How your lawn’s fertilizers can contribute to the red tide; counties combat their use

Water. It is everywhere in Florida, from our beaches to our lakes and canals. The red tide has not only affected our beaches, the ecosystem and tourism, but harmful algae blooms have also affected other bodies of water, such as inland lakes and canals closer to our homes.
For months, we have seen how some canals have turned red and how some even filled with green slime-like algae. Although algae blooms can occur naturally, nutrient runoff is one of Florida’s biggest problems contributing to the harmful blooms.
As much as fertilizers can help our lawns grow, it can also end up making algae grow, often exponentially. Our waterways are all connected, and even if you don’t live near a lake of a canal, the runoff from the fertilizer you use ends up in lakes, canals and eventually in our coastline.
Just as we have seen this year, it’s not only about the harmful algae blooms. It’s also about the ecosystem. The nutrient runoff harms animals’ nervous systems, killing them.

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To combat nutrient runoff, some counties across Central Florida have enacted ordinances. For example, in Seminole County, fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus cannot be applied during the summer rainy season.

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There are other options to fertilize your lawn, if you must, during the rainy season. There are summer blend and slow-release fertilizers. Also, yard clippings should not be blown into storm drains. There are some native plants that act as a buffer to filter nutrients out before they run off into the lakes.

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Not all nutrients come from fertilizers, though. Agriculture, storm water runoff and septic tanks can also release nutrients to waterways, also triggering harmful algae blooms.