The lack of sunshine and springtime temperatures are not getting people in the mood for lawn care, landscaping and gardening.
But Crow Wing County officials wish to remind residents there is a phosphorous ban in the county. This spring the Legislature approved a statewide phosphorous ban as of Jan. 1, 2005.
But Crow Wing County, along with a number of area cities, was ahead of the curve in establishing a phosphorous ban last year. Brainerd, Crosby, Fifty Lakes, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes joined the county in passing a non-phosphorous fertilizer ordinance.
The new law does not restrict the sale of phosphorous fertilizer. Crow Wing County Planner Bonnie Finnerty said enforcement is really tied to education efforts aimed at showing homeowners how decisions they make regarding lawn care are affecting lake health.
Phosphorous, which spurs early root growth and plant strength, occurs naturally in lakes area soils. Residents, particularly lakeshore property owners, unfamiliar with the soil type may be applying the wrong fertilizer and causing the clear lake waters that attracted them to the region to become green with algae. Rain water washes excess phosphorous from fertilized lawns into nearby lakes, causing algae blooms and choking out oxygen that fish need.
Storm water from rain events can carry excess fertilizer and lawn clippings from city homes right to area rivers. Dishwasher detergent is another source of phosphorous with varying percentages listed, depending on the brand name.
Unless designated, greater Minnesota had a maximum of 3 percent phosphorous for lawn fertilizers. On fertilizer bags, phosphorous content is listed as phosphate and is the middle number in a trio that lists the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium.
In 2003, the state passed a phosphorous-free lawn fertilizer bill for the seven-county metro area. The state gave counties the option of limiting phosphorous content in fertilizers to 3 percent or 0 percent. The law is aimed at turf applications and does not mean the fertilizer cannot be used in area gardens. The law does not apply to crop land or other forms of agriculture production.
In 2002, Lake Shore was the first area city to establish a phosphorus ban that prohibited the use of fertilizers with phosphorous within 15 feet of water.
Education efforts regarding lake water clarity have taken hold in recent years. Just a few years ago finding lawn fertilizers with a content of less than 10 percent phosphorous was a challenge. Experts say one pound of phosphorus can produce 300 to 700 pounds of algae.
Now in Crow Wing County, there are just a few simple exemptions where phosphorous is allowed, according to the county's planning and zoning office.
Phosphorous is banned unless:
* Soil testing, within the last three years, shows the need for phosphorous to support healthy turf growth.
* There is new sod or grass seed to establish turf and then only during the first growing season.
* It is used on a golf course with the direction of a properly certified individual. Phosphorous use rates still must not exceed those recommended by the University of Minnesota and approved by the commissioner of agriculture.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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