Step 4: Fertilize Less
Protect water quality in the Barnegat Bay watershed by implementing best management practices for fertilizer use and reducing the quantity of fertilizers applied on municipal properties.
Why It’s Important
When applied in excess or improperly, the nutrients in fertilizers become a source of pollution carried by stormwater into streams, rivers, and the Barnegat Bay. Excessive quantities of nutrients in the water can fuel an overgrowth of algae and other aquatic plants, which can result in an overabundance of organic matter in the system. This process, called eutrophication, can lead to harmful algal blooms, low-oxygen (hypoxic) water, fish kills, and declines in seagrasses and other essential habitats for fish and wildlife.
Nutrient pollution also has human health and economic consequences. Certain harmful algal blooms release powerful toxins into the water that cause health problems for people and their pets, and raise treatment costs for drinking water. Recreational activities in and around the Barnegat Bay (such as fishing, crabbing, clamming, sailing, kayaking, and swimming) support a tourism-based economy, and they depend on clean water and healthy living resources.
4A: Certify and train municipal staff who apply fertilizers to municipal properties.
The New Jersey Fertilizer Law, New Jersey Act P.L. 2010, c. 112 (C.58:10A-64), establishes standards for fertilizer applications to turf, requires certification of professional fertilizer applicators, and regulates the labeling and sale of specialty fertilizers for turf. Municipal staff who apply fertilizers to turf must be trained as NJ Professional Fertilizer Applicators, and at least one must be a certified NJ Professional Fertilizer Applicator. The Certified Fertilizer Applicator is responsible for the direct supervision of any staff applying fertilizers. Information about how to get certified and trained is available at https://profact.rutgers.edu/.
If your municipality uses a contractor for fertilizer applications, then your contractor must have a NJ Certified Fertilizer Applicator who supervises trained NJ Professional Fertilizer Applicators.
What to submit for Action 4A: If fertilizers are used on any municipal properties, submit the name, contact information, and certification date of the municipal employee (or municipal contractor employee) who is the NJ Certified Professional Fertilizer Applicator for the municipality. If fertilizers are not applied to any municipal properties, let us know by submitting a short statement confirming that fact.
4B: Use best management practices for turfgrass maintenance on municipal properties.
Reduce the environmental impacts and economic costs of lawns and recreational fields by implementing the following best management practices for turfgrass maintenance.
- Get a soil test. Soil test results will tell you what type, if any, fertilizer or other soil amendments you need and how much to apply. (See Standard Action 2A)
- If amendments are needed, use slow-release or organic fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers have the advantage of delivering a steady supply of nutrients over a long period of time, which provides for more even growth, lowers the risk of fertilizer “burn,” and lessens runoff and leaching of fertilizer into surface and ground water.
- Use mulching mowers, which chop grass clippings into fine pieces that drop down to the soil. Grass clippings left on the lawn provide as much as 50% of the nitrogen required for a healthy lawn as they decompose.
- If applying fertilizers, do so responsibly and in compliance with NJ Fertilizer Law requirements (e.g., no applications when a heavy rain is predicted). Visit this Jersey-Friendly Yards webpage for more information about responsible fertilizer use.
- Seed and re-seed with low-maintenance grass species. Tall fescues and fine fescues grow well with less nitrogen and water than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass species. See Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheets FS990 and FS688 for information about recommended varieties of tall and fine fescues.
- Aerate turf once a year, or as needed. Aeration will reduce compaction and open channels in the soil, improving the natural movement of water and nutrients into the soil.
What to submit for Action 4B: Description of the best management practices for turfgrass maintenance that are being used on municipal properties.
4C: Incorporate more native plants on landscaped municipal property.
Plant New Jersey native species when adding new beds, renovating existing ones, or planting trees on municipal property.
Native plants have evolved over thousands of years to be well-adapted to our local soils and climate and to other wildlife around them. As a result, they greatly reduce and even eliminate the need to apply both fertilizers and pesticides, thus reducing the costs and environmental impacts associated with their use.
Before making any plant choices, get a soil test and collect as much information as possible about conditions at the planting site, including the following:
- Number of hours of direct sunlight during the growing season,
- Soil test results and soil conditions (soil type, pH, and moisture level),
- Potential for wildlife damage (e.g., from deer or geese), and
- Potential for exposure to salt water or salt spray.
Then use the Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database to search for the native plant species best suited to conditions at your planting site. Be sure to include “Yes” for “Native Plants Only” as you search the database.
What to submit for Action 4C: Base map showing the location and approximate size of the area planted with NJ native species; list of the native species (including scientific names) planted and the number of each; and before and after photos of the area planted.
- Jersey-Friendly Yards: Step 4
- Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database
- NJ Fertilizer Law
- Rutgers: Professional Fertilizer Applicator Certification and Training (ProFACT)
- Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory
- Low Maintenance Landscaping Guide for the Barnegat Bay Watershed
- Jersey-Friendly Yards: Plant Database
- Going Native: A Guide to Landscaping with Native Plants in the Barnegat Bay Watershed
- NJ Pinelands Commission: Native Pinelands Plants for the Landscape
Ready to Submit Step 4?
Upload the Required Documentation to Your Custom Link.
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