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Yard by yard let's protect planet

Environmental-friendly fertilizers and pesticides applied correctly will help keep waterways clean and landscapes healthy.

Editor's Note: Jim Roberts is a graduate of the Extension Service Master Gardener class. This column runs biweekly and features information indigenous to the area. To have your question answered, call the extension office, 726-2141. For more gardening news, see section D of today's Times.

Perhaps you have read a bit about Environmental Landscape Management (ELM), which we should be pursuing to avoid excessive use of our water, fertilizer and pesticides. We know from research that excessive use threatens our environment here and elsewhere. We also need to reduce nitrates and other plant nutrients that are contaminating our county's waterways, while still enjoying our landscapes at home, in parks and other places.

It may surprise you to know that your yard is the first line of defense to protect our environment. How we landscape and maintain our yards, both individually and collectively, makes a huge difference, and you don't even have to live on the water. Everyone is involved.

Stormwater runoff is the reason. Rain falls on our yards, roads, driveways and parking lots, then washes directly or indirectly into streams, lakes and bays carrying pollutants (excessive fertilizer and pesticides, soil, petroleum products, etc.) which cause the problems.

The Citrus County Commission recently approved the Environmental Landscape Management Best Management Practices (BMPs) developed by the University of Florida under the ELM/Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program recommendations. Currently our county is the only local government in the state that has adopted this type of program. We are to be congratulated!

This requires that certain county employees and contractors who perform landscape management on county-owned turf and landscapes be trained and certified in these BMPs. As residents, we can also perform these BMPs in our own yards or request our yard maintenance contractors perform them. The Citrus County Extension Office has people who can assist with BMP and ELM principles and application.

One of the BMPs regards fertilizing. September is the last month recommended to fertilize landscapes for 1999. Here is a portion of the BMP for fertilizing irrigated turf grass. We can all benefit from this BMP when used:

Fertilize twice yearly between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20 and March 20 through April 10.

Fertilizer will consist of 16-4-8 containing a minimum of 50 percent water-insoluble nitrogen or sulfur-coated urea, or a combination of the two comprising at least half of the total nitrogen. Apply at the rate of 3 pounds of 16-4-8 (half-pound of nitrogen) per 1,000 square feet of the entire landscape. (This is a smaller amount than you have seen in previous recommendations.)

If a deeper green is desired during summer, a spray of iron sulfate solution may be applied without promoting growth.

Immediately after fertilizing, water with no more than a third of an inch of water. Fertilizers will not be applied when heavy rain is expected.

Your favorite garden shop should have, or can order, the slow release form of fertilizer noted here. The Extension Office may also provide names of local suppliers. Just remember, if you fertilize for this fall, do it between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20.

You will continue to hear about ELM/BMPs as long as our problems exist and Florida's population grows. All is not gloom and doom. The idea is to cooperate with local, natural conditions rather than battle the elements. There are publications and personal help available at the Extension Office. Call or visit the office on U.S. 41 near the fairgrounds in Inverness.

I will do my best to help you via this newspaper space, in addition to other information. It can be done, and we can do it!

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