If you live in the Treasure Coast, then you’re living in a watershed that flows down to the St Johns River, the Indian River Lagoon, or to the ocean. We need to protect our environment through the careful use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Here are some of the gardening practices that can damage these water bodies as well as the environment as a whole.

Putting Down Fertilizer Without Testing the Soil

Testing the soil first is the best way to determine the right kind of fertilizer for that soiled based on what nutrients are already present in the soil. Testing the soil will tell you how much phosphorous, potassium and magnesium there is. These results allow you to choose the right fertilizer.

Failing to Water Synthetic Fertilizer Right Away

Synthetic fertilizers are 50% nitrogen and this nitrogen must be watered a little so that it can dissolve and pass down through the root system of the plant. If you don’t water in the fertilizer it can cause the nitrogen to volatize. If the nitrogen is watered in by the rain or through heavy irrigation then it can end up going down past the root system and contaminate the Indian River Lagoon or the St Johns River.

Using Too Much Fertilizer

When you apply fertilizer there’s no need to apply more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Letting the Fertilizer Settle on Roads and Sidewalks

When you apply a fertilizer using a broadcast spreader without a shield it can send fertilizer out on to paved surfaces. This fertilizer is then carried by the rain into storm drains where it will be sent to the nearest body of water. This fertilizer contains nitrogen and phosphorous which can kill fish and cause algae to bloom. If you see fertilizer hit the pavement then just sweep it back on to the grass.

Using Pesticides Within 10 Feet of a Body of Water

There should be a “maintenance-free” zone around any body of water including any ponds. You shouldn’t apply fertilizer or pesticides to this area. Don’t even mow it there. Instead of using turf in this area why not grow a sunshine mimosa such as Mimosa Strigillosa? This gives you plenty of cover for sunny locations.

Applying Fertilizer or Pesticides Before a Rain Storm

When we say pesticides we mean all products in this category such as insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and such. These products, along with fertilizers, should ever be applied if the forecast calls for rain.

Using Harsh Insecticides Rather than Less-Toxic Ones

Many of the insects that are likely to attack your garden such as aphids, scale and mealy bugs can all be controlled with the use of an insecticidal soap or ultra-fine horticultural oil. One of the great advantages to using a soap is that it doesn’t harm any beneficial insects after it dries out. When you use a soap or spray you need to ensure that the plant has already been watered a few hours before spraying. You should also avoid spraying early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature gets low. You need to cover the entire plant, including the underside of the leaves, in order to really control the pets. Several pests also leave behind honeydew which can lead to sooty mold, so make sure you give any sooty mold a quick spray.

Using Pesticides When you Don’t Need To

People will often use pesticide just because they happen to see a bug. It’s important to determine if the bug is actually a pest and, better yet, if it’s doing enough damage to warrant you spraying it. You should never spray your pesticide based on your calendar. Spraying down your entire yard in the hopes of preventing an outbreak of pests just causes a lot of pesticide to affect the environment without even controlling a pest problem. You should spray only when you really need to and not just because you saw a bug or because it’s “that time of year”. You can vastly reduce your impact on the environment and even help save the beneficial insects.

Using Pesticides In Places You Don’t Need To

If you find that one or two shrubs have been beset by pests then you can just spot-treat those plants. Always spray only the infected area and, in the case of cinch bugs, a few feet around the infected area. That way you cut down on your pesticide use and means you don’t kill the beneficial bugs that actually help your plants to grow.