Get Involved with Save Barnegat Bay

What is the Fertilizer Challenge?

“I accept the challenge not to allow lawn fertilizer in my yard so that Barnegat Bay can be restored to health.”

Who is invited to take the Fertilizer Challenge?

Those with lawns, those with stone yards, those with native plants, homeowners, renters, businesses, government agencies, lawn care professionals, and those who never did use lawn fertilizer are all invited. The Challenge is simply not to use lawn fertilizer however you choose to care for your yard. Just sign on here!

Does the Fertilizer Challenge apply to gardens?

Your garden is not part of this Challenge. The Challenge concerns the rest of your yard as described above.

What if my property does not front on the bay?

If you live anywhere runoff or groundwater flows toward streams feeding Barnegat Bay, you are in the bay’s watershed and on the front lines. That is all of Ocean County and much of southern Monmouth.

What is in fertilizer that harms Barnegat Bay?

Nitrogen. It is one of the most basic plant foods—and Barnegat Bay already has too much of it. Nitrogen carried by runoff and groundwater to the bay over-feeds large and small algae, which crowds out traditional healthy species, such as clams, scallops, eelgrass, and crabs. When algae dies, it uses up a tremendous amount of oxygen, impairs all marine animal life.

Will this help in the battle against stinging sea nettle jellyfish?

Yes. Sea nettles more easily survive the low oxygen incidents that excess nitrogen causes than do other species.

How we do know that lawns are a cause of excess nitrogen in Barnegat Bay?

Science long ago proved that nitrogen from lawn fertilizer as a problem for Barnegat Bay. And the recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey specific to Barnegat Bay is a virtual smoking gun. This has been affirmed in depth by Rutgers scientists and covered in the Asbury Park Press. Lawns are an even greater source of excess nitrogen to Barnegat Bay than roads and parking lots. Many of America’s top marine scientists affirmed that nitrogen from fertilizer is a problem when they endorsed Save Barnegat Bay’s ground-breaking 2011 lawn fertilizer law.

If everybody stopped fertilizing, would that restore Barnegat Bay to health?

It would be a huge step in the direction of a healthy Barnegat Bay. Although other nitrogen sources, such as fossil fuel burning and development destroying forests exist, fertilizer is one of the biggest.

Can one person make a difference?

Yes. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection refuses to do the things necessary to restore Barnegat Bay, but who can stop you? You can make your yard a bay-friendly reality and a bay-friendly example. That’s how change enters the world.

Are there ways other than fertilizing to nourish my lawn?

Applying lime lowers the acidity of your lawn and will often do more for the health of your grass than fertilizing. Planting clover fixes slow-release nitrogen from the air. Composting can lead toward the creation of actual soil, which can make your lawn self-sustaining without fertilizer.

How can my lawn get the necessary amount of nitrogen without fertilizer?

Rain. Clover. Compost. Soil.

Can my lawn be just as beautiful without fertilizer?

We believe it can. And you can help prove this. Regardless, we will get a healthier bay.

Are there healthy alternatives to a lawn?

Native plants—the beautiful plants traditional to our region—can substitute for lawn space. They stay healthy without fertilizing and watering and can potentially divide your yard into enjoyable, beautiful sections. The deep roots of native plants help the bay by removing nitrogen from the groundwater before it can reach the bay to become algae food.

What about stone yards?

Stone yards do nothing to remove the nitrogen that is already in the rain as it falls. That’s why yards with unfertilized native plantings are better. Yards with native plantings also require no herbicides. But if you do have a stone yard, please sign on to the challenge because you are helping Barnegat Bay by not using lawn fertilizer.

Does the Fertilizer Challenge apply if I use organic lawn care?

Yes, you will have to tell your organic lawn care specialist not to fertilize. But in general, they don’t do much fertilizing. They do things like composting, which leads toward your lawn having actual soil. That’s why most people who get organic lawn care only need it for two or three years… after that they have self-sustaining soil and no need for fertilizer.

What about OceanGro, Ocean Countys fertilizer made from sewage sludge?

Although technically it is a fertilizer, we think of it as a compost that helps build soil. It’s okay.

Will this hurt the lawn care service industry?

Not if they can meet the challenge of keeping lawns attractive without fertilizing. It’s doable.

If I take the challenge, will it keep our waters from being polluted by phosphorus also?

Not if you live in New Jersey or in a state with a fertilizer law modeled on New Jersey’s—which originated with Save Barnegat Bay. We banned phosphorus from lawn fertilizer.

Are there other advantages to not fertilizing?

Only if you like saving money.