Why Fertilise Wise?

River health, human health

Turf Managers, including Local Government Parks and Gardens Officers, are responsible for nutrient use on turfed areas, reserves and in local parks and gardens and have the opportunity to lead the community by setting examples in best practice.

The results of the "2019 Annual Nutrient Survey for Local Government Authorities" - an initiative of the Phosphorus Awareness Project (PAP) - provides examples of strategies that turf managers can implement to achieve a high level of nutrient Best Management Practice (BMP).

In 2019 for the fourth time Score Cards have been produced for the Local Government Authorities that responded to the survey which scores them on their overall level of nutrient BMP since 2000.  The Score Cards showcase five years of answers for each question which clearly demonstrates trends with recommendations made on how to improve practice where needed.

Download full 2019 Annual Nutrient Survey Report and recommendations

Download 2019 Annual Nutrient Survey Score Cards

Recommendations include:


Nutrient Monitoring
  • Turf managers regularly conduct soil tests and/or leaf tissue analysis before applying fertiliser to determine if nutrients are required, and if required, the application rate and type of nutrients needed. This testing will result in unnecessary fertiliser applications being avoided.
  • The leaf tissue nitrogen content should be maintained between 1.5% - 2% for passive turf and 2% - 3% for sports fields (Ruscoe, Johnston & McKenzie, 2004).
  • The leaf tissue phosphorus content should be maintained between 0.2% - 0.4% (Ruscoe, Johnston & McKenzie, 2004).
  • Turf managers conduct soil testing and leaf tissue analysis of sports fields, irrigated parks, dry grass areas and foreshore reserves before applying fertiliser. This will result in unnecessary fertiliser applications being avoided.
  • Turf managers regularly conduct moisture testing of these areas to avoid overwatering and the potential leaching of nutrients from these areas.
  • Turf managers promote testing of golf courses in their areas because they can be a significant source of nutrients to waterways.
  • Turf managers use ASPAC laboratories for their analyses so that accurate information is received.
  • Turf managers measure the available phosphorus in the soil using the Colwell method (standard method for Western Australian conditions) to determine accurate levels of phosphorus, thus preventing unnecessary nutrient applications.
  • Turf managers measure the PRI of soil to determine the capacity of the soil to hold on to phosphorus, thus preventing unnecessary nutrient applications.
  • Turf managers apply the analyses obtained from the Colwell method and PRI to the Phosphorus Recommendations table, contained in the 2019 Annual Nutrient Survey Report above, to determine if phosphorus applications are necessary. As a minimum, these tests should be conducted every second year.
  • Turf managers attend the Fertilise Wise Fertiliser Training courses that are hosted by the Phosphorus Awareness Project in 2020 to fully understand the results of testing that may occur.

Fertiliser Applications

  • Turf managers use a range of opinions to determine application rates and types of fertiliser, rather than single sources to ensure appropriate fertiliser regimes are being conducted.
  • Turf managers use a turf consultant's expertise to determine fertiliser regimes as they are specifically trained in turf management, usually with many years on ground experience.
  • If turf managers have foreshore reserves and parks under their control they test these areas before applying fertiliser to avoid unnecessary nutrient applications which could leach into groundwater and nearby waterways.
  • If nutrients are required then controlled release or low water soluble fertilisers should be applied to reduce leaching of nutrients.
  • Fertiliser should not be applied in the winter months when heavy rainfall can wash nutrients into the waterway and irrigation needs to be carefully monitored so that overwatering also does not wash nutrients into the waterway.
  • If possible, establish a 50 metre buffer zone between fertilised areas and waterways (DoW, 2004).
  • Turf managers use specific fertilisers according to the soil and leaf tissue analyses for each site rather than using the same fertiliser for all sites to ensure that all the nutrients are utilised by the turf and not leached into groundwater.
  • Turf managers only apply phosphorus and nitrogen when testing indicates it is required to avoid leaching of nutrients that are not required by the turf.
  • The maximum nitrogen rate for a single application is 40 kg nitrogen/hectare (Ruscoe, Johnston & McKenzie, 2004).
  • If fertiliser is required, apply in spring or early autumn (September, October, November, March and April) when grass grows rapidly. Apply the fertiliser in small amounts and often over these months instead of a single application. This will ensure all nutrients can be utilised by the turf.
  • Do not fertilise in summer or winter. Summer fertilising encourages over use of water and turf may grow excessively while fertiliser applied during winter will be washed into stormwater drains or leached into groundwater.
  • Do not apply fertiliser too close to hard surfaces such as roads. Fertiliser on hard surfaces will be washed into stormwater drains and end up in waterways.
  • Avoid applying fertiliser before heavy rainfall and do not over water turf as both actions could result in leaching of nutrients to groundwater and waterways.
  • Turf managers attend the Fertilise Wise Fertiliser Training course hosted by the Phosphorus Awareness Project in 2020 to obtain a greater understanding of appropriate fertiliser applications.
  • Turf managers refer to the following publications to obtain more information on fertiliser and irrigation best management practices:
    - Turf Sustain – A guide to turf management in Western Australia
    - Stormwater Management Manual for Western Australia
    - Western Australian environmental guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of turf grass areas

