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Protect local waterways by following Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds homeowners to follow the state’s Lawn Fertilizer Law while doing yard work this spring.

As of March 1, fertilizer products containing nitrogen and phosphorus can be applied to lawns as long as heavy rain is not expected, a news release states.

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law is designed to prevent excess nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways. It requires lawn care professionals be licensed and certified by the MDA to apply fertilizer to lawns that they manage or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified.

Additionally, 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 fertilizer recommendations.

If you hire a lawn care professional to fertilize your lawn, be sure that he or she is certified by the MDA’s Turfgrass Nutrient Management Program or works under the supervision of a certified professional, the release states.

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, the MDA recommends following these best management practices:

Skip the spring fertilizer, especially if your lawn is healthy. Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season grasses.

Get your soil tested to see if your grass will benefit from additional nutrients or lime. Go to to watch a video from the University of Maryland Extension on how to test your soil.

If you decide to fertilize, always follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag.

Do not apply phosphorus — indicated by the middle number on the fertilizer bag — to lawns unless a soil test shows it is needed.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They provide free fertilizer all season long.

Clean up fertilizer that lands on sidewalks or other impervious surfaces.

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 MDA’s website.

For lawn fertilizer recommendations and additional tips, visit the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center’s website exten