Don’t fertilize your lawn after November if you live in New York

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ALBANI, NY (WWTI) — The deadline for fertilizing New York’s lawns is fast approaching. It is against state law to fertilize lawns between December 1 and April 1. Some areas also have local laws regarding the sale and use of lawn fertilizers.

The NYS Nutrient Runoff Law limits the amount of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and limits the time of year when fertilizers can be used. The law is intended to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering state waters. When purchasing lawn fertilizer, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommends: checking the bag for a set of three numbers and choosing one with a zero in the middle. The three numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer.

Phosphorus is one of the main causes of water pollution. Excess phosphorus from lawns can contaminate water bodies, harm fish and impair recreational activities such as boating and swimming. More than 100 bodies of water in the whole state cannot be used for drinking, fishing or swimming due to the amount of phosphorus they contain.

Retailers selling fertilizers in New York State must list fertilizers that contain phosphorus separately from fertilizers that are free of the mineral.

The law applies to:

  • Homeowners who apply fertilizer themselves
  • Landscapers and Lawn Care Professionals
  • Pesticide Applicators
  • Lawn Fertilizer Retailers, Distributors & Manufacturers
  • Fertilizer and pesticide combination products when the products contain more than 0.67% phosphorus, sometimes referred to as “weed and fodder”
  • Organic phosphorus fertilizers, such as bone meal

The law does not apply to:

  • Use of products with .67 in the middle or lower
  • Agricultural fertilizer or fertilizer for trees, shrubs or gardens
  • Compost

According to the DEC, the penalties for an owner, representative of the owner or occupier of the household include the issuance of a written warning with educational materials for a first violation, a fine of up to $100 for a second violation, and fines up to $250 for further violations. The penalties for all others include a fine of up to $500 for a first violation and fines up to $1,000 for further violations.

The Nutrient Runoff Law also prohibits retailers in upstate New York from selling dishwashing detergents that contain phosphorus.

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