Reminder: Don’t use fertilizers containing phosphorus on your lawn

dew on blades grass in lawn in Western New York
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

In order to help protect our waterways, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding gardeners not to use lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus.

The 2012 Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law prohibits the use of phosphorus fertilizers unless a new lawn is being established or a soil test shows that the lawn does not have enough phosphorus.

“Too much phosphorus is harmful to the state’s water resources,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Rain and snow runoff carries phosphorus to ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Once in the water, phosphorus can cause algae that turn waterbodies green, degrading drinking water and using up vital oxygen that fish need to breathe. We are asking New Yorkers to continue to exercise good environmental stewardship.”

You should review bag labels for phosphorus content when shopping for fertilizer. Fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. The number in the middle is the percentage of phosphorus in the product, such as: 22-0-15. The law requires retailers to display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizer and post signs notifying customers of the terms of the law.

The 2012 Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law does not affect agricultural fertilizer or fertilizer for gardens.

Additional provisions of the nutrient runoff law include:

  • Applying any fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium on lawns or non-agricultural turf is prohibited between December 1 and April 1.
  • Applying any fertilizer on lawns or non-agricultural turf within 20 feet of a waterbody is restricted.
  • Application on paved surfaces is prohibited.


2 Comments on “Reminder: Don’t use fertilizers containing phosphorus on your lawn

  1. Please follow this and pass along. I visited Chataqua lake and the toxic alge caused by phosphorous run off was horrible. It caused all the beaches to close and scores of fish to be killed. This is the same toxic alge that caused Toledo to have a severe water shortage. Please pass the word.

  2. Thank you Connie for the great information.
    We have come a long way addressing the issue of phosphorus run-off into our water-ways and lakes. Especially important for everyone, is to pay attention to the ‘Additional Provisions’ section of the article.

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