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Orange County keeps landscapers out of nitrogen fertilizer ban

Orange County’s landscaping companies with certified trained technicians will still be able to apply nitrogen fertilizers during the rainy season – now – but with some stricter rules and tougher penalties.

The Orange County Commission updated its fertilizer laws Tuesday evening after a long public hearing that pitted environmental activists who wanted a full rainy season ban and the lawn care industry that wanted to keep their freedom to use their professional expertise.

The result is an ordinance that meets state requirements set last year under the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act of 2016 without being as tough as Seminole County but with being tougher than many.

Seminole County, Orange County’s neighbor to the north, won over environmental activists with some of the toughest rules in the state with its new ordinance and much of the conversation Tuesday in Orange was whether they should apply in Orange as well.

They won’t. Orange County has had a ban on non-commercial application of nitrogen fertilizers from June 1 to Sept. 30 since 2009. The end result of that battle Tuesday keeps that ban in place, but also keeps in place an exemption that may unique to Florida, anyone who’s taken and passed a county course on fertilizer application to minimize runoff.