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Don’t Rain On Florida’s Parade

Florida’s rainy season is upon us. Avoiding fertilizer use year-round is a great way to support Florida’s waterways and marine life, but it’s particularly important during times of excessive rainfall.

Our summer thunderstorms lead to fertilizer runoff from lawns and agricultural fields into nearby bodies of water, of which Florida has plenty. It carries the nitrogen and phosphorus present in the fertilizer, leading to a phenomenon known as nutrient pollution. Nutrient pollution can cause harmful algal blooms, such as red tide and blue-green algae, which are toxic to aquatic life and pose risks to human health. These blooms result in fish kills, oxygen depletion in the water, and damage to coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Florida’s unique geography and hydrology make it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of fertilizer use during the rainy season. Our state has a high water table known as the aquifer and porous sandy soils that do not retain nutrients well. The Floridan aquifer system (FAS), which underlies all of Florida, is the primary source of potable groundwater for much of the state. When fertilizer is applied and heavy rains occur, the excess nutrients are easily leached into the groundwater or transported by surface water runoff. The leaching of nutrients can contaminate drinking water sources and contribute to the degradation of Florida’s delicate ecosystems. It can also result in the loss of valuable nutrients from the soil, reducing its fertility over time and necessitating even more fertilizer use to maintain plant growth.

Instead of filling your yard with plants that require fertilizer, plant native! Florida’s subtropical climate supports plenty of beautiful foliage that doesn’t require as much attention as non-native species.

Need more ideas for native plants? Check out this list by UF/IFAS or the Florida Native Plant Society suggestions, complete with photos to visualize your new native wildlife refuge.

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