Go easy on the fertilizer: NJ law now in effect

I was just looking at my blueberry bushes and wondering if they needed food.

It is not an idle question.  Many plants need extra rations. But give them too much, and the excess could run off into streams and cause harmful blooms of algae.

This has been a particular problem in New Jersey's Barnegat Bay, where algae has been smothering sea grasses thare are on the bay floor and that act as a nursery for fish and shellfish. 

And that's just one of the effects. Algae blooms in streams can rob the water of oxygen that other aquatic organisms need.

To address all this, New Jersey passed fertilizer regulations that went into effect on Monday. They are said to be the toughest in the nation.

Here's a reminder from the New Jersey Sierra Club about some of the provisions:

  • Fertilizer containing phosphorus is banned. 
  • Buffer zones along streams of 25 feet for homeowners and 10 feet for professionals have been established.
  • Fertilizer should not be applied when the ground is frozen or when there is heavy rain
  • Professional landscapers now need to be to be trained and landscape companies  licensed for fertilizer applications.
  • Violations include fines of $500.  

"We have seen our bays dying because of too much fertilizer and other nutrients getting into our water ways. Oxygen levels are dropping in our bays and coastal waters literally sucking the life out of these waterways. Inland waterways are dying and streams are becoming too polluted in the summer time to get water from because of too much nutrients coming from fertilizer. This law will go a long way to protect and clean our water," said Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.

For background, here's a link to an article I wrote last year about the regulations, which at that point were still just a proposal.