ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds homeowners to follow Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law while doing yard work this spring. As of March 1, fertilizer products containing nitrogen and phosphorus can be applied to lawns as long as heavy rain is not expected. 

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law is designed to prevent excess nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways. It requires lawn care professionals be licensed and certified by MDA to apply fertilizer to lawns that they manage or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified.

Additionally, the law requires both lawn care professionals and those that care for their own lawns to obey fertilizer application restrictions, use best management practices when applying fertilizer to lawns, observe fertilizer blackout dates, and follow the University of Maryland Extension’s (UME’s) fertilizer recommendations.

If you hire a lawn care professional to fertilize your lawn, be sure that he or she is certified by MDA’s Turfgrass Nutrient Management Program or works under the supervision of a certified professional. A list of MDA-certified lawn care professionals can be found on the department’s website. These individuals have been trained in bay-friendly fertilizer techniques.

If you care for your own lawn, follow these best management practices:

  • Skip the spring fertilizer, especially if your lawn is healthy. Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season grasses.
  • Get your soil tested to see if your grass will benefit from additional nutrients or lime. Watch this video from UME on how to test your soil.
  • If you decide to fertilize, always follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag.
  • Do not apply phosphorus – indicated by the middle number on the fertilizer bag – to lawns unless a soil test shows it is needed.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They provide free fertilizer all season long.  
  • Clean up fertilizer that lands on sidewalks or other impervious surfaces.
  • Keep fertilizer applications 10 to 15 feet away from waterways.
  • Do not apply fertilizer if heavy rain is predicted.

For more information on Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law and fertilizer best management practices, visit MDA’s website. For lawn fertilizer recommendations and additional tips, visit the UME Home and Garden Information Center’s website.

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