Stop and think.

That’s the advice from Charlene Khazae, fertilizer program manager for Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Beginning today, Wisconsin residents can no longer apply turf fertilizer containing phosphorus to their lawns or other landscape, except in limited circumstances. The intent of the law is to protect Wisconsin’s waterways from phosphorus runoff.

“The new law makes it illegal for Wisconsin retailers to display turf fertilizer that is labeled as containing phosphorus or available phosphate,” said Khazae, though most retailers will have the product still available.

You can still apply phosphorus if you are putting in a new lawn or if a soil test shows the lawn is deficient in phosphorus, she said.

Fertilizer that contains phosphorus can still be used in agricultural production, pastures and home gardens.

The new law adds some additional restrictions to all types of turf fertilizer:

• Fertilizer cannot be applied to frozen ground.

• Fertilizer cannot be applied to impervious surfaces like driveways or sidewalks.

Khazae said if you get fertilizer on your driveway or sidewalk, sweep or hose it back on the grass or put it in the trash. Do not allow it to go into the street or into storm drains.

If you’ve got leftover fertilizer containing phosphorus, the new rules apply to that, too.

“After April 1, that old fertilizer is not legal to use unless you meet those exceptions,” she said, so dispose of it responsibly and think about what you apply in the future.

“Stop and think if they really need it,” Khazae said. If the answer is no, “They shouldn’t be putting it on.”

Retailers are prepared for this, she said, because they knew the law was going into effect. “Some of them have been able to plan accordingly.”

Joel Bilskemper, owner of Lawn Care Specialists Inc., said he buys the raw materials to blend his own fertilizer, and that never included phosphorus anyway, so the law will have no effect on his business.

“We buy the raw nitrogen and potassium and blend it. And the people we buy from, they’ve already taken the phosphorus out of their bag fertilizer.”

For more information, go to www.datcp.state.wi.us and search “turf fertilizer.”

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