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Florida Water Star Technical Manual

Landscape criteria

Florida Water Star Gold best practices criteria

Fertilizer and pesticide recommendations


It is common practice for homeowners to apply fertilizers or nutrients to the soil or turf grass. Fertilizer and pesticide application can increase water use by creating the need for an additional irrigation cycle following nutrient application. Furthermore, too much fertilizer can weaken plants and have downstream impacts to water quality. Fertilizer in runoff from urban landscapes can impair ecosystems and water bodies.

Requirements and certification

Landscape maintenance instructions with recommended fertilizer and pesticide applications are posted permanently near the irrigation controller.





5 points


The Inspector will visually confirm the presence of this information. These points can be awarded if the homeowner prefers that the information be located in a separate operations and maintenance manual.

Program tip

The source for development of fertilizer and pesticide recommendations is from the Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries, which is summarized in the chart below.

Fertilizer Recommendations
Adapted from Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Turf Grass and Landscape Fertilization
(Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection Green Industries)

  • Do not fertilize if a heavy rainfall is expected, especially tropical or frontal weather systems.
  • Avoid both leaching and surface runoff. Match the product to the situation. Remember, all fertilizers, even slow-release products, contain nutrients that can cause pollution if allowed to escape the root zone.
  • Correct other deficiencies first. Be aware of the effects that soil pH, shade, overwatering, or other stresses may have on the plants. Be sure that fertilization is the correct response to the problem.
  • Remember that rate and timing of nitrogen (N) fertilization depends on the turf grass species, season of the year, level of maintenance desired, source of N applied, and location in the state.
  • Limit water-soluble (quick release) Nitrogen applications to 0.5 lb./1,000 ft2. This includes the water soluble part of slow-release blends. Limit total N to 1 lb./1,000 ft2 per the Urban Turf Rule.
  • Phosphorous (P) application should be limited to soils that require additional P based on soil or tissue testing.
  • Limit Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) fertilization at establishment to one time 30 days after seeding/sodding. Do not add N or P before installation, but amend the soil as needed with lime or organic matter.
  • Always leave a Ring of Responsibility near water bodies or impervious surfaces. Always use deflector shields on broadcast or rotary spreaders when applying fertilizer near water or sidewalks, driveways and streets.
  • Sweep any fertilizer left on impervious areas back into the vegetated area.
  • Become proficient in reading and understanding the fertilizer label.
  • Know the exact square footage of the area where fertilizer is being applied and make sure the spreader/application equipment is properly calibrated and set to deliver the correct amount of fertilizer to that area.
  • Become knowledgeable in soil sampling procedures and soil test interpretation.
  • When fertilizing (other than when watering restrictions apply), irrigate with ¼ inch of water following fertilization to avoid the loss of nitrogen and increase uptake efficiency. If water restrictions apply, you may irrigate as you are allowed, but more than ½ inch may cause some nitrogen to be leached past the root zone.
  • Use Iron (Fe) and/or Manganese (Mn) instead of Nitrogen (N) to enhance turf grass color on soils having a pH greater than 7.0, especially during times of enhanced rainfall.
  • Maintain a healthy, actively growing turf grass to minimize the environmental impact of fertilizer and pesticide application, erosion, and storm water runoff.
  • There is no significant difference between liquid or dry applications of similar products. In terms of BMPs for environmental protection, the proper application of fertilizer is more important than the type of product.

General Pesticide Recommendations
Adapted from Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Turf Grass and Landscape Fertilization
(Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection Green Industries)

The following general BMPs should always be used for pesticides:

  • Observe all directions, restrictions and precautions on pesticide labels. It is dangerous, wasteful and illegal to do otherwise.
  • Store pesticides behind locked doors in original containers with labels intact, separate from seed and fertilizer.
  • Use pesticides at the correct application rate and recommended intervals between applications to avoid injury to plants and animals.
  • Never eat, drink or smoke when handling pesticides, and always wash with soap and water after use.
  • Triple-rinse containers into the spray tank. Never pour pesticides down a drain or into an area exposed to humans, animals or water.
  • Dispose of used containers in compliance with label directions so that water contamination and other hazards will not result.
  • Always wear protective clothing when applying pesticides. At a minimum, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long-legged pants, rubber gloves, boots (never go barefoot or wear sandals), eye protection, and a wide-brimmed hat. Additional protective gear may be listed on the pesticide label.

St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177