Whether you tend to your own lawn or hire a professional to take care of it, you should become aware of Maryland’s new “Lawn Fertilizer Act” that goes into effect October 1st. This new law was designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s other waterways from excessive nutrients that flow into them from sources such as lawn fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorus. These substances threaten underwater life (e.g., by robbing the water of oxygen) in many ways, particularly when they flow into rivers and streams when washed off of the land by rains.
IF YOU HIRE ANYONE TO APPLY FERTILIZER TO YOUR LAWN, THEY MUST BE CERTIFIED TO DO SO BY THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (PREVIOUSLY SUCH CERTIFICATION WAS REQUIRED ONLY FOR INDIVIDUALS OR FIRMS HIRED TO APPLY HERBICIDES (WEED CONTROL) OR PESTICIDES (INSECT OR DISEASE CONTROL) TO YOUR PROPRTY.) IF YOU TREAT YOUR OWN PROPERTY, YOU MUST ALSO COMPLY WITH NEW LEGAL REQUIRMENTS ON HOMEOWNERS CONCERNING FERTILIZER USE.
Maryland’s new law contains various requirements on products sold and distributed in Maryland, to foster the use of products that maintain healthy lawns without excess amounts of nitrogen and fertilizer. In addition, requirements are placed on lawn care professionals and homeowners who treat their lawns, beginning October 1st.
Lawn Care Professionals. If you hire a professional to care for you lawn, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) must certify that person or company in order to apply fertilizer in Maryland. Certified applicators must be trained and pass an exam. Certified fertilizer applicators will be published on the MDA website, and homeowners should refrain from hiring businesses or individuals who are not certified. Businesses engaged in commercial fertilizer applications must be licensed. Previously, similar certification requirements applied to entities applying herbicides and pesticides to lawns and gardens. This law expands these requirements to the application of fertilizer on lawns.
Fertilizer Application Restrictions. The new law contains many restrictions for fertilizer application. Some of these would: (1) prohibit lawn fertilizer applications between December 1 and March 1 (and between November 15 and December 1, only water soluble nitrogen – no slow-release – may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of ½ lb. per 1,000 square feet); (2) require professionals to use University of Maryland recommendations about fertilizer; (3) require soil tests every 3 years; (4) limit individual applications (e.g., 0.9 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and 0.25 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet – these are also subject to annual limits and conditional upon soil test results.)
Homeowners . The new law requires homeowners to meet mandatory restrictions similar to those imposed on lawn care professionals, when applying lawn fertilizer. Homeowners must: (1) follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations on applying nitrogen to lawns; (2) adhere to maximum allowable nitrogen per application (e.g., 0.9 pound total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and 0.7 pound of soluble nitrogen per 1,000 square feet); (3) prevent nitrogen fertilizer from application on impervious surfaces (driveways, sidewalks); (4) prevent nitrogen applications within specific distances from waterways; (5) prevent fertilizer applications between November 15 and March 1, and when the ground is frozen; (6) prevent use of fertilizer if heavy rain is predicted; (7) prevent use of fertilizer to de-ice walkways and driveways; and (8) prohibit use of phosphorus on lawns unless specifically indicated by a soil test or if establishing, patching or renovating a lawn.
Keep in mind: it is important to be aware of and follow the new legal requirements and to make sure that any individual or firm you hire is certified and otherwise in compliance with the legal requirements governing land care. There are significant monetary penalties for violation of this law.
You can obtain more detailed information from the MDA website: http://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/fertilizer.aspx