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Homeowners need to "do their part" in restoring Chesapeake Bay, according to MD Dept. of Ag

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture is reminding homeowners and lawn care professionals to follow Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law when caring for lawns this spring. The law, which has been in effect for more than a dozen years, aims to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay from excessive nutrients contained in fertilizer products applied to non-agricultural land, including golf courses, parks, recreation areas, athletic fields, businesses, and hundreds of thousands of urban and suburban lawns. 

The Maryland Dept. of Agriculture encourages homeowners to leave grass clippings on the lawn.

“Helping to restore the health of local streams and our Chesapeake Bay is a top priority at MDA,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks. “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.”

If you hire a lawn care professional to fertilize your lawn, be sure 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 has a list of certified lawn care professionals. These individuals have been trained in proper fertilizer application techniques and bay-friendly fertilizer practices.

If you prefer to take care of your lawn yourself:

  • Consider skipping 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 in the spring to avoid tearing and weakening the grass.

  • Mow the grass high to shade out weeds and conserve moisture. Three inches is an ideal height for most lawns.

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

If you decide to fertilize:

  • 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

  • Read and follow all label directions on the fertilizer bag.

  • Follow the University of Maryland Extension’s lawn fertilizer schedule. 

  • 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.

  • Observe fertilizer blackout dates between November 16 and March 1.

For a helpful video with lawn care tips for the experts, click here. Additional information on Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law and fertilizer best management practices is available on the department’s website. You can also visit the University of Maryland Extension for lawn fertilizer recommendations and additional tips.


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