The third and final phase of a law imposing strict regulations on fertilizer use in New Jersey went into effect on Jan. 5, 2013.
The law, which was signed on Jan. 5, 2011, was designed to reduce pollutants, namely nitrogen and phosphorus, from contaminating New Jersey’s waterways and has been heralded as the toughest law in the nation regarding fertilizer regulation. It was written as part of a comprehensive environmental protection package for the Barnegat Bay.

The final section of the law sets rigid standards for labels on retail fertilizers. Consumer fertilizers can not contain more than 0.7 pounds of water-soluble nitrogen or more than 0.9 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and at least 20 percent of the nitrogen must be slow-release, according to information provided by Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. The law also prohibits fertilizer application during or just before heavy rainfall, or onto frozen ground. It also establishes blackout dates, preventing consumers from spreading fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus from Nov. 15 through March 1. For professionals, the blackout dates are Dec. 1 through March 1.

It is estimated that the cost of fertilizer used by most consumers will rise between 10 percent and 20 percent due to the higher cost of slow-release nitrogen.

Fertilizers in New Jersey may no longer contain phosphorus, except in special circumstances when a soil test indicates need, or when establishing or re-establishing turf, NJAES said.

Exempt from the regulations are commercial farms and golf courses, though only a certified professional fertilizer applicator, or a person trained and supervised by one, may apply fertilizer to a golf course. The law also established a training and certification system for professionals.