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Pinellas County's retail ban on summer fertilizer sales starts Wednesday

Pinellas County's new ban on retail sales of fertilizer with nitrogen or phosphorus begins Wednesday.

From June through September, residents can't buy or apply those fertilizers in Pinellas — a measure imposed to protect waterways from algae blooms and fish kills. But that doesn't mean yards have to go dead. Here's what you need to know:

What fertilizer can I apply?

Products with only micronutrients, such as magnesium or iron, can be applied. The county ordinance requires that spreaders have a deflector shield to keep fertilizer off impervious surfaces like streets and sidewalks. For similar reasons, people must keep grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste off streets, sidewalks, storm drains and bodies of water. People also can improve soil by adding composted manure, or your own home compost.

How does the sales ban work?

Retailers are banned from using displays with fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus during the restricted season. The stores also must post a notice saying the sales are restricted by county code. The ban on using fertilizers with nitrogen or phosphorus during the summer rainy season started in 2010. Slow-release products are required other times of the year.

What's the penalty?

Violators can be fined $100, although county officials have emphasized their focus will be on education and will issue warnings in the beginning.

How does fertilizer cause problems?

If people apply too much fertilizer or use it at the wrong time — like before a big rainstorm — fertilizer can run off into storm drains or bays and lakes, or leach into groundwater. While fertilizer helps plants grow, it also can cause outbreaks in waters that require millions of taxpayer dollars to repair.

Where can I find more information?

Pinellas County offers a Web page (pinellascounty.org/environment/watershed/fertilizer.htm) to help people use fertilizer correctly.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter with @DeCampTimes.

Pinellas County's retail ban on summer fertilizer sales starts Wednesday 05/30/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 7:37am]
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