Turf Type

  • Turf managers use kikuyu as the first choice for turfed areas as it has low fertiliser requirements, requires a medium water usage and is drought and wear tolerant.
  • Turf managers with couch in their area should not fertilise this turf in the winter months as it could be in its dormant phase.

Nutrient Management

  • Turf managers have measures in place to prevent grass clippings from entering stormwater drains as they are high in nutrients and will end up in waterway systems.
  • Where practical turf managers should leave grass clippings on the mowed turf which returns the nutrients contained in the clippings back to the soil thus reducing fertiliser requirements. Clippings left in piles should be remowed to disperse clippings.
  • When mowing clippings should be thrown away from hard surfaces.
  • If clippings need to be removed they should be composted and then utilised as a soil amendment.
  • Grass clippings that end up on hard surfaces such as roads and driveways should be swept up and removed (either manually or with a street sweeper) or blown off the hard surface back onto the turfed area.
  • Grass clippings should never be blown, hosed or swept onto hard surfaces such as roads or driveways as they can be washed or blown into stormwater drains ending up in waterway systems.
  • Mowing equipment should be cleaned before going to the next location.
  • When hosing down mowing equipment ensure that this water does not enter stormwater drains.
  • Turf managers implement Nutrient and Irrigation Management Plans (NIMP's) for areas under their control.
  • Turf managers have a local native plant policy and plant local native species in their management areas as they require low levels of water and fertiliser and once established may require no further applications.
  • Information on local native plant policies and using local native species is available from the:
    - Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council's Local Plants Landscaping Policy and Guidelines section of their 'Local Government Natural Resources Management Policy Manual'
    - 'Sustainable Landscaping: Using Local Plants for Nutrient Reduction and Water Conservation' available from Perth NRM.
  • Turf managers minimise the use of deciduous trees as their leaves decompose quickly releasing excessive nutrients in waterways.
  • Turf managers do not plant deciduous trees along roads where their falling leaves can enter stormwater drains and then waterways.
  • Turf managers use a street sweeper, on a regular basis, during the autumn months when deciduous leaves lose their leaves to prevent leaves entering stormwater drains and then waterways.
  • Turf managers provide dog poo bins and bags in parks and foreshore reserves as dog poo is a major contributor of nutrients to groundwater and waterways.

Nutrient Education

  • Turf managers erect signage in foreshore reserves and parks educating the public about the effects of bread on waterways (eg. increased phosphorus levels and algal blooms) and waterbirds (eg. malnutrition and aggressive behaviour).
  • Turf managers distribute information to the community about the effects of bread on waterways and waterbirds through local media, environmental workshops, newsletters, websites and brochures.
  • Turf managers provide advice to the community on fertiliser practices as they generally have limited knowledge of fertiliser management and would, when combined, have the largest turfed area in the region.
  • 'Fertilise Wise' leaflets are available to distribute to ratepayers from the Phosphorus Awareness Project.
  • Turf managers are encouraged to link this website to their own website.
  • Turf managers host a 'Great Gardens' or 'Beyond Gardens' Workshop to educate their ratepayers on fertiliser and water management and other garden issues. Workshops can be organised by contacting The Forever Project or the Beyond Gardens team.