Many of us use fertilizers on our lawns or gardens, but we should take care that fertilizer stays where it is needed instead of being washed away by rainfall.

Tancey Cullum Belken with Clemson Extension says “It’s always important to keep an eye on the weather before you decide to fertilize. So, if there’s a big storm coming maybe hold off so that you don’t lose all that fresh fertilizer with the wash out when it rains.”

When fertilizer ends up in ponds and streams, it can have unpleasant side effects like excessive plant growth, polluted drinking water, unattractive and smelly water, and even fish kills.

Over fertilization of a water body can lead to algal blooms and even harmful algae blooms that cause blue green algae which can be toxic to pets and humans.

To keep fertilizer out of our waterways, only fertilize when needed. Many established plants do not need additional fertilizer. If you notice a plant struggling, find out what it needs before adding fertilizer. It may be underperforming due to compacted soil, soil ph, insects and disease of even drought. A soil test will help you discover what your plant needs.

To avoid fertilizing a water body, don’t apply near a shoreline, since it has a high potential of washing off into the water. A vegetative buffer can help with this by soaking up the nutrients before they enter the water. Do not apply fertilizer before it is supposed to rain. Not only will much of it wash away and pollute a waterway, but it is a waste of money.

Tancey reminds us that “fertilizer itself isn’t inherently bad but watching when and where you fertilize can be a big help to our water quality.”

Finally, if some of your fertilizer ends up on a hard surface, like your driveway, sweep it into the yard where it can be used by plants before washing away.