Fertilizers and Lawn Care with Water Quality in Mind

New York State Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law

  • Prohibit the use of phosphorus lawn fertilizer unless establishing a new lawn or a soil test shows that the lawn does not have enough phosphorus.
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer on impervious surfaces and require pick up of fertilizer applied or spilled onto impervious surfaces.
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer within 20 feet of any surface water except: where there is a vegetative buffer of at least 10 feet; or where the fertilizer is applied by a device with a spreader guard, deflector shield or drop spreader at least three feet from surface water
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between December 1st and April 1st
  • Require retailers to display phosphorus containing fertilizers separately from non-phosphorus fertilizers and to post an educational sign where the phosphorus fertilizers are displayed

Learn more about the law here.

Read the Town of Queensbury Law on Lawn Fertilizer and Pesticide Runoff Control -pdf

Read the Phosphorus-free fertilizer laws in the town and village of Lake George - a brochure for homeowners - pdf

Urbanized areas in the Lake George watershed account for only 5% of the area but 43% of the annual phosphorus loading to the lake. Sediments wash into streams and out into the lake, bringing phosphorus attached to the soil particles. One way to help stop this transfer of phosphorus into the Lake is to stop the sources of it, such as fertilizers containing phosphorus.

Phosphorus-Free Fertilizer: What do I look for?

The three numbers in fertilizer bags show the N-P-K nutrient analysis. The middle number is the phosphate (phosphorus) content. A “zero” in the middle means it is phosphorus free.


Will phosphorus-free fertilizer keep my lawn green and healthy?
Yes! Soils in most parts of New York already have an adequate amount of phosphorus to grow a healthy lawn. In these instances, adding more phosphorus with fertilizer is not needed and will not benefit your lawn.

This lawn on Lake George has been fertilized with a phosphorus-free product for years, and it still looks great!

How do I find out what my soil needs?
If you are concerned that your lawn may need phosphorus, you can have your soil tested. Soil testing is available through the local Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Warrensburg for a reasonable fee.

What else can you do to protect water quality besides using a phosphorus-free fertilizer on your lawn?

Fertilizers, leaves, grass clippings, animal waste, and eroded soil are all sources of phosphorus. When they are swept or washed into the street or nearest storm drain, they end up in your local lake or river. You can do your part to protect water quality by doing the following:

• Apply fertilizer at the recommended rate. Fall is the best time. Don’t fertilize before a storm. Never apply to frozen ground.
• Yard waste can contribute significant amounts of phosphorus to waterways. Keep soil, leaves, and lawn clippings out of the street, ditches, storm drains, and streams by bagging them, composting them, or leaving them right on the lawn as a natural fertilizer.
• Mow higher. Keeping your grass length to 2½ – 3 inches is healthier for your lawn - and means you can mow less often!
• Pick up pet waste. Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria as well as phosphorus. Flush it in the toilet or place in the garbage.
• Control soil erosion around your house. When left bare, soil is easily washed away with rain, carrying phosphorus with it. Soil erosion can be prevented by covering exposed soil with vegetation or mulch.


When your treat the lawn remember, you're not just treating the lawn.
When your dog goes on the lawn remember, it doesn't just go on the lawn.



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