ANNAPOLIS, MD– The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds homeowners to follow Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law while doing yard work this spring. Fertilizer products containing nitrogen and phosphorus may be applied to lawns beginning March 1 as long as the ground is not hard frozen or snow-covered, and heavy rain is not expected.

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law is designed to prevent excess nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways. 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) fertilizer recommendations. 

Additionally, lawn care professionals are required to be licensed and certified by MDA to apply fertilizer, or they must work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified. 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 like fescues and Kentucky bluegrass.
  • Sharpen lawnmower blades. A dull blade tears and weakens the grass, opening it up to disease. Many local hardware stores or garden shops can sharpen your blade for you.
  • Raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass shades out weeds and needs less water. A three-inch cut length is ideal for most lawns.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They provide free fertilizer all season long.
  • Get your soil tested to see if your grass will benefit from additional nutrients or lime. Watch a UME video on how to take a soil test.

If you decide to fertilize:. 

  • Always follow the directions on the fertilizer bag. 
  • Do not apply phosphorus (indicated by the middle number on the fertilizer bag) to lawns unless a soil test shows that it is needed. 
  • Clean up any fertilizer on sidewalks or other impervious surfaces.
  • Keep fertilizer applications 10 to 15 feet away from waterways.
  • Do not apply fertilizer if heavy rain is expected.

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

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