizer contains enough slow-release nitrogen?

A: The percentage of slow-release nitrogen is listed in the guaranteed analysis table on your fertilizer's package. To find out if at least 50 percent of the nitrogen is slow-release nitrogen, divide the amount of slow-release nitrogen by the amount of total nitrogen (also listed in the guaranteed analysis table). Multiply your answer by 100. If the result is 50 (percent) or higher, your fertilizer contains the required amount of slow-release nitrogen.

Example:

Fertilizer labeled 29-0-4
Guaranteed analysis table lists 29% Total Nitrogen and 5.9% Slow-Release Nitrogen
5.9/29 = .2034 x 100 = 20.34%
This means 20.34% of the nitrogen contained in this fertilizer is slow-release nitrogen.
This fertilizer cannot be used because it contains less than 50% slow-release nitrogen.


Q: How do if I know if my fertilizer contains nitrogen or phosphorus?

A: Most fertilizers have three numbers on their label separated by dashes. These three numbers show the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5), and potash (K2O) contained in the fertilizer. A zero as the first number would mean it contains no nitrogen. A zero as the second number would mean it contains no phosphate. By law, all fertilizer must include a guaranteed analysis table on its label. The first item listed in the table must be total nitrogen if there is nitrogen in the fertilizer. The second item listed in the table must be phosphate if there is phosphate in the fertilizer.

Q: What is a fertilizer-free zone?

A: A fertilizer-free zone is an area where fertilizer is prohibited. All property owners are prohibited from using fertilizer within 15 feet of any water body. All property owners, especially those living near water bodies, are encouraged to plant native vegetation and practice Florida-friendly landscaping techniques to reduce or eliminate all fertilizer use. Visit our water conservation pages to learn more about Florida-Friendly landscaping.

Q: I use a lawn company. How am I supposed to know what kind of fertilizer they use on my lawn?

A: Ask your lawn service or landscaper. Licensed professionals should be able to show you how much (what percentage) nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer they use on your lawn.

Q: I have a lawn service business and often apply fertilizer for my clients. How do the fertilizer rules affect me?

A: The new regulations concerning nitrogen and phosphorus apply to the fertilizer you use in your business. In addition, you must have limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You must also have completed certification in the Florida-friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries offered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through the University of Florida IFAS Florida-friendly Landscapes program.

Q: I own a business and I often have one of my employees apply fertilizer to the landscaping. How do the new fertilizer rules affect me?

A: The new regulations concerning nitrogen and phosphorus apply to the fertilizer you apply to your property. In addition, at least one of your employees must have completed certification in the Florida-friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries offered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through the University of Florida IFAS Florida-friendly Landscapes program

Q: Can I still use my rotary spreader for applying fertilizer?

A: Yes. Make sure you apply properly so the fertilizer does not end up on impervious surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and streets or in water bodies such as lakes, ponds and ditches. Fertilizer that falls on impervious surfaces must be swept up and placed back on the lawn or in an appropriate container. If you live along any water body, you are prohibited from using fertilizer within 15 feet of the shoreline. By planting native vegetation and practicing Florida-Friendly landscaping techniques, you can reduce or eliminate fertilizer use.

Karen Stauderman,
M.S., B.S., B.S.
kstauderman@volusia.org
Commercial Horticulture 
Extension Agent

Joe Sewards M.S.
jsewards@volusia.org
Urban/Residential Horticulture
Extension Agent
Master Gardener Coordinator

DeLand
386-822-5778

Daytona Beach
386-257-6012

New Smyrna Beach
386-423-3368

Fax
386-822-5767