Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance

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Help us prevent algal blooms, fish kills and poor water quality in our lakes, streams, rivers and bays. 

Manatee County has adopted a residential fertilizer ordinance (Ordinance 11-21) to reduce the potential for nutrient-laden runoff to our aquatic environment. Two groups have direct responsibilities under the adopted ordinance: 1) Residents and businesses who self-apply fertilizers; 2) Landscape maintenance professionals. Information for each group is below. 

Fertilizer retailers may want to know about the restrictions on certain types of products so they can adjust inventories appropriately. See the links in the right-hand column. Manatee County does not have sales restrictions. 

The Manatee County fertilizer ordinance does not affect fertilizer applications on properties under the Right-to-Farm Act, vegetable gardens or athletic fields (including golf courses).

Information for Landscape Maintenance Professionals

As of June 1, 2012 all commercial and institutional (e.g. school, government employees) fertilizer applicators must be individually certified to apply fertilizers in Manatee County. This certification is issued to individuals holding a "Limited Certification for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer" license issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). This is the same license that will be required for all commercial fertilizer applicators throughout Florida by January 1st, 2014. 

All other landscape maintenance professionals in Manatee County that ARE NOT applying fertilizer (other than clerical or administrative staff) must individually obtain a Landscape Certification from the Manatee County Extension Service by December 1st, 2012. This certification is awarded after successful completion of Landscape Best Management Practices (Landscape BMP) training from the Manatee County Extension Service. Spanish language classes are available.

Certification for Commercial and Institutional Fertilizer Applicators

As of June 1, 2012 all commercial and institutional (e.g. school, government employees) fertilizer applicators must be individually certified to apply fertilizers in Manatee County. The Manatee County "Green Industries BMP" certification is issued to individuals holding a "Limited Certification for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer" license issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). This is the same license that will be required for all commercial fertilizer applicators throughout Florida by January 1st, 2014.Successful completion of a Green Industry Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) training course offered by the University of Florida/Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is a requirement of this license. Classes are held state-wide, and Spanish language classes are available. Manatee County issues a vehicle decal to identify certified individuals.

Note: Manatee County also recognizes fertilizer applicator vehicle decals issued by Hillsborough, Pinellas, or Sarasota Counties. A "Green Industries BMP" certification from any of these sources also meets the requirements of the Manatee County "Landscape Maintenance BMP" certification.

To obtain a Manatee County-issued vehicle decal complete the three steps below. If you already hold the required FDACS license, skip to Step 3:

 
STEP 1:  Attend and complete a state-approved training course such as Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) from a University of Florida County Extension office (every County offers the GI-BMP course). The course can be taken at the Manatee County Extension classroom by calling (941) 722-4524 ext 226 or by registering online. The course is also available as an online self-paced course. See the UF/IFAS GI-BMP Program website for more information. Note that there are no Pesticide CEUs awarded for the online course.
 
STEP 2:  Obtain a Limited Certification for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer from FDACS. To obtain the certification, complete the application) and submit with required documents to FDACS. Processing time is 4-6 weeks. Each fertilizer applicator must have this license regardless of any other FDACS licenses held.
 
STEP 3:  Complete and sign the Manatee County Affidavit (ManateeCountyAffidavit.pdf). Submit both the signed affidavit and a copy of the FDACS Commercial Fertilizer certification to the attention of:
 
Ms. Kelli Polanski at
Fax #: (941) 742-5996 or
 
Manatee County will issue a certificate, wallet card, and vehicle decal as documentation that an individual is certified in Green Industry BMPs.
 
If you need further assistance, contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at (941) 742-5980 x1807, email MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

Certification for Other Landscape Maintenance Professionals

All other landscape maintenance professionals in Manatee County that ARE NOT applying fertilizer (other than clerical or administrative staff) must individually obtain a Landscape Best Management Practices (Landscape BMP) certification from the Manatee County Extension Service by December 1st, 2012. This certification is awarded after successful completion of Landscape Best Management Practices (Landscape BMP) training from the Manatee County Extension Service. See the links below for training schedules, locations, and online enrollment. Spanish language classes are available. Manatee County issues a vehicle decal to identify certified individuals.

Note: Pinellas County has the same program. Landscape BMP vehicle decals from Pinellas County are recognized in Manatee County.

