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Be warned — fertilizer ordinance kicks in June 1

April 20, 2012
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


Special to The Breeze

It is almost time to start compiling with Lee County Fertilizer Ordinance #08-08. To refresh your memory, this ordinance was established in May 2009 to make sure homeowners, residents and professional landscapers are aware of the critical influence our Fertilizers have on our local waterways and coastal waters.

You do not have to be residing on waterfront property to directly affect a nearby water body. All of our yard work may have unintended consequences to the many canals and man-made lakes throughout the city of Cape Coral. Some of these waterways are land bound and do not drain directly into the coastal waters, however, they do drain down into underground caverns. This seemingly harmless run off of lawn watering and car washing, containing chemicals, will eventually affect fresh water sources because of the huge amounts we are all carelessly spreading around unnecessarily.

The pamphlet entitled Fertilize Smart put out by Lee County lists all the things you will need to know about how to read fertilizer labels.

Fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus cannot be used during the rainy season, June 1 through Sept. 30. There are other limited use times.

Do not apply fertilizers within 10 feet of a water body, seawall or wetland.

No fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways and sidewalks.

Use deflector shields on spreaders to prevent fertilizers from being spread into water the water body buffers and the impervious surfaces.

Do not even sweep or blow grass clippings and vegetative trimmings into ditches drains, water bodies or sidewalks and roadways.

Classes for homeowners and professional landscapers are provided through the Lee County Extension service. For a scheduled class call (239) 533-4327.Visit for a copy of the ordinance.

I tried to pick up a few pamphlets at the Cape Coral City Hall on Tuesday. Not a one available. I was told to contact the county. The Garden Club has used up its supply from last year and I just assumed that I could go to city Hall and get some more. We do have the most waterways in the county, however I guess June is sneaking up on the ordinance people and they have not started spreading the word yet.

In the meantime, people will be spreading fertilizer all over the place with the excuse they "didn't know better."

Most fertilizing should be done about now anyway, I guess, but Code Enforcement of this ordinance depends on getting the word out on time and often.

We have been battling with the concept of watering wisely for years and just barely manage to get residents to do efficient watering. This fertilizer ordinance will be another continuing battle for sure.

Rain sensors that automatically turn off your irrigation system when sufficient rain has fallen work pretty well. A rain gauge will let you know if you have watered enough. A rain gauge showing a rainfall of 1 inch will tell you that you had more than enough for that day. An established lawn will be just fine when watered properly just twice a week.

You can tell when the winds are blowing 15 to 20 mph and upsetting the proper amount of water seeping into lawn. You can also tell when you have a torrential rainfall and do not need to water for a couple of days.

Water during the early morning hours when temperatures are cooler, preventing evaporation and the water will slowly seep into the cool ground. The best hours are from midnight to 10 a.m. or from 4 p.m. to midnight on your scheduled day. No watering is allowed between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and NO watering on Fridays.

Water no more than 3 days a week. Odd addresses irrigate on Monday and/or Wednesday, and/or Saturday. Even addresses on Tuesday and/or Thursday, and/or Sunday.

The above hours are from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, located on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers (239) 338-2929.

The only exception seems to be new horticulture plantings that will need extra watering when new landscaping is being done.

We are paying for all that water we use, so cut down on expenses and adjust the sprinkler system.

The weather forecast, while I am writing this column, shows real rain is on the way for this weekend. Good news. Start practicing with your rain gauges and sensors and turn off the sprinklers for a day.

Three quarters of an inch of water each time you irrigate is all that is needed. Let Mother Nature do the work for you.

Check your particular area of Lee County and make sure you know what your watering schedule is. Watch for changes. Seventy percent of our annual rainfall occurs between June and October, however we will be having some real dry days even during this "rainy" season.

Make sure your rain barrels are filling up for the dry season needs during the months of November through May.

A Native Plant Sale is being held this morning at Rotary Park, in the Cape. This is a very good sale that will have an excellent selection of healthy plants and trees.

Native plant people and others will be available to discuss how and when to plant.

The second annual book sale will be going on over at the library on Mohawk. After walking around the plant sale, take a cool walk around the library where hundreds of inexpensive books for young and old will be available. Plant something one day and read a good book the next day and you have a great weekend.

On Saturday the 28th, the Garden Club of Cape Coral will be holding a Standard Flower Show at the library on Mohawk. This is a free event from 9.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Open Friday afternoon, right after judging, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

This is a judged show and will also be showing hundreds of horticulture cuttings from local gardeners. It is an amazing sight to see table after table of colorful homegrown selections.

I have to find some time to plant a couple dozen caladium bulbs that have been patiently waiting in my garage, for a nice sunny home outside. They are so colorful and easy to grow. Make sure you plant the correct end up. Give them a good moist area for the first few days and then set back and watch.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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