SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Who thought winter would end this year?   We all experienced the bad winter, but fortunately it is now a distant memory.  With the warmer weather upon us, it’s a great time of year when everything is coming out of its dormancy.

Plants, just like people, need food to survive.  The food for plants is called nutrients (fertilizer).  Most people and business owners can’t wait to see their grass green up especially after their first fertilization application in the spring.

However, before you as a consumer or professionals apply lawn fertilizer, there are a few things to you need to know about New Jersey’s tough fertilizer laws.

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On January 5, 2011 Governor Chris Christie signed into law (New Jersey Act, P.L. 2010, C.112 (C.58:10A-64).  It is one of the most restrictive lawn fertilizer content standards in the nation for nitrogen and phosphorous.  The law has been implemented in three phases:

Phase I: Public Education and Best Management Practices. Beginning in February 2011, Phase I prohibits professional fertilizer applications when it is raining between December 1st and March 1st, or any time ground is frozen.  For consumers it prohibits them from applying fertilizers between November 15th and March 1st.   Products containing potassium, lime and composts are still legal to apply during these blackout dates.

Phase II: Fertilizer Applicator Certification Program.  Phase II went into effect on January 5, 2012, all professionals who apply fertilizers are to be certified; setting limits of nitrogen content to be used by consumers and professionals; and banning the use of phosphorous without soil test.

Phase III: Fertilizer Content Standards.  Effective January 5, 2013, label and content requirements took effect outlawing fertilizer products that do not meet the new content standards set by law.

So why are these phases being implemented?  Nitrogen and phosphorous are nutrients required for plant growth.  A limited amount of these nutrients is important for healthy plant life.  An overabundance, however, not only can harm lawns but when washed into waterways stimulates excessive algae and weed growth.  This, in turn, depletes oxygen from water and reduces sunlight needed for healthy aquatic life.  Let’s stop polluting OUR waterways and help OUR environment.  Please sweep up any fertilizer that has been cast onto sidewalks or the street.  Think before you fertilize! 

Log onto www.nj.gov/dep/healthylawnhealthywater/ to find out more information on the NJ fertilizer laws and the professional fertilizer applicator certification.   Professionals can also visit www.profact.rutgers.edu/ for certification and training information.

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