Fall is a good time for homeowners to take steps to spruce up their lawns. Visions of lush green lawns in the spring from a late fall fertilizer application may be tempting, but it is not a pretty picture when those nutrients that can’t penetrate frozen ground wash into our waterways. New Jersey’s 2011 Fertilizer Law limits the time of the year when homeowners can apply fertilizers with nitrogen and phosphorus. The following Q & A will help homeowners know what they can apply to their lawns and when.
When am I prohibited from applying nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer to my lawn in NJ?
Home owners are prohibited from applying nitrogen or phosphorus fertilizer after November 15 and before March 1 in New Jersey. Fertilizers that contain only potassium or other essential nutrients (other than nitrogen and phosphorus) are legal to apply during these “black out” dates.
How do I know if the fertilizer contains nitrogen or phosphorus?
By law, all lawn fertilizers sold in NJ must display a label describing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizer – also known as the guaranteed analysis. If the values for nitrogen or phosphorus are greater than 0%, then the fertilizer is prohibited during the “black out” dates.
Can lime be applied to lawns after November 15?
Yes, lime contains calcium carbonate and is not restricted. Only nitrogen and phosphorus are restricted by the fertilizer law.
What do I need to know about the proper application of fertilizer to my lawn?
All lawn fertilizers must have instructions that, when followed, will ensure you apply the fertilizer according to the standards in the NJ fertilizer law.
Always apply fertilizer using these best application practices:
- Do not apply near water, storm drains or drainage ditches.
- Do not apply if heavy rain (water runoff) is expected.
- Apply fertilizer only to your lawn, and sweep any fertilizer particles that land on the driveway, sidewalk or street back onto your lawn.
Where can I get my soil tested for nutrients and pH?
Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory is accessible to anyone. For a nominal fee, the soil fertility test provides nutrient levels and soil pH along with the recommended fertilizer ratio and limestone application (if necessary). You can get soil testing kits from your county office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension or find sampling instructions online.
For commercial application, information is available on the training for professional fertilizer applicators.