You could be breaking the law just by fertilizing your lawn. The DEC is warning homeowners to carefully look at the packaging to avoid illegal lawn care practices.

This is the time of year when many Hudson Valley homeowners are putting away the snow shovels and starting to tend to their lawns. One of the first things lawn care experts suggest is to put down some springtime fertilizer to stimulate growth and choke out unwanted crabgrass.

The DEC is warning New Yorkers that putting down that fertilizer could be against the law if you're not using the right product.

Portrait of positive family on green lawn in summer park

Authorities say that when purchasing lawn fertilizer it's important to check the bag for a set of three numbers showing the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The numbers are usually separated by a hyphen.

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Under the law, homeowners need to use a fertilizer that has a "0" in the middle, signifying that there's no phosphorus in the product. According to the DEC, phosphorus is one of the leading causes of water pollution. Even if you live far from a water body, excess phosphorus from your lawn can wash off and pollute lakes and streams. There are over 100 bodies of water in New York State that have been deemed unsafe for drinking, fishing or swimming because of phosphorus contamination.

According to the law, homeowners are only allowed to use lawn fertilizer that contains phosphorus if they are establishing a new lawn, or have a proven soil test showing that the lawn doesn't have enough phosphorus. Otherwise, you must use a zero-phosphorus fertilizer.

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