Fertilize Wisely

body of water with algae, lily pads, and weedsNatural materials like leaves and grass clippings are not the only threats to water quality in our lakes. Lawn care and home pest control products can enter our lakes if they are not used properly and carefully. Many weed killers and insecticides are extremely toxic to aquatic life. Always follow the label directions when using any pesticide, and never use pesticides within thirty feet of a lake, ditch or stream. Clean up any spills immediately, and always dispose of unwanted pesticides at an approved household hazardous waste facility.

Fertilizers are used to help our lawns and shrubs grow, but the very compounds that help our landscapes, can cause excessive plant and algae growth in our lakes. Florida soils hold phosphorus very well, and rarely need any to be added. As of August 2020, the City of Winter Park has adopted the Orange County Fertilizer Ordinance – located in the city’s ordinance section 58-368. The ordinance restricts applications during certain times of the year, unless the applicator has taken an online training course. Residents can help protect the area’s lakes in the following ways.

Preventing water pollution starts at home

  • From June 1 to September 30, choose zero nitrogen and zero phosphorus.
  • Limit each application to 1 pound total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet (maximum 3 pounds per year).
  • Do not fertilize 24 hours before an expected storm or heavy rain.
  • When using a broadcast spreader it must have a spray/deflector shields to keep fertilizers off of paved surfaces.
  • Keep the curb and gutter area of the street in front of your house clean. The city has street sweepers, but they can’t hit every street every day.
  • From October 1 to May 31, if using nitrogen fertilizer, it must be at least 65% slow release.
  • Choose phosphorous-free fertilizer. Florida soils hold phosphorous very well, and rarely need any to be added.
  • Clean up any spills immediately.
  • Do not deposit fertilizer or grass clippings on streets, driveways or in storm drains.
  • Sweep leaves, lawn clippings and other debris off of sidewalks and driveways.
  • Keep fertilizer at least 25 feet from natural  bodies of water.


body of water with lily pads, and weedsEvery year in February and March, our beautiful canopy of oak trees shed their leaves to make way for new growth. Once on the ground many leaves find their way to our stormwater systems where they are eventually carried to our lakes. These leaves contain nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are good for the trees, but can cause serious problems in our lakes. Although leaves are natural, and a certain percentage of them would make it to the lakes under any conditions, our system of road, sidewalks, driveways and drainage facilities act as conduits carrying huge volumes of leaves directly into the area lakes.

During rest of the year, lawn mowing, and vegetation trimming activities contribute to the load of organic material. When clippings are left on paved surfaces, they will, like the oak leaves, wind up in our stormwater system, and eventually in our lakes. This excess of organic material releases large amounts of phosphorus very quickly, fueling unwanted algae growth.

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Winter Park is the city of arts and culture, cherishing its traditional scale and charm while building a healthy and sustainable future for all generations.