Fertilizer free zones, weather restrictions, certification and training

Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution flowing into our natural waterbodies.

The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved Fertilizer Ordinance 21-42, effective Nov. 17, 2021, that regulates fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous and provides specific management guidelines for fertilizer application in order to minimize negative impacts to our natural waterbodies. This ordinance is for unincorporated Hillsborough County; City of Tampa has a different but similar ordinance. The materials and resources below further explain the ordinance.

The new ordinance is in addition to the existing Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough County Chapter 1-15 Fertilizer Use and Landscape Management Rule that has been in effect since June of 2010. The new ordinance supersedes the EPC rule, although anything not contained in the new ordinance that is in the EPC rule is still in effect.

The ordinance and rule apply to anyone including residents, homeowners, Homeowner Association common property management, businesses, governmental entities, and commercial companies that apply fertilizer and provide landscape services to non-agricultural property.

Here are some key provisions of the Hillsborough County Fertilizer Ordinance and EPC Rule:

Fertilizer content, application manner, and rate

  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous may not be applied on turfgrass or landscape plants from June 1 through Sept. 30, though the ordinance does not prohibit stores from selling the material during this application blackout.
  • Fertilizers containing iron, manganese and other "micronutrients" also referred to as "summer blends" can be applied during the restricted season to keep lawns healthy and green (as recommended by Florida Yards Neighborhood/Florida Friendly Landscape Program).
  • Fertilizers containing phosphorous cannot be applied to turfgrass or landscape plants at any time unless a soil analysis test showing a phosphorous deficiency has been performed by a qualified laboratory.
  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen must be at least 50% controlled or slow release nitrogen.
  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen cannot be applied prior to seeding, or for the first 30 days after seeding or sodding except under specific hydroseeding conditions (see ordinance).
  • Nitrogen containing fertilizers must be applied at the rates recommended in the Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries, not to exceed four pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet applied in any calendar year.
  • Spreader deflector shields are required on all broadcast or rotary spreaders and must be used to deflect granular fertilizer away from all impervious surfaces and water bodies.
  • Fertilizer cannot be applied, spilled or deposited on any impervious surface. If this happens, it must be immediately and completely removed. It can be applied at the recommended rate to turfgrass or landscape plants.
  • Fertilizer cannot be washed, swept or blown from impervious surfaces into storm drains, ditches, drainage conveyances, surface waters or roadways.

Weather restrictions

  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous cannot be applied when,
    1. it is raining at the application site, or
    2. within the time period during which a flood watch or warning, or a tropical storm watch or warning, or a hurricane watch or warning is in effect for any portion of Hillsborough County, issued by the National Weather Service, or
    3. within 36 hours prior to a rain event greater than or equal to 2 inches in a 24-hour period is likely.

Fertilizer free zones

  • Fertilizer cannot be applied within 10 feet of any surface water.

Management of grass clipping and vegetative materials

  • Grass clippings, vegetative material and vegetative debris cannot be washed, swept or blown into storm drains, roadways, ditches, conveyances, or surface waters.

Certification and training

  • All commercial applicators including government and institutional applicators must obtain an FDACS Limited Commercial Urban Fertilizer Certification (LUF) aka the fertilizer license. A GIBMP (Green Industries Best Management Practices) certification by DEP-UF/IFAS is required to obtain the LUF.
  • A vehicle decal issued by EPC of Hillsborough County must be affixed to any vehicle used by the company in connection with landscape maintenance activities and/or the application of fertilizer.


  • A 6-foot low maintenance, no mow zone from the water’s edge in the fertilizer free zone.
  • Reduction of fertilizer application on properties utilizing reclaimed water. Check with Hillsborough County Water Resources for information on reclaimed water nutrient content.

Enforcement and penalty

  • There are provisions for enforcement and penalty as misdemeanors with fines up to $500 and/or imprisonment up to 60 days. Code enforcement, law enforcement or others designated by the County may enforce the ordinance.

The overall goal of the County’s ordinance is to minimize excess fertilizer runoff and protect the County’s natural water resources.  For more information, please review the entire Fertilizer Ordinance.


For commercial applicator training and questions, contact UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Professional Horticulture Program at (813) 744-5519.

Last Modified: 1/25/2024, 10:23:12 PM

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