Fertilizer blackout date rapidly approaching in Maryland

10 November 2023- The Maryland Department of Agriculture is reminding citizens and lawn care professionals that fertilizer blackout dates authorized by Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law will begin on November 16 and end March 1, 2024. The blackout dates help protect local streams and the Chesapeake Bay from runoff during late fall and winter when grass typically goes dormant and cannot benefit from the additional nutrients. Applying fertilizer to hard or frozen ground increases the risk of runoff into the storm drains that feed the Bay.

During the blackout dates, citizens are prohibited from fertilizing lawns with nitrogen and/or phosphorus products. From November 16 through December 1 lawn care professionals may apply up to 0.5 pound of soluble or insoluble nitrogen per 1,000 square feet to lawns they manage. Potassium and lime may still be applied to lawns during the blackout period.

As a reminder, fertilizer products should never be used to melt ice on sidewalks, driveways, and other paved surfaces. Fertilizers that land on hard surfaces or frozen ground can easily wash into storm drains, creeks, and streams that empty into the Chesapeake Bay.

Citizens and lawn care professionals may resume lawn fertilizer applications containing nitrogen and phosphorus on March 1, 2024, as long as the ground is not frozen or heavy rain is not predicted. A soil test is required before phosphorus may be applied to established lawns. 

Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law requires lawn care professionals to be certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to apply fertilizer to lawns that they manage or work under the direct supervision of a certified individual. In addition, licenses are required for individuals and businesses that fertilize turf. A list of certified lawn care professionals can be viewed here. Please visit this website for more information about Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law and fertilizer best management practices.