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Blackout dates for lawn fertilizer applications to begin

Annapolis, MD - The Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds citizens that fertilizer blackout dates authorized by Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law take effect November 16 and run through the month of February. The law prohibits citizens from fertilizing their lawns with products containing phosphorus and nitrogen during the blackout dates.

Lawn care professionals may apply nitrogen to lawns that they manage until December 1, using specially formulated products that reduce the risk of nutrient runoff into streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Potassium and lime may still be applied during the blackout dates since they are not considered a threat to water quality. Both citizens and lawn care professionals may resume lawn fertilizer applications containing nitrogen and phosphorus on March 1, as long as the ground is not frozen or heavy rain is not predicted. As an additional reminder, fertilizer may not be used to de-ice walkways or other impervious surfaces.

“Fertilizer works best when the grass is actively growing,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Applying fertilizer to hard or frozen ground increases the risk for nutrient runoff into the storm drains that feed the Bay. Excess nutrients have been shown to contribute to the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight and rob the Bay of oxygen needed to sustain life. Farmers are working hard to protect the Bay from excess crop nutrients, but everyone needs to step up if we are going to make a difference for the Bay.”

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law went into effect in 2013 and requires both homeowners and lawn care professionals to follow University of Maryland fertilizer recommendations and use best management practices when fertilizing lawns. In addition, the law requires lawn care professionals to be licensed and certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to apply fertilizer to the properties they manage.

The department maintains a list of certified lawn care professionals along with additional information on Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law on its website at www.mda.maryland.gov/fertilizer.

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