Protec local waterways by following lawn fertilizer law


— Now that spring is here, the Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds homeowners that they can get their lawns and the Chesapeake Bay off to a healthy start by following Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law and these best management practices:

Skip the spring fertilizer, especially if your lawn is healthy. Fertilizing lawns in spring promotes excessive top growth at the expense of roots.

Sharpen lawnmower blades. A dull blade tears and weakens the grass, opening it up to disease. Removing the blade takes minutes and 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.

If you fertilize:

  • Follow the directions on the fertilizer bag.
  • Learn about soil testing. Click here for seasonal and yearly fertilizer recommendations.
  • Do not apply phosphorus to lawns unless a soil test indicates that it is needed.
  • Clean up fertilizer that lands on sidewalks or other impervious surfaces.
  • Keep fertilizer applications 10 to 15 feet from waterways.
  • Do not apply fertilizer if heavy rain is predicted.

“Protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from nutrient runoff is everyone’s responsibility…it’s not just for farmers anymore,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder. “The way we care for our lawns, like any crop, makes a difference for the Bay. Everyone must do their part to protect and restore our Bay.”

Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. When it rains, fertilizer that has been applied to lawns can wash into nearby storm drains and streams that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Once in our waterways, fertilizer contributes to the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen, and threaten underwater life. Maryland’s lawn fertilizer law helps protect the Chesapeake Bay from excess nutrients entering its waters from urban sources, including golf courses, parks, recreation areas, businesses and hundreds of thousands of lawns.

Under Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law, lawn care professionals must be licensed and certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to apply fertilizer to the lawns that they manage. This helps ensure that professionals understand the science behind turf management and the environmental practices they need to follow to protect waterways from excess fertilizer. The department encourages homeowners to verify that their lawn care provider is certified by checking the department’s List of Certified Lawn Care Professionals.