With Great Lakes Come Great Responsibility
As reported in the Maitland Express eight months ago, water quality in Maitland’s lakes and waterways continues to be in great shape. However, excellent lake quality is not guaranteed and should not be taken for granted. With great lakes come great responsibility. Hard work and ongoing education are required to maintain the health of Maitland’s lakes and waterways.
The City of Maitland, in partnership with the Lakes Advisory Board, is initiating a fertilizer awareness campaign. The goal is to reduce chemicals and fertilizers from entering Maitland’s lakes and waterways. Chemicals and fertilizers can cause algae blooms; kill invertebrates and small fish; and destroy desirable aquatic plants.
Important things to consider include choosing a fertilizer, how and when to apply fertilizer, and what to consider when hiring a landscape service technician. There are also some things you should never do to ensure the long-term improvement of our lake water quality.
The first step is to choose a fertilizer. It is always a good idea to contact the Orange County Cooperative Extension for a soil test kit. This kit will show what nutrients your soils are lacking. When choosing a fertilizer, look for a fertilizer that is phosphate-free with 50 percent slow-release nitrogen. Phosphate is what helps plants bloom. Since grasses do not bloom, phosphorus is not needed (the amount of phosphorus is the middle number in the fertilizer formula). Follow the instructions on the packaging and only use the recommended amount of fertilizer for your lawn.
The next step is to apply the fertilizer. It is a good idea to invest in a spreader with a deflection shield. The deflection shield attachment on the spreader distributes the fertilizer evenly and directs fertilizer away from hard services and stormwater drains. Any hardware or home improvement store will have spreaders in stock.
If fertilizer gets on impervious surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt, sweep the excess fertilizer on the lawn with a broom. Whatever you do, do NOT wash fertilizer residue on driveways and sidewalks with a hose. Doing so would introduce fertilizer to Maitland’s lakes via the stormwater drains.
If you delegate the fertilizer application to a private company, be proactive about their fertilizer application. Lakefront owners are encouraged to be familiar with the City’s ordinance about fertilizer restrictions. Per City ordinance, it is forbidden to apply fertilizer or pesticides within 25 feet from any lake, canal, wetland, or pond. Ask the service technician if they are aware of the fertilizer restrictions in Maitland and Orange County and ask them to observe and obey the restrictions in Maitland and Orange County. If they do not, homeowners are held responsible for any violations. Also, inquire about the service technician’s Orange County Best Management Certification. All commercial fertilizer and pesticide applicators must complete the certification program to apply chemicals in Orange County. For more information on this program visit http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/professionals/BMP_overview.htm.
It is not just fertilizer that can harm lakes. Plant debris can have adverse effects just like chemical fertilizers. Do NOT blow or pile leaves, grass clippings or other vegetation into roadways, stormwater drains, ditches, and water bodies. Instead, containerize yard waste and place yard-waste container on the curb for collection. Also, do NOT apply fertilizer before an expected rain event. The rain will wash the fertilizer into the storm drains before the fertilizer can be absorbed in your lawn. Do not apply fertilizer during the rainy season from June through September. It’s best to apply fertilizer from October through May. Do not fertilize the grass between the roadway and waterfront and it is not advisable to fertilize on steep shoreline slopes, because the fertilizer can flow into Maitland’s lakes with ease. When making plant choices along lakefront properties, plant native aquatic plants along the shoreline --such as Cat-Tails, Duck Potato, and Florida Bladderwort -- to filter runoff from the land and provide wildlife habitat.
With everyone’s cooperation and participation, Maitland’s lakes can be protected for future generations.