This last October, the state of Maryland became the newest one to enact state-wide fertilizer laws regarding usage and application. In efforts to preserve our environment, many states and municipalities are beginning to look at how we use fertilizer in our lawns. It’s merely a matter of time before your area looks at adapting fertilizer laws.
Let’s not gloss over the fact that these laws are necessary. Fertilizer run-off has severely contaminated a number of watersheds – in fact, Maryland’s law was enacted in response to the efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and prevent further issues. So why is fertilizer run-off so bad, and why are fertilizer laws regulating usage necessary?
What Fertilizer Run-Off Does
As National Geographic highlights here, fertilizer has a number of components, all of which can be harmful to plant and animal life. Of particular concern is the nitrogen and phosphorous content that is spread through run-off. Whether it is organic or chemical, an overdose of these nutrients can burn plants cause algae blooms in the waterways, poison wildlife, and generally wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Conventional fertilizers are derived from petroleum, with each bag being equivalent to 2.5 gallon of petroleum.
Why do we Need Fertilizer Laws Regulating Usage?
Unfortunately, common sense isn’t common, or we wouldn’t need fertilizer laws. There is a need for these laws to prevent the destruction of localized ecosystems. This isn’t just a “green” initiative, it has serious implications that could reach further than we think. For instance, the laws in Maryland will help to repair the damage done to the ecosystem of the Maryland blue crab, and if you’ve ever had a crab cake, you know that we need to keep the blue crab around as long as possible. The same goes for fish – they ingest these chemicals, which you then might ingest when you eat the fish, or even worse, the chemicals can cause the fish to die off.
How to Prepare for Future Laws
Perhaps we could have titled this section “How to be Proactive” as well. Changing how you address the fertilization of your lawn is probably a good idea anyways, even if you live somewhere with no imminent fertilizer laws. Getting a head start, even just slowly weaning your lawn off of fertilizer, can prevent a shock to the lawn in the future. An immediate and complete withdrawal from fertilizer can cause damage to your lawn – you are removing a consistent source of nutrients it has become accustomed to.
Following the parts of the fertilizer law that Maryland has laid down are a good way to prepare:
- Eliminate phosphorous from your fertilizer unless soil tests demonstrate a need.
- Reduce nitrogen content of fertilizers down to 1 pound per 1,000 square feet.
- If you are using controlled-release fertilizers, use only 2.5 pounds.
- Do not fertilize between November 15 and March 1.
- Do not fertilize when heavy rains are predicted within the next 72 hours.
- Make sure fertilizer does not end up on driveways, sidewalks, patios, or other places where it can run off directly into drainage.
By aiming for these points, not only will you prepare your lawn for a possible ban in the future, you will also find your lawn care regimen to be more direct and efficient. If enough people act early, you might even be able to prevent the need for fertilizer laws in your area.