New Maryland Lawn-Care Laws

Maryland’s brand new lawn fertilizer law, designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, went into effect last month. The law makes it illegal for homeowners to fertilize their lawn between Nov. 15 and March 1. If you haven’t yet fertilized your lawn, homeowners have just a few days left but make sure to use a legal lawn food – one that provides less than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf.

The state’s new lawn-fertilizer laws are designed to mediate the excessive nutrient runoff that has long threatened the fragile Chesapeake Bay. The new law limits the potency and types of fertilizers legal for sale in the state, prohibits any lawn fertilization within 15 feet of a waterway – or anywhere just before a heavy rain is predicted – and prohibits applying fertilizer to frozen soil. A list of restrictions from the State of Maryland is provided at the bottom of this article.

While homeowners are prohibited from feeding between Nov. 15 and March 1, professionals such as your community common areas contractor can apply fertilizers until Dec. 1. These professionals must be certified by the state and abide by almost all of the other prohibitions.

Lawn foods account for a staggering 44 percent of all the fertilizers sold in Maryland. These new regulations will prevent waste and overfeeding, which is as bad for your lawn as it is for the Bay. When it rains, lawn fertilizer can wash into nearby storm drains and streams that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Once in our waterways, excess fertilizer contributes to the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen and threaten underwater life. Any fertilizer applied after the deadline wouldn’t be used by the grass anyway; it would have all washed right into the Bay.

Follow the new regulations for fertilizing, remember that in the case of lawn feeding more is not better. Cut no lower than three inches and return your clippings to the turf and look forward to a healthy green carpet of grass come spring!

Live in Northern Virginia? Virginia’s new lawn-fertilizer laws will take effect next year – some parts on Jan. 1 and the rest July 1. These new laws are very similar to the ones just in effect in Maryland.

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 containing nitrogen or phosphorus may be applied to turf between December 1 and March 1. Potassium and lime are not regulated.
  • Between November 15 and December 1 only water soluble nitrogen (no slow release) may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of ½ 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.
  • Restrictions apply to natural or organic products containing phosphorus. A single 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.


IKO Community Management hopes this list of new Maryland lawn-care laws will help you enjoy your lawn while helping the environment.

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