DO NOT FERTILIZE IF GROUND IS FROZEN/SNOW COVERED OR IF HEAVY RAIN IS PREDICTED; NEVER USE FERTILIZER AS A DE-ICER
Maryland's lawn fertilizer law helps protect the Chesapeake Bay from excess nutrients entering its waters from a variety of urban sources, including golf courses, parks, recreation areas, athletic fields, businesses and hundreds of thousands of lawns. Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. When it rains, lawn fertilizer 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. Lawn fertilizer now accounts for approximately 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in Maryland. While certain restrictions on fertilizer use have been in place for farmers since 2001, everyone needs to do their part to protect and restore the Bay. Maryland’s lawn fertilizer law took effect October 1, 2013.
Lawn Fertilizer Products Have Been Reformulated
Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law limits the amount of nutrients contained in lawn fertilizer. The goal is to help homeowners and lawn care professionals maintain healthy lawns without applying unnecessary amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Nitrogen Content Reduced
Lawn fertilizer products are now labeled to ensure that no more than 0.9 pound of total nitrogen is applied per 1,000 square feet, per application. At least 20 percent of this nitrogen must be in a slow release form.
Most Maryland soils provide all the phosphorus that established lawns need. Applying more phosphorus is unnecessary and will not benefit lawns. Maryland law prohibits lawn fertilizer products from containing phosphorus with certain exceptions for specially labeled starter fertilizer and organic fertilizer products.
Lawn Care Professionals Must be Certified
Lawn care professionals hired to apply fertilizer to turf must be certified by MDA or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified. The rule applies to professionals for hire as well as individuals responsible for turf management at golf courses, public parks, airports, athletic fields, businesses, cemeteries and other non-agricultural properties.
- Get Certified
MDA offers fertilizer applicator training and certification exams throughout the year. Click here for exam dates.
- Renew Certificates by June 30, 2015 Professional Turfgrass Fertilizer Applicator Certificates are valid through June 30, 2015. Beginning July 1, 2015, certificates will need to be renewed yearly for a $100 fee and verification of two hours of annual recertification training. (Note: If you already have a Professional Turfgrass Fertilizer Applicator Certificate, you will receive a replacement certificate in the mail that will be valid through June 30, 2015.)
- Apply for a Business License
Licenses are required for individuals and businesses that fertilize turf. Businesses must employ at least one certified professional fertilizer applicator. The initial license will be valid through June 30, 2015. After this date, licenses will be valid for one year. (Note: If you already have a business license, you will receive a replacement license in the mail that will be valid through June 30, 2015.) Beginning in 2015, license holders will be required to
file an annual activity report with MDA covering the previous year. The
first activity report is due to MDA March 1, 2015. Reporting forms will be available on this website later this year. Click here for a business license application.
- Avoid Penalties
Violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers are required to obey fertilizer application restrictions, use best management practices when applying fertilizer, observe fertilizer blackout dates and follow University of Maryland recommendations when fertilizing lawns. Click here for more info.
A county, municipality or MDA may enforce these requirements for homeowners. The law supersedes any existing local ordinances.
For Homeowners and Professionals:
- Everyone must follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations.
- A single fertilizer application may not exceed 0.9 pound total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet which can include no more than 0.7 pound of soluble nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
- Homeowners should visit extension.umd.edu/hgic for seasonal and yearly nitrogen recommendations.
- Lawn care pros should consult the Maryland Professional Lawn Care Management Manual.
- Phosphorus may only be applied to lawns when a soil test indicates that it is needed or when a lawn is being established, patched or renovated.
- Fertilizer may not be used to de-ice walkways and driveways.
- It is against the law to apply fertilizer to sidewalks, driveways or other impervious surfaces. Any product that lands on these surfaces must be swept back onto the grass or cleaned up.
- Do not apply fertilizer within 15 feet of waterways. This setback is reduced to 10 feet if a drop spreader, rotary spreader with deflector or targeted spray liquid is used to apply fertilizer.
- Do not fertilize lawns if heavy rain is predicted.
- Observe fertilizer blackout dates: Lawn fertilizer applications are banned between November 15 and March 1 and when the ground is frozen. Lawn care professionals have a slightly longer period--until December 1.
- Enhanced efficiency controlled release products may be applied at no more than 2.5 pounds per year, with a maximum monthly release rate of 0.7 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
For Lawn Care Professionals only:
- From November 16 through December 1 only water soluble nitrogen (no slow release) may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of 0.5 pound per 1,000 square feet.
- Natural organic or organic products containing phosphorus may not exceed 0.25 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet with an annual maximum of 0.5 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet. These products may not be applied when soils test at "optimum to excessive" for phosphorus levels.
Legal Authority: Fertilizer Use Act of 2011
Last updated March 10, 2014