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Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law
Fertizlier Image

For Information about:

Introduction

Maryland’s new lawn fertilizer law is designed to 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 suburban and
urban lawns.

Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are key ingredients
in lawn fertilizer. When it rains, excess nutrients can wash off the
land and into the streams and rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. Once
in our waterways, excess fertilizers fuel 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, additional stakeholder
involvement is needed if Maryland is to meet new nutrient reduction
goals outlined in its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to restore the
Bay. Maryland’s new lawn fertilizer law affects fertilizer
manufacturers and distributors, lawn care professionals and homeowners.

Fertilizer Manufacturers and Distributors

fertilizer pallet

New phased-in restrictions affect all lawn fertilizer products sold
and distributed in Maryland. The changes are aimed at helping lawn care
professionals and homeowners maintain healthy lawns without applying
unnecessary amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.Specifically, the law:

  • Requires lawn fertilizer products sold in Maryland to include label
    directions to ensure that no more than 0.9 pounds 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. The maximum amount of
    water soluble nitrogen in lawn fertilizer products applied per 1,000
    square feet per application is capped at 0.7 pounds. Effective October 1, 2013.
  • Prohibits lawn fertilizer products from containing phosphorus
    with certain exceptions for specially labeled starter fertilizer and
    organic fertilizer products. Effective October 1, 2013
  • Prohibits labeling lawn fertilizer as a de-icer. Effective October 1, 2013
  • Requires lawn fertilizer products to contain the following statement:
    Do not apply near water, storm drains or drainage ditches. Do not
    apply if heavy rain is expected. Apply this product only to your lawn
    and sweep any product that lands on the driveway, sidewalk, or street,
    back onto your lawn.
    Effective October 1, 2011

Enforcement Authority and More Information
Maryland Department of Agriculture
State Chemist Section
50 Harry S.Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-2721

Lawn Care Professionals

Beginning October 1, 2013, all lawn care
professionals
must be certified in order to apply fertilizer in Maryland.
The rules apply 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.

Training
University of Maryland Extension (UME) is developing a training manual
to prepare individuals to take the certification exam. Training classes
will be available fall 2012. Check this site for updates.

Certification
Individuals and companies hired to apply fertilizers must be certified
by MDA or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is
certified. MDA will offer fertilizer applicator certification exams
beginning fall 2012 and will publish a list of certified professional
fertilizer applicators on its website.

Licensing
Licenses will be required for all businesses engaged in commercial
fertilizer applications. Each business will be required to employ at
least one certified fertilizer applicator. Licenses to qualifying firms
will be available beginning fall 2012.

Fertilizer Application Restrictions:

  • Lawn care professionals are prohibited from applying lawn fertilizer to impervious surfaces or frozen ground.
  • No fertilizer applications 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 the fertilizer.
  • No lawn fertilizer may be applied between December 1 and March
    1. Between November 15 and December 1 only water soluble nitrogen (no
    slow release) may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of ½ pound per
    1,000 square feet.
  • Professionals must apply fertilizer using University of Maryland recommendations.
  • Soil tests must be taken for each new customer and once every three years thereafter.
  • A single application may not exceed 0.9 pounds total nitrogen
    per 1,000 square feet and 0.7 pounds of soluble nitrogen per 1,000
    square feet, except when using enhanced efficiency fertilizer.
  • Professional applicators may continue to apply natural organic
    or organic products containing phosphorus, but beginning October 1,
    2013, each application may not exceed 0.25 pounds of phosphorus per
    1,000 square feet with an annual maximum of 0.5 pounds of phosphorus per
    1,000 square feet. These products may not be applied when soils test at "optimum to excessive" for phosphorus levels.
  • 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 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Penalties
Violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,000 for each subsequent violation.

Enforcement Authority and More Information
Maryland Department of Agriculture
Nutrient Management Program
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-5959

Homeowners and Other Residential Users

home fertilizer

Beginning October 1, 2013, homeowners and
do-it-yourselfers will be required to follow University of Maryland
recommendations when fertilizing lawns. Mandatory restrictions, similar
to those imposed for lawn care professionals, apply:

  • Homeowners must follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations when applying nitrogen to lawns.
  • A single application may not exceed 0.9 pounds total nitrogen
    per 1,000 square feet and 0.7 pounds of soluble nitrogen per 1,000
    square feet.
  • Homeowners are prohibited from applying fertilizer to
    sidewalks, driveways or other impervious surfaces. Any product that
    lands on these surfaces must be swept back onto lawns.
  • No fertilizer applications 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.
  • No lawn fertilizer may be applied between November 15 and March 1 and when the ground is frozen.
  • Fertilizers may not be used to de-ice walkways and driveways.
  • Do not fertilize if heavy rain is predicted.
  • Phosphorus may only be applied to lawns when indicated by soil
    test results or when the homeowner is establishing, patching or
    renovating a lawn.

Penalties
A county, municipality or MDA may enforce these requirements for homeowners. This law pre-empts any existing local ordinances.


Enforcement Authority and More Information

Maryland Department of Agriculture
Nutrient Management Program
50 Harry S Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-5959

Legal Authority: Fertilizer Use Act of 2011