MD's Lawn Fertilizer Law

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Maryland's lawn fertilizer law helps protect the Chesapeake Bay from excess nutrients entering its waters from a variety of urban sources, including golf courses, parks, recreation areas, businesses and hundreds of thousands of lawns. Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. When it rains, lawn fertilizer can wash into nearby storm drains and streams that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Once in our waterways, fertilizer contributes to the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen and threaten underwater life. Lawn fertilizer now accounts for approximately 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in Maryland. While certain restrictions on fertilizer use have been in place for farmers since 2001, everyone needs to do their part to protect and restore the Bay. Maryland’s lawn fertilizer law took effect October 1, 2013. 

Lawn care professionals hired to apply fertilizer to lawns must be certified by MDA or work under the direct supervision of an individual who is certified. This includes 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.
  • Get Certified
    MDA offers fertilizer applicator training and certification exams throughout the year. Click here for exam dates. 
  • Renew Certificates by June 30, 2015 Professional Turfgrass Fertilizer Applicator Certificates are valid through June 30, 2015. Beginning July 1, 2015, certificates may be renewed yearly for a $100 fee and verification of two hours of annual recertification training.
  • Apply for a Business License
    Licenses are required for individuals and businesses that fertilize turf. The initial license is valid through June 30, 2015. After this date, licenses will be valid for one year. Beginning in 2015, license holders will need to file an annual activity report with MDA covering the previous year. The first activity report is due to MDA March 1, 2015Click here for a business license application. Reporting forms were mailed in mid-January. Additional forms, instructions and a nutrient calculator are available at right under the heading: For License Holders.
  • Avoid Penalties
    Violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,000 for each subsequent violation.


Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers are required to obey fertilizer application restrictions, use best management practices when applying fertilizer, observe fertilizer blackout dates and follow University of Maryland recommendations when fertilizing lawns. home fertilizer Click here for more info.

A county, municipality or MDA may enforce these requirements for homeowners. The law supersedes any existing local ordinances.


  • Everyone must follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations.
  • A single fertilizer application may not exceed 0.9 pound total nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft which can include no more than 0.7 pound of soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft.
  • Visit for seasonal and yearly nitrogen recommendations.
  • Lawn care pros should consult the Maryland Professional Lawn Care Manual.
  • Phosphorus may only be applied when a soil test indicates that it is needed or when a lawn is being established, patched or renovated.
  • Fertilizer may not be used to de-ice walkways and driveways.
  • It is against the law to apply fertilizer to sidewalks or other impervious surfaces. Fertilizer that lands on these surfaces must be swept back onto the grass or cleaned up. 
  • No fertilizer applications within 10 to 15 feet of waterways. 
  • Do not fertilize lawns if heavy rain is predicted or the ground is frozen.
  • Do not apply lawn fertilizer between November 15 and March 1. 
  • 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 N per 1,000 sq ft.

  • From November 16 through December 1 only water soluble nitrogen may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of 0.5 pound per 1,000 sq ft.
  • Natural organic or organic products containing phosphorus may not exceed 0.25 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 sq ft with an annual maximum of 0.5 pound of phosphorus per 1,000 sq ft. These products may not be applied when soils test at "optimum to excessive" for phosphorus levels.

Legal Authority: Fertilizer Use Act of 2011
Last updated November 12, 2015

Program Information

Dwight Dotterer
Nutrient Management Program

Judy McGowan and Kelly Love
Urban Nutrient Management Specialists

Office Address
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401
Telephone: 410-841-5959
Fax: 410-841-5950

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