Protect the Local Waterways and the Chesapeake Bay— Follow Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law

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ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 11, 2024) ~ Annapolis, MD - As spring approaches, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is reminding homeowners and lawn care professionals to adhere to Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law. This law, which has been in effect for over a decade, aims to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay from excessive nutrients found in fertilizer products used on non-agricultural land.

According to Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks, "Helping to restore the health of local streams and our Chesapeake Bay is a top priority at MDA. Everyone - from farmers to lawn care professionals to homeowners - needs to do their part if we are to restore the health and vitality of our Chesapeake Bay."

For those who hire a lawn care professional, it is important to ensure that they are certified by the department's Turfgrass Nutrient Management Program or work under the supervision of a certified professional. The department's website provides a list of certified lawn care professionals who have been trained in proper fertilizer application techniques and bay-friendly practices.

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For those who prefer to take care of their own lawns, there are several tips to keep in mind. It is recommended to skip spring fertilization if your lawn is already healthy, as fall is the best time for cool-season grasses like fescues and Kentucky bluegrass. Additionally, sharpening lawnmower blades in the spring can help avoid tearing and weakening of the grass. Mowing at a height of three inches can also help shade out weeds and conserve moisture, while leaving grass clippings on the lawn can provide free fertilizer throughout the season.

If fertilization is necessary, it is important to get your soil tested first to determine if additional nutrients or lime are needed. The University of Maryland Extension offers information on soil testing. It is also crucial to read and follow all label directions on fertilizer bags and adhere to the University of Maryland Extension's lawn fertilizer schedule.

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The use of phosphorus (indicated by the middle number on the fertilizer bag) should be avoided unless a soil test shows that it is necessary. If fertilizer does end up on sidewalks or driveways, it should be swept back onto the grass or cleaned up. Fertilizer applications should also be kept 10 to 15 feet away from waterways and avoided if heavy rain is predicted. It is also important to observe fertilizer blackout dates between November 16 and March 1.

For those looking for expert tips on lawn care, a helpful video can be found here. Additional information on Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law and best management practices can be found on the department's website, as well as lawn fertilizer recommendations and tips from the University of Maryland Extension.

As spring arrives, it is important for everyone to do their part in following Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law in order to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. By taking simple steps such as getting soil tested and following proper fertilization techniques, we can all contribute to restoring the health of our environment.

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