ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds homeowners and lawn care professionals to follow Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law when caring for lawns this spring. Designed to prevent excess nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways, the law requires lawn care professionals to be licensed and certified by the department to apply fertilizer.
The law also requires both lawn care professionals and do-it-yourselfers to obey fertilizer application restrictions, use best management practices when applying fertilizer to lawns, observe fertilizer blackout dates, and follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations. When hiring a lawn care professional to fertilize, be sure that he or she is certified by the department’s Turfgrass Nutrient Management Program or works under the supervision of a certified professional.
A list of certified lawn care professionals can be found on the department’s website. These individuals have been trained in proper fertilizer application techniques and bay-friendly fertilizer practices.
If you care for your own lawn:
- 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. The University of Maryland Extension has information on soil testing.
If you decide to fertilize:
- Follow the University of Maryland Extension’s lawn fertilizer schedule and 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.
- If fertilizer lands on sidewalks or driveways, sweep it back onto the grass or clean it up.
- 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 the department’s website. Additionally, please visit the University of Maryland Extension for lawn fertilizer recommendations and additional tips.
–Jessica Hackett, Maryland Department of Agriculture