Maryland Fert Law Becomes Effective Oct. 1


ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Beginning Oct. 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.

The University of Maryland Extension (UME) developed a training manual to prepare individuals to take the certification exam. Training classes were made available in 2013.

Says the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA):

The new 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, primarly 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 groth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen and threaten underwater life.

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.

Certification for Lawn Care Pros:

Individuals and companies hired to apply fertilizers must be certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculure (MDA) or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified. MDA will offer fertilizer applicator certification exams beginning fall 2013 and will publish a list of certified professional fertilizer applicators on its website.


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 2013.

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 Dec. 1 and March 1. Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 1 only water soluble nitrogen (no slow release) may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of 1/2 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 pound total nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and 0.7 pound 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 Oct. 1, 2013, each application may not exceed 0.25 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet with an annual maximum of 0.5 pound 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 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

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

To review how the new law applies to fertilizer manufacturers, distributors and to homeowners visit