Special Rule for New Hires: New employees have ninety (90) days from the date of employment to obtain a Landscape BMP Certification. Until they obtain this certification, they must work under the direct physical supervision of another certified individual.

Complete the steps below to obtain a Manatee County-issued Landscape BMP vehicle decal:
 
STEP 1: Attend & complete the Manatee County Landscape Maintenance Best Management Practices (BMP) 3-hour training.  The course can be taken at the Manatee County IFAS Extension by calling (941) 722-4524 ext 226. Visit the website for a schedule of classes and locations, and online registration.
 
STEP 2: Upon course completion, Manatee County will issue a certificate, wallet card, and vehicle decal as documentation that an individual is certified in Landscape BMPs.  
 
If you need further assistance, contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at (941) 742-5980 x1807, email MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

Compliance and Enforcement

Manatee County will issue vehicle decals to individuals obtaining either level of certification. Vehicle decals must be prominently displayed during the workday. Manatee County decals issued to individuals completing a GI-BMP class and holding a "Limited Commercial Fertilizer Applicator" license will be recognized in Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough County, and vice-versa. Since decals are issued to individuals, not companies, they may be mounted for display in the windshield or on a magnetic sign. Also, note that it is the local certification, NOT the FDACs "Limited Commercial Fertilizer Applicator" document that establishes your authority to apply fertilizers in Manatee County.

Manatee County Natural Resources Officers will be enforcing the Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance. Officers are authorized to issue citations for infractions of the Ordinance. To reach an officer, contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at (941) 742-5980 x1807, email MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

 

Information for Homeowners and Businesses

Residents and businesses that apply their own landscape fertilizer are only responsible for applying the correct fertilizer formulation at the right time of the year. 

Fertilizer retailers may want to know about the restrictions on certain types of products so they can adjust inventories appropriately. Manatee County does not have sales restrictions.

Homeowners and Businesses Maintaining their own Landscape

Residents and businesses that apply their own landscape fertilizer are only responsible for applying the correct fertilizer formulation at the right time of the year. The Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance restricts the use of the following products on residential urban landscapes:

  • Granular fertilizer products with less than 50% slow-release nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen or phosphorus containing products between June 1 and September 30th.
  • Phosphorus applications without a soil test indicating a phosphorous deficiency.

There are many fertilizer products already on store shelves that meet ordinance formulation requirements. View a list of these fertilizer products. Your retailer may also stock other alternatives. If you have any questions about selecting an appropriate product for your situation, consult the Manatee County Extension Office.

Using Certified Landscape Maintenance Professionals

If you hire landscape services, please be aware that certification requirements for all landscape professionals working in Manatee County have gone into effect on June 1st, 2012 for all personnel applying fertilizers and will go into effect on December 1st, 2012 for all personnel maintaining lawns. Credentials are awarded to the individual, not the company, so everybody maintaining your landscape for hire must be certified. Both an ID card and a vehicle decal are issued to certified individuals.

Manatee County Natural Resources officers will be enforcing the Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance. To reach an officer, contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at (941) 742-5980 x1807, email MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

The "Be Floridian" Homeowner Toolkit

The iconic Flamingo was selected as the symbol for the Be Floridian campaign created to spread the word about Florida-friendly landscaping practices because it represents the relaxed, tropical lifestyle that's the goal of many Floridians. Help us protect our carefree lifestyle. The fundamentals of efficient landscape maintenance in Florida differ from those many people learned before they owned their own Florida home.

The Be Floridian campaign has a wealth of useful resources for Florida homeowners. Those of us that hire yard maintenance services, live in deed-restricted communities or have a Home Owners Association (HOA) manage the community landscaping will find the Homeowner Toolkit particularly useful. Homeowners in an HOA will find fact sheets, pre-written newsletter articles, and guidelines for communicating Florida-friendly landscaping concepts with your HOA. Adopt Florida-friendly landscape maintenance practices to "Preserve Florida for Boating, Fishing and Drinks with Little Umbrellas".

Program Contact Information

For more information regarding the topics on this page contact the Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at (941) 742-5980 x1807, email MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

Irrigating with Reclaimed Water

The Manatee County Fertilizer Ordinance requires that fertilizer applications take into account nutrients that may be supplied by reclaimed water irrigation. This article discusses the issue for professionals. The calculations can be complex and in most cases the quality of the reclaimed water can only be estimated. 

