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Urban Nutrient Management

Lawn spreader.An urban nutrient management plan is a plan prepared by a Virginia certified nutrient management planner to manage the amount, placement, timing and application of fertilizer, biosolids, or other materials containing plant nutrients in order to reduce nutrient loss to the environment and to produce quality turf and landscape plants.

It's one solution to the nutrient pollution problem that causes algae overgrowth and "dead zones" in many waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay. It also can help homeowners build a lush, healthy lawn.

An urban nutrient management plan is a site-specific plan that provides agronomic and environmentally sound recommendations for applying nutrients to turfgrass.

Nutrient management plans generally are developed for the following landscape types:

  • Golf courses
  • Athletic fields
  • Community and business parks
  • Common areas in developed communities
  • Residential lawns

Here are two sample plans:

Urban nutrient management acreage goal

Pervious turfgrass covers an estimated 1.2 million acres of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Virginia. According to Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), 500,000 acres must be addressed by nutrient management plans by 2025. Nutrient management plans written by certified planners help Virginia track success in meeting this goal.

Required urban nutrient management plans

Urban nutrient management plans are required for golf courses and state-owned lands, as well as publicly owned land that is fertilized within a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit area. Urban nutrient management plans must be written by certified planners, and plans for golf courses and state-owned lands must be approved by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Voluntary urban nutrient management plans

DCR encourages all turfgrass and landscape professionals to consider nutrient management plans for the areas they manage. DCR offers training and certification exams twice a year for those interested in becoming certified planners.

DCR also maintains a directory of private-sector certified planners who develop nutrient management plans for a variety of turfgrass and landscape management situations.

Homeowner urban nutrient management plans

Thumbnail of Clean and Green brochure cover.Homeowners who would like to have an urban nutrient management plan developed for their landscape should contact their local Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. Many of these programs offer plan-writing services for a small fee. Also, you'll find some helpful tips on keeping your lawn green and our waterways clean in this brochure.

Alternatively, homeowners looking to hire or already using a lawn service should encourage the company to participate in DCR's Green & Clean Initiative program if it already doesn't. The agreement demonstrates the company's commitment to application practices that minimize nutrient runoff pollution to Virginia's waters, including the Chesapeake Bay. Participation in the program is voluntary.

Here's a list of lawn-care companies participating in the Green & Clean Initiative program.

Listen to a podcast for tips on selecting a lawn-care company.

For more information about any of the programs listed above, contact DCR's urban nutrient management specialist:

Derik Cataldi