November 1 is rapidly approaching and with it the deadline to stop using fertilizer in Suffolk County. According to the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan cooler temperatures slow plant growth and the bacterial activity in the soil so that soluble nutrients can no longer be taken up by plants. The nutrients, including nitrogen, instead flow directly into Georgica Pond. The Friends of Georgica Pond advocate for using only organic fertilizers and this regulation holds true for both organic and synthetic fertilizers.
Excess nitrogen in Georgica Pond and other coastal waterbodies is the major contributor to harmful algal blooms. The two main sources of this nitrogen in Georgica Pond are: #1 septic wastewater and #2 fertilizer.
Phosphorous is also a major component of many fertilizers and also causes excessive algae growth in our waterbodies. Lawn fertilizer is now available that is phosphorus free. If you must use synthetic fertilizer, look for bags that have a zero (0) in the middle number e.g. 12-0-15.
Phosphorous in fertilizer is not necessary for established lawns and plants. A soil test can determine if your soil needs added phosphorus or nitrogen. Many lawns around Georgica Pond grow very well with strictly organic treatments or without any fertilizer at all.
Fortunately, there are some great local resources to help you convert to a healthier lawn and therefore a healthier pond. The Perfect Earth Project and the Bridge Gardens Trust, a project of the Peconic Land Trust are both great resources.
So hold the fertilizer until Spring and enjoy the beauty of autumn.