What is reclaimed water?

Reclaimed water is the end product of wastewater treatment processes conducted at each of the county’s three (3) Water Reclamation Facilities (WRFs). A multi-stage treatment process eliminates pathogens (solids, organics, and viruses), but the reclaimed water still retains nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that work as fertilizers to enhance ornamental plant and turf grass growth. This process produces water not suitable for human or animal consumption, but ideal for irrigation purposes.
 
Manatee County Ordinance 11-21 (Section 2-35-13 of the Manatee County Code of Ordinances) recommends that the amount of fertilizer applied to property irrigated with reclaimed water be adjusted to account for the nutrients contained in the reclaimed water. The amount of additional fertilizer needed depends on the concentration of nutrients contained in the reclaimed water, the amount of reclaimed water irrigated with, and the plant fertilized.
 
 
What is the nutrient content of reclaimed water?
In 2006, Manatee County completed construction of the MARS (Manatee Agricultural Reuse System) which connects the reclaimed water distribution networks of all three WRFs. The MARS allows the redistribution of reclaimed water throughout the county based on demand. Because of this redistribution, nutrient concentrations in reclaimed water will vary depending on WRF origin, demand, and season. 
 
The following table illustrates average seasonal Total Nitrogen (TN) and Total Phosphorus (TP) concentrations contained in the county’s reclaimed water, determined utilizing weekly analytical data from each of the county’s three WRFs:
 
Table 1. Average Nutrient Concentrations in Reclaimed Water
Nutrient
Dry Season
(Oct – May)
Wet Season
(Jun - Sep)
Avg Conc
Range
Avg Conc
Range
Total Nitrogen
14 mg/L*
4 – 33 mg/L
12 mg/L
5 – 30 mg/L
Total Phosphorus
7 mg/L
0.1 – 25 mg/L
2 mg/L
0.6 – 5 mg/L
* Milligrams per liter (mg/L).
 
Manatee County Ordinance 11-21 requires soil testing to demonstrate a need for the application of phosphorus containing fertilizers, primarily because phosphorus is naturally abundant in the soils of Manatee County. Adding to that phosphorus from reclaimed water irrigation, there will be seldom instances where the addition of phosphorus fertilizer is needed. Consequently, the following discussion of nutrients added by the use of reclaimed water irrigation will be restricted to nitrogen.
 
For more information regarding the county’s reclaimed water, please visit the Manatee County Utilities Department webpage.
 
How do I determine the amount of nutrients I’m applying with reclaimed water?
The amount of nutrients applied with each reclaimed water irrigation event depends on both the concentration of nutrient in the reclaimed water (Table 1), and the amount of irrigation water applied during the irrigation event. A rain gauge, or similar device, placed in the area irrigated will provide a general estimate of the amount, in inches, applied to the irrigated area. If micro-irrigation, seepage hoses, or other irrigation method is utilized, volume determination will require a flow gauge on the inlet to the irrigation system or zone.
  
Mathematical calculations are needed to convert nutrient concentrations and volume of irrigation into pounds of nutrients applied. To simplify, Table 2 below provides the amount of nitrogen applied, in lbs/1000 ft2, when irrigating with reclaimed water under various amounts and frequencies:
 
Table 2. Total Nitrogen (TN; lbs/1000 ft2/yr) Applied When Irrigating with Reclaimed Water1
 
 
 
 
 
Irrigation Amount
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
0.25"
0.5"
0.75"
1"
1.25"
1.5"
1.75"
2"
2.25"
2.5"
2.75"
3"
Frequency:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Once/2 Months
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
1.1
1.2
1.3
Once/Month
0.2
0.4
0.7
0.9
1.1
1.3
1.5
1.7
2.0
2.2
2.4
2.6
Once/Week
0.9
1.9
2.8
3.8
4.7
5.7
6.6
7.5
8.5
9.4
10.4
11.3
Twice/Week
1.9
3.8
5.7
7.5
9.4
11.3
13.2
15.1
17.0
18.9
20.8
22.6
3 Times/Week
2.8
5.7
8.5
11.3
14.2
17.0
19.8
22.6
25.5
28.3
31.1
34.0
Daily
6.6
13.2
19.9
26.5
33.1
39.7
46.4
53.0
59.6
66.2
72.8
79.5
Notes:
Note: l;;;ll;
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Denotes amount exceeds maximum annual allowance of 4 lbs TN/1000 ft2 under Ordinance 11-21
                           
