How Do My Yard Care Practices Affect Our Water?

A pond with a naturalized shoreline in Kanapaha Gardens

It’s sometimes hard to see the effects of a single person’s actions, but the practices that you follow in your yard can have a greater impact on Florida’s water.

Any chemicals used in the landscape have the potential to enter our water, if they are misapplied. That’s why it’s essential to read the product label, and always follow all application instructions. To manage pests, start with the least toxic methods available and go from there. Apply fertilizer only when plants need it, and follow the recommended rates. Always sweep up any spilled fertilizer and put it back in the bag.

If you live on a body of water, keep a ten-foot, maintenance-free buffer zone along the shoreline to help protect the water.

Effect of Nitrogen on Water Quality

Nitrogen is a part of many fertilizers and is important for plant nutrition. But if fertilizers are misused, irrigation water or rain can carry excess nitrogen away from the landscape, and potentially into nearby water bodies.

Too much nitrogen in lakes and streams can cause an overgrowth of algae and other plants. Over time, the plants will deplete the oxygen levels in the water, which can trigger fish kills. Excess nitrates can also leach through the soil, and may ultimately end up in our ground water.

Effect of Phosphorus on Water Quality

Florida’s water quality can be adversely affected if pollutants like phosphorus find their way into the water supply. Excess phosphorus can be carried from the landscape by runoff, or it can leach through the soil and into our groundwater. Phosphorus that reaches lakes and streams can lead to an overgrowth of algae, making the water cloudy and causing fish and native plants to die.

Some Florida soils have ample amounts of phosphorus, so it’s a good idea to have your soil tested before applying phosphorus fertilizer. Contact your county Extension office to learn what tests are offered. By fertilizing responsibly, you can help protect Florida’s water quality for future generations.

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