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Home > Ag Chemicals & Fertilizers > Fertilizers > Options for leftover phosphorus lawn fertilizer

Options for leftover phosphorus lawn fertilizer


Found a bag of lawn fertilizer in the back of the shed that contains phosphorus? Here are options for using or disposing it while keeping within the Minnesota Phosphorus Lawn Fertilizer Law.

Bag of phosphorus-free fertilizerUnder the Minnesota Phosphorus Law Fertilizer Law, fertilizers containing phosphorus cannot be used on lawns and turf in Minnesota unless one of the following situations exists:

  • A soil test or plant tissue test shows a need for phosphorus.
  • A new lawn is being established by seeding or laying sod.
  • Phosphorus fertilizer is being applied on a golf course by trained staff.
  • Phosphorus fertilizer is being applied on farms growing sod for sale.

When these situations do not exist, state law requires phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer is to be used. The nutrient value of a fertilizer is indicated by a series of three numbers printed on its container. The numbers represent percent nutrient content of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, in that order. A fertilizer marked with 22-0-15, for example, is phosphorus-free as the middle number is zero

If you have a bag of phosphorus lawn fertilizer and do not fit into one of the four exemptions above, follow one of these options for using or disposing it. Be sure to determine whether your product is fertilizer only or a fertilizer that also contains a pesticide. Examples of fertilizers which contain pesticides are “weed and feed” products to control crabgrass or dandelions, or insect control products.

If fertilizer contains pesticides, as in a “weed & feed” or an insect control product:

  • If recently purchased, return fertilizer to where it was bought.
  • Give or sell the fertilizer to someone living in Minnesota who fits in one of the above four exemptions. Note that fertilizers containing pesticides should not be used on new lawns.
  • Give or sell the fertilizer to someone who will use the fertilizer outside of Minnesota and is not restricted in phosphorus fertilizer use by state or local laws.
  • Dispose at a household hazardous waste collection site. For locations, call your county solid waste management office. Sites in the seven county metro area are also listed on the RethinkRecycling.com.

If fertilizer does not contain pesticides:

  • If recently purchased, return fertilizer to where it was bought.
  • Give or sell the fertilizer to someone living in Minnesota who fits in one of the above four exemptions.
  • Give or sell the fertilizer to someone who will use the fertilizer outside of Minnesota and is not restricted in phosphorus fertilizer use by state or local laws.
  • If the fertilizer does not contain pesticides, use on flower and vegetable gardens taking care not to over fertilize. Lawn fertilizer is typically two to three times higher in nitrogen than garden fertilizer.
  • Place fertilizer in the trash.
MDA Contact

Ron Struss
Ron.Struss@state.mn.us
651-201-6269
Pesticide & Fertilizer Management Division