Based on TN content of 14 mg/L (avg content for dry season from all three WRFs)
 
To determine the amount of nitrogen applied when irrigating with reclaimed water, simply cross-reference the irrigation amount, shown along the top of Table 2, with the frequency of irrigation, shown at the left side of the table. The resulting number is the amount of nitrogen applied per 1000 ft2 per year. For example, if you are irrigating once a week and applying ½ inch of reclaimed water during each irrigation event, you are applying 1.9 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 ft2 per year*. Typical turf nutrient needs in this region of Florida are approximately 4 lbs TN/1000 ft2 per year. As can be seen in Table 2, irrigation with reclaimed water can provide a substantial amount of the nitrogen needed by most turf types. Depending on irrigation frequency and plant type, additional fertilizer may not be necessary for healthy plant growth!

 

*The amounts shown in Table 2 are based on the average concentration of nitrogen during the dry season, when irrigation is most common. Adjustments in the amounts applied would be necessary for irrigation during the wet season.

 

FAQs

The following questions and answers should help you understand key points of our fertilizer ordinance.

  • How do I know which fertilizer is allowed and when it can be used?

    All fertilizers in Manatee County must contain 0% phosphorus (N-0-K on the fertilizer label), unless you have obtained a soil test that indicates a phosphorus deficiency. The results of the soil test must be submitted to Manatee County prior to phosphorus application. From October 1 through May 31, granular fertilizers must consist of at least 50% slow release forms of nitrogen. From June 1 through September 30, no nitrogen or phosphorus containing fertilizers can be used - this is the blackout period.  During this period, compost and/or micronutrient fertilizers (Fe, Mg, Mn, or K containing fertilizers) are allowed as needed. A list of blackout-compliant products is also available on the county’s fertilizer webpage.

  • I apply fertilizer commercially. What do I need to do to be in compliance with the ordinance?

    You, and all employees who apply fertilizer, will need to attend the Green Industries BMP training held by the county. The training consists of an 8 hr class with test. Upon successful completion of the class, applicators will receive a county-issued decal. The decal should be prominently displayed at the site where fertilizer is being applied.

  • I own a landscaping company, but we do not apply fertilizers. Do I need to do anything different?

    Yes. You and/or your employees will need to obtain Landscape BMP training from the county. The training consists of a 3 hr class and test. Following successful completion of the training, each landscaper will receive a certificate and a decal from the county. These decals should be prominently displayed at the site where landscaping work (mowing, trimming, edging, etc.) is being performed.

  • I live in a development where landscaping and fertilization is done by a company hired by my homeowner’s association. What should I look for with this company?

    Look for the Manatee County Decal on their vehicle indicating they have received BMP training in landscaping and/or fertilizer application. Decals from surrounding counties (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota) are also valid for work in Manatee County. If a decal is not observed, contact the county at the number on the website. You should also contact your homeowners association and encourage the hiring of only certified professionals.

  • Where can I learn more about obtaining the certifications needed for commercial landscaping or fertilizer application?

    The training needed for compliance with the ordinance is available through the county’s IFAS extension office. Call 941-722-4524 for more information, or visit their website. Once the appropriate documents have been received (see county website for information regarding documents), the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department will provide a certificate and vehicle decal. For inquires regarding certificates and vehicle decals call the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at 941-742-5980 x1807. You can also make inquires by e-mail at this address: MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org.

  • Who can I contact about calculating the right amount of fertilizer to apply to my landscaping?

    Contact the county’s IFAS extension at 941-722-4524 for more information about appropriate fertilizers and application amounts for your landscaping.

  • If the fertilizer ordinance says I cannot use certain fertilizers, why are the stores selling it?

    Vegetable gardens, golf courses, athletic fields, and agricultural land (farms and cattle-grazing fields) are specifically exempted from the ordinance. Stores may continue to sell fertilizer products for these exempted uses, but owners & managers must abide by appropriate BMPs. 

  • Who should I contact if see someone doing something in violation of the ordinance?

    Contact the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, Environmental Protection Division at 941-742-5980 to report activities that may be in violation of the ordinance. You may also report these activities to us by e-mail at this address: MCfertilizer@mymanatee.org