Fertilizer fuels ordinance debate in Orange County

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Orange County is eyeing revisions to a fertilizer ordinance. Some environmentalists want it strengthened, but some landscape and lawnscare pros say they don't want sweeping changes.

  • Orange County considering fertilizer ordinance revisions
  • Seminole County changes banned nitrogen, phosphorus fertilizers in summer
  • Environmentalists say its better for waterways
  • Landscapers say it means less healthy lawns

“When you’re hungry, you eat. When the turf is hungry, it’s time to be fed," said Billy Butterfield, who manages AmeriScapes Landscape Management Services.

“I think there shouldn’t be any fertilizer used during the summer months," said Eric Rollings, Chair of Orange Soil and Water Conservation District.

In February, Seminole County passed one of the most restrictive fertilizer ordinances in the state, banning application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers in summer months. Those who wish to fertilize can use "summer blends," which contain potassium, iron and other micro-nutrients.

“We’re trying to be protective of our water bodies," said Kim Ornberg, who manages Seminole County's watershed management division. "The Wekiva Spring, the studies have shown at least 15 percent of the nitrogen coming out of the spring, leading to its impairment, is attributed to residential fertilizer.”

Seminole's ordinance also doesn’t allow fertilizing within 15 feet of any pond, lake or stream. Ornberg said it starts with 50 percent slow release nitrogen for first three years, then 65 percent after that time period.

Rollings said he likes the 15-foot setback and other provisions, and hopes Orange County follows suit.

“What’s the difference between Seminole’s lakes and Orange County’s lakes?” he asked. "We draw these, as humans, these liens that say this is my place over here. Well, nature isn't like that. The water goes from Seminole to Orange."

He said that fertilizer runoff contributes to fish kills and wishes Central Florida as a whole could adopt more restrictive fertilizer practices.

Butterfield said that he doesn't see a need for Orange County to emulate Seminole County.

“I think it’s important to get involved with things that affect your business," he said of attending the first stakeholder meeting, which took place last week. “That wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. You’d have less healthy turf and less healthy plants, possibly.”

Orange County is submitting minor revisions to comply with the “Springs & Aquifer Protection Act," passed by legislators.

According to the county, the next stakeholder meeting is on April 12, with this topic likely on the Commissioners’ agenda in June.