Lawn Fertilizer By-law

The City of Greater Sudbury has a Lawn Fertilizer By-law (PDF 352.31 KB) restricts the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus within the City of Greater Sudbury. 

  • You may not apply general-use lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. 

This by-law is intended to help protect the health of Greater Sudbury's lakes. All chemicals, additives and products we use in and around our homes eventually reach the water. While phosphorus is a natural element needed for plant growth, too much can damage the aquatic environment.

How to find out if a fertilizer contains phosphorus

Every package of fertilizer contains three numbers known as the NPK value. NPK stands for:

  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Phosphorus (P)
  • Potassium (K)

A fertilizer with an NPK value marked 8-4-5 will have 8% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 5% potassium.

To make sure you are complying with the by-law you should check to make sure the middle number of the ingredient formula is “0”. That means that it contains no phosphorus.

When is a fertilizer with phosphorus allowed?

Phosphorus is still allowed in the following situations:

  • When starting a new lawn from sod or seed during the first growing season
  • When a test performed by an accredited soil testing service shows the soil's phosphorus level is not sufficient to support a lawn
  • For agricultural application
  • On sod farms and golf courses

This by-law only relates to lawn fertilizers and does not affect other types of fertilizers, such as those used for flowers, vegetables, trees or shrubs.

It does not restrict the sale of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus – only their use.

Tips for applying fertilizer

  • Avoid fertilizing when the ground is frozen, when it is raining or forecast to rain within 48 hours.
  • Do not apply fertilizer within 15 meters of any body of water.
  • If fertilizer spills onto an impervious surface such as a walkway, sweep it onto the soil to ensure absorption.
  • Visit our Green Gardening and Lawn Care page for tips on creating a healthy lawn.