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Manatee fertilizer ban takes effect June 1

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  • | 4:00 a.m. May 30, 2012
  • East County
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EAST COUNTY — River Club resident Dyan Laphan has always taken a hands-on approach to landscaping.

But, she didn’t realize how big of an impact her own yard had on the condition of her neighborhood’s stormwater ponds and nearby waterways until she recently became involved in River Club’s “Love Our Lakes” committee.

“I started to realize the lakes are all connected,” Laphan said. “It gave me the big picture.”

In cooperation with representatives from the University of Florida, Laphan and several other community members are working on a campaign to educate the community about the health and importance of stormwater ponds, as well as a new Manatee County ordinance governing the use of fertilizers.

The new ordinance bans nitrogen-based fertilizers from June 1 through Sept. 30 (Florida’s rainy season), and requires nitrogen-based fertilizers to be at least 50% slow-release for the remainder of the year. It also bans fertilizers from being applied within 10 feet of the water’s edge. Additionally, phosphorous applications are banned year round, unless a soil analysis proves a phosphorous deficiency and the deficiency is put on record with the county administrator, among other restrictions.

Michelle Atkinson, Florida-friendly landscape coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said the campaign, which now is being bolstered by Manatee’s fertilizer ban, encompasses two East County communities — River Club and Lakewood Ranch — although each is working independently.

“Everything you put in your landscape ends up in a stormwater pond, even if you don’t live on a stormwater pond,” she said, noting fertilizer runoff causes algae blooms, fish kills and other issues, adding that it is ultimately about water quality. “We know it can be drastically changed through improved landscape (practices).”

Lakewood Ranch’s “Protect Our Ponds” campaign developed after Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Director of Operations Ryan Heise contacted University of Florida officials for ideas on improving storm-water quality. The Southwest Florida Water Management District in 2009 provided a grant that allowed Heise, with a team of residents, to develop an alternative landscape design for ponds, which is showcased along the shoreline of Lake Uihlein, behind Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

A team of River Club residents, led by resident Bob Mendoza, has also been educating their community about the importance of caring for storm-water ponds through its “Love Our Lakes” campaign, after receiving a community education grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District in February 2011. The grant provided funding for River Club residents to monitor water quality in their storm-water ponds.

For each community, residents of the neighborhood and representatives of the University of Florida and the social marketing company, Uppercase Inc., now have joined forces to further educate the public about Manatee’s ordinance, the impact of grass clippings in the ponds, ways to reduce fertilizer runoff and the importance of vegetative buffer zones.

“It’s residents educating the residents,” Atkinson said. “They know how to talk to their neighbors and what’s important to the folks in their community.”

Lakewood Ranch resident and “Protect Our Ponds” committee member Judy Amato hopes the campaign will provide a singular, accurate source of information for residents on issues pertaining to storm-water ponds and related issues.

“People need to be aware of what is going on in the neighborhood,” Amato said. “I think it’s important we’re getting together to work on a current issue and that we are a part of this whole thing.”

River Club resident and Love Our Lakes committee member Mike D’Angelo agreed.

“I think as a community we all have a consciousness that the lakes are alive and that they don’t take care of themselves,” D’Angelo said. “The end product of what we see when we drive by is an end product of what we do or don’t do collectively as a community.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance
Manatee County’s new fertilizer ordinance goes into effect June 1. The following restrictions apply to homeowners and landscaping companies alike, although landscapers must be certified in best practices for landscaping, as part of the ordinance.

1. Nitrogen-based fertilizers are banned completely from June 1 through Sept. 30. For the rest of the year, nitrogen-based fertilizer applied must be at least 50% slow release.

2. Applications of phosphorous are banned year round, unless a soil analysis proves the yard has a phosphorous deficiency. The deficiency must be on record with the county administrator.

3. No fertilizer can be applied within 10 feet of a body of water.

4. When fertilizer is being applied against a hard surface, such as a sidewalk or driveway, you must use a deflector shield on the fertilizer spreader to keep pellets from entering a body of water or landing on a hard surface.

5. Commercial landscape contractors must have a decal on their vehicle to show they have been trained in best management practices for applying fertilizer.

— For more details on the fertilizer ordinance, visit



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