MD's Lawn Fertilizer Law

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  • For a list of certified lawn care professionals who can fertilize your lawn, click here. ​
  • March 1 marks the end of lawn fertilizer blackout dates. 
  • Fertilizer products containing nitrogen and phosphorus may now be applied to lawns as long as the ground is not hard frozen or snow covered, and heavy rain is not predicted.
  • A soil test is required before phosphorus may be applied to established lawns. For soil testing information, click here
  • License holders: Annual reporting forms outlining 2022 fertilizer applications were due March 1. If you have not filed your report, please do so immediately to avoid fines and penalties. Pressed or time? File your report electronically using 
    Maryland OneStop.
  • The 3-year renewal cycle for PFAs to earn 6 CEUs has been extended to December 31, 2023.
  • Check out our 2023 schedule of certification exams and recertification webinars (scroll to the bottom of the page)
  • Consumer Information Regarding Commercial Fertilizer Applications to Non-Agricultural Land 

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 the Maryland Department of Agriculture 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
    The department offers fertilizer applicator training and certification exams throughout the year. Click here for exam dates. 
  • Renew Certificates Annually by December 31.
    Professional Turfgrass Fertilizer Applicator Certificates are now valid through December 31. of each year. Certificates may be renewed yearly for a $100 fee and verification of recertification training.
  • Apply for a Business License
    Licenses are required for individuals and businesses that fertilize turf. Licenses are valid for up to one year and expire on December 31 of each year. License holders are required to file an annual activity report with the department by March 1 covering the previous year. Click here for a business license application. 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. Click here for more info. A county, municipality or the Maryland Department of Agriculture 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 N per 1,000 sq ft which can include no more than 0.7 pound of soluble N per 1,000 sq ft.
  • Visit the University of Maryland Extension website​ 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 16 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.
  • Fertilizer blackout dates run from November 16 through February 28. Lawns may not be fertilized with products containing nitrogen or phosphorus during the blackout dates; however,
  • From November 16 through December 1
    Nitrogen may be applied to lawns at a maximum rate of 0.5 pound per 1,000 sq ft.
  • Organic or natural organic turf fertilizer may not be applied when soils test at "optimum" to "excessive" for phosphorus levels.​
Legal Authority: Fertilizer Use Act​
Last updated  March 16​,​ 2023​

Program Information

Dwight Dotterer
Nutrient Management Program

Judy McGowan
Urban Nutrient Management Specialist

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

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