Last week, I saw several Chesapeake Bay news stories referencing a Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law. There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about agricultural application of fertilizer, and the harmful effects nutrient farm runoff has on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Fertilizer is also frequently applied in nonagricultural settings, (with lawn fertilizer accounting for 44% of all fertilizer sold in Maryland), and can have just as harmful an impact on the Bay (but at a smaller scale).
I took a look into the Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law, which went into effect in 2013. This law creates limits and restrictions for lawn fertilizer application across the state, in an attempt to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the Bay Watershed. Before 2013, there were no Maryland state laws aimed at homeowners, and other non-agricultural consumers of fertilizer. Restrictions of fertilizer use for farmers has been in place since 2001. The Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law targets fertilizer use by not only urban and suburban homeowners, but also owners of golf courses, parks and athletic fields, and businesses.
While the law does not forbid home and business owners from applying any fertilizer, it limits what can be laid down – limits that are created based on what is strictly necessary (and determined by the University of Maryland). Excess fertilizer results in stormwater runoff, depositing phosphorus and nitrogen into the Bay watershed, which is already heavily polluted with these nutrients.
This state law overrules any preexisting county legislation in Maryland that applied to nonagricultural fertilizer use.
-Lawn fertilizers with phosphorus (unless a soil test is taken, and shows that a particular lawn is in need of phosphorus)
-Lawn fertilizers with less than 20% nitrogen that is slow release
-The application of more than 0.9 pounds of total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet
-The hiring of lawn care professionals not certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (penalties apply: $1000 for the first violation, $2000 for every violation after that)
-The application of lawn fertilizers during “blackout dates” (November 15 – March 1)
-The application of lawn fertilizers to any impervious surfaces
-The application of lawn fertilizers before heavy rain forecasts
-The application of lawn fertilizers within 15 feet of waterways