Because our waters drain into Chesapeake Bay, we have stringent guidelines and laws controlling how much fertilizer and what types of fertilizer can be used in your yard. Here is a beginner's guide to these laws from the staff at Homestead Gardens, plus some tips for making the least amount of fertilizer do the most work...

5 Beginner's Rules for Lawn Fertilizer Use in Maryland

  • Nitrogen applications must be less than .7 pounds of soluble nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. To know how much nitrogen is in your fertilizer mix, look at the numbers on the bag. The first of the three numbers is for nitrogen, and it shows the percentage of the bag that is nitrogen. For example, a 10-lb. bag that has 15 as the first number has 1.5 lbs. of nitrogen in it.

  • Fertilize when the weather is right. Rain is needed to help the fertilizer properly nourish the grass. However, a hard downpour will just wash the fertilizer off your lawn, into the storm sewer and into Chesapeake Bay. With that in mind, plan to fertilize when a light rain is forecast to make everything work optimally. The dry heat of summer is not a good time to fertilize, because the chemicals can burn the lawn.
  • Compost is a great alternative to purchased fertilizer, and it might be all the nutrition your grass needs to look green and full. Check our blog for more information about how to develop a compost pile in your backyard.
  • Keep the grass long. Fertilizer is designed to help the grass grow thick and tall, and if it's cut too short by your lawn mower you might discover bare spots in your yard. Longer is better, and if there isn't rain in the forecast, consider skipping the lawn-mowing chore all together.
  • If you have a river, pond or lake in your backyard, keep in mind that Maryland law restricts the use of fertilizer products within 10 to 15 feet of the water. Even if your property is not adjacent to a body of water, be aware that what you put on your lawn can end up in the water system, thanks to neighborhood lawns dumping into storm sewers and eventually into Maryland's waterways.

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