New lawn fertilizer law aims to protect Bay
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 12:48
    The Maryland Department of Agriculture [MDA] reminds homeowners that the state’s new lawn fertilizer law is in effect. The law contains provisions for both homeowners and lawn care professionals that aim to reduce the volume of pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay.
    The new law requires that lawn care professionals must now be licensed and certified by the MDA to apply fertilizer to the lawns they manage. Homeowers can verify that businesses are certified by visiting www.mda.maryland.gov/fertilizer.
 The law prohibits most fertilizer products from containing phosphorous, a key nutrient responsible for the bay’s dead zones. A zero in the middle of the numbers on bags of fertilizer sold in stores indicates no phosphorous. Special products containing phosphorous may still be used for certain applications.  
    A provision in the law also limits the amount of nitrogen contained in lawn care products and requires part of the nitrogen to be in slow-release form.
    Homeowners can complement the law and help reduce harmful storm water runoff by adopting these bay-friendly lawn management practices:
• Skip spring fertilizing, which promotes excessive top growth at the expense of roots
• Sharpen lawn mower blades for healthier grass, which will filter runoff better.
• Raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass shades out weeds and needs less water. A three- inch cut is recommended.
• Leave grass clippings on  the lawn to provide a free source of fertilizer.
• Do not apply fertilizer to sidewalks or other impervious surfaces or when heavy rain is predicted.
• Keep fertilizer applications 10 to 15 feet from waterways.