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Maryland’s New Lawn Fertilizer Law Takes Effect October 1

Clouds and Green FieldAnnapolis, MD — Maryland’s new lawn fertilizer law takes effect October 1 and includes new requirements for fertilizer manufacturers and homeowners. In addition,  lawn care professionals must now be licensed and certified to apply fertilizers to properties that they manage. 

Signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2011, the Fertilizer Use Act is designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay from nutrients entering its waters from a variety of urban sources, mainly lawns, golf courses, parks, recreation areas, athletic fields, businesses and other managed grassy areas encompassing nearly 1 million acres of land, a figure that is just shy of the state’s 1.2 million acres of cultivated farmland.

“Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is everyone’s responsibility,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance. “We are counting on homeowners and do-it-yourselfers to join Maryland farmers as full partners in the Bay cleanup.”

Nutrients—primarily nitrogen and phosphorus—are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. According to the State Chemist, lawn fertilizer accounts for about 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in Maryland.

When it rains, lawn fertilizer can wash into nearby storm drains and streams that empty into the Chesapeake Bay and contribute to the growth of algae blooms. Once in our waterways, excess fertilizers fuel the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen and threaten underwater life.

Under the new law, lawn fertilizer products sold in Maryland may no longer contain phosphorus with certain exceptions for specially labeled starter fertilizer and organic fertilizer products. Label directions must be written to ensure that no more than 0.9 pound of total nitrogen is applied per 1,000 square feet with part of this nitrogen in a slow release form. Environmental use statements are required on these products to further ensure proper application.

Additionally, the law requires lawn care professionals to become licensed and certified by MDA to apply fertilizer to the properties they manage. Beginning October 1, MDA will maintain a list lawn of care professionals who have received this certification at its website, www.mda.maryland.gov/fertilizer.
The law also requires homeowners to follow mandatory restrictions similar to those imposed for lawn care professionals:

  • University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations are to be followed when applying nitrogen and phosphorus to lawns. (Seasonal and yearly fertilizer recommendations are available at www.extension.umd.edu/hgic.)
  • Fertilizer that lands on sidewalks or driveways must be swept back onto the grass or cleaned up. 
  • Lawn fertilizer applications must be kept 10 to 15 feet from waterways.
  • Fertilizer may not be used to de-ice walkways and driveways.
  • Lawn fertilizer applications are banned between November 15 and March 1 and when heavy rain is predicted. 
  • Phosphorus may only be applied to lawns if soil test results indicate it is needed or when establishing, patching or renovating a lawn.

For more information, visit www.mda.maryland.gov/fertilizer.

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Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:

Julie Oberg
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888

Jason Schellhardt
Public Information Officer - Media Relations
Telephone: 410-841-5744


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