Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Fertiliser for landscaping

Fertiliser for landscaping

What you must do

Do not allow fertilisers to enter watercourses such as rivers, streams, burns, lochs and loughs or drainage ditches. If you do, you may be committing a pollution offence.

In Scotland you must not store any fertilisers:

  • within 10 metres of surface water or wetland
  • within 50 metres of any spring or borehole
  • on land that is waterlogged
  • on land with an average soil depth less than 40cm that overlies gravel or fissured rock
  • on land that is sloping, unless any runoff can be intercepted by a sufficient buffer zone.

In Scotland you must not apply organic fertilisers to:

  • land within 10 metres of any ditch, burn, river, loch, wetland or coastal water (on sloping ground a wider buffer zone may be required).
  • land within 50 metres of any well, spring or borehole that supplies water for human consumption
  • land that is waterlogged or covered with snow
  • land with an average soil depth less than 40cm that overlies gravel or fissured rock

For more information, download the following factsheet from Farming and Water Scotland:

Know the Rules: Slurry and Manure

You must not apply inorganic fertilisers to land that:


  • is within 2 metres of any surface water or wetland
  • is within 5 metres of any well, spring or borehole that supplies water for human consumption or any well or borehole that is not adequately capped
  • has an average soil depth of less than 40 cm and overlies gravel or fissured rock
  • is frozen, waterlogged, or covered with snow.

Application of fertilisers

In Scotland it is an offence to apply organic or inorganic fertiliser to land in excess of the nutrient needs of the crop.

In Scotland you must ensure that the equipment used to apply organic or inorganic fertiliser is maintained and in a good state of repair.

Good practice

Analyse the soil before you apply fertilisers so that you can judge the timing, method and rate of fertiliser application.

Limiting the amount of fertiliser that you use by carefully planning where you need it and how you will apply it, will save you money and reduce any negative environmental impacts.

Avoid storing large quantities of fertiliser; store only as much as you think you will use.

You should store fertilisers:

  • under cover, and away from combustible materials
  • where there is no risk of flooding
  • as far away as possible and at least 10 metres from watercourses or field drains
  • where the risks of vandalism and damage to tanks from vehicle movements are low.

Bund your storage tanks. The bund should be able to hold the contents of the tank plus an extra 10%.

Inspect your tanks and pipework regularly (at least once a year) for signs of damage.

Lock valves shut on tanks if the tank could empty when the valve is accidentally opened.

Use storage tanks that are resistant to corrosion from liquid fertiliser. If you use a mild steel tank to store nitrogen fertilisers, you can protect it from corrosion by first filling it with a phosphate-containing fertiliser. This creates a protective layer on the inside of the tank.

Clean up any spilt fertiliser immediately to prevent it entering or being washed into a drain or watercourse.

When you wash spreaders after use, do not allow the water to enter a drain or watercourse.

Familiarise yourself with the drainage surrounding the sites you work on so that you will be able to deal with any spills of fertiliser and minimise their effects.

Contact your environmental regulator in the event of a spill and take immediate action to contain the spill and prevent the contamination of watercourses.

GPP 21: Pollution incident response planning

When you wash spreaders after use, do not allow the water to enter a drain or watercourse.

Further information

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) publishes two codes of practice for solid and liquid fertilisers.

Agriculture Industries Confederation

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