Fill spreaders over a hard surface such as a driveway, sidewalk, or other hard concrete or asphalt surface. This will allow easy clean-up if any material is spilled. Fertilizer spills over turf usually result in turf death to the affected spot. If product is spilled during loading (A), clean-up the material immediately by sweeping or vacuuming or using a shovel for large spills. Collected (swept) material (fertilizer) may be applied to turf areas.
It is important to clean-up after applying fertilizers, whether the product contains pesticides or not. Fertilizers spills are easily spotted in the spring because many combination products (i.e. fertilizers + preemergence herbicides) are bright yellow colors (images B-D) and many slow-release fertilizers are also brightly colored. First, sweep or blow any fertilizer off driveways, sidewalks, and streets back into lawns. This will help protect local bodies of water since these surfaces are impervious and fertilizer left on an impervious surface after an application will likely end up in local bodies of water after rainfall events. When fertilizer is correctly applied to lawns, there is little risk of runoff. Turf affects the overland flow process of water to such a degree that runoff from lawns is insignificant and infrequent. Nutrient and pesticide concentrations in runoff from turf are low because most chemicals applied to turfgrass are trapped within the plant and thatch or broken down by soil microorganisms and do not contaminate water supplies. Wash your spreader off over your lawn after you have emptied the spreader and swept any fertilizer from impervious surfaces back onto the lawn. Most lawn care companies are very good at cleaning-up after an application, but it is important to make sure that homeowners are also practicing the same practices in order to protect the environment.
Aaron Patton, Assistant Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist