ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hey, Tampa Bay — it's time to pack up those bags of fertilizer.
Annual summer fertilizer bans go into effect for Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties on Thursday, June 1, and run through Saturday, Sept. 30.
Increased rainfall during the summer months can cause nutrients from lawn fertilizers to wash into nearby bodies of water, causing issues like algae blooms, red tide and fish kills.
So, in an effort to protect the local environment, county leaders ask everyone to refrain from using fertilizer on their lawns for the next few months.
The city of St. Pete provided some tips for keeping your lawn healthy while helping the local environmental initiative. They include:
- Treating your lawn with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring or fertilizer-free micronutrients in the summer
- Picking up debris or vegetation near storm drains to keep it from entering local waterways
- Following a no-now zone six feet away from any body of water
- Making sure your landscaper is certified through the county
- Replacing your plants with Florida-friendly natives
Earlier this month, Florida lawmakers tucked a provision into the state budget that would prevent counties from putting new fertilizer bans in place. Counties with existing fertilizer bans — like Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee — will be allowed to continue enforcing them.
Some lawmakers have argued that the temporary pause on fertilizer bans will give researchers a window to study the effects of fertilizer on our waterways.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, called the provision another example of poor and uninformed decision-making by the legislature.
"Everything we do to add more nutrients in our waterway makes red tide worse, and this is one way to like continue to make red tides worse," Dave Tomasko, director of The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, said. "I think it's a mistake and we're not going to be better off. It's going to cost us money in the long term."