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					                                                 Maryland’s Nutrient
                                                 Management Law

                                                           aryland is committed to reducing nutrient pollu-
                                                           tion in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The
                                                           Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998 requires
                                                 farmers to follow nutrient management plans designed to
                                                 protect waterways from excess fertilizers and animal wastes.

Fertilizers and the                              Lawn care companies and commercial landscapers are
                                                 also required by this law to apply fertilizers in accordance

Chesapeake Bay                                   with the most recent Maryland Cooperative Extension
                                                 recommendations. These firms are required to periodically
                                                 test the soil and keep specific records of their fertilizer
        he Chesapeake Bay has been called a

T       “national treasure.” Its natural
        beauty, recreational opportunities and
abundance of plant and wildlife have inspired
                                                 use. Nutrient management requirements may place
                                                 restrictions on the amount of fertilizer that can be applied
                                                 to a residential property.

and attracted presidents, foreign dignitaries,   The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) reviews
writers, fishermen, sailors and just about       the fertilizer application records of commercial lawn care
anyone who has ever visited its shorelines.      companies, as well as other commercial non-agricultural
                                                 nutrient applicators to ensure that nutrients are being
In recent decades, however, the Bay has fallen   applied properly. MDA provides training and follow up
                                                 to companies that are not in compliance in order to help
victim to its own popularity. About 16
                                                 them improve their management programs. MDA is also
million people now live in the Chesapeake
                                                 authorized to issue penalties, if necessary, to companies
Bay’s watershed—a figure that has more than      that do not comply with the law.
doubled since World War II. As Maryland
becomes increasingly urbanized and farmland                                                                                               How to choose a
gives way to townhouse developments and
gated communities, all citizens are being                                                                                                 Lawn Care Service
asked to join farmers and other land
managers in protecting the Bay from excess
fertilizers coming off the land. Research has
                                                    Nutrient Management Program
                                                    50 Harry S.Truman Parkway
                                                    Annapolis, Maryland 21401
                                                                                               Maryland Cooperative Extension
                                                                                               Home and Garden
                                                                                               Information Center
                                                                                                                                          That’s Right
                                                    410-841-5959                               1-800-342-2507
shown that fertilizers designed to make our
crops healthy and our lawns green can find
                                                                                                                                          for You . . .and the
their way into our waterways where they
trigger reactions that rob the water of
                                                                                                                        Recycled Paper
                                                                                                                         MDA 15.06.06
                                                                                                                                          Chesapeake Bay
oxygen, threaten aquatic life, and endanger
the long term health of the Chesapeake Bay.                 Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., Governor   Lewis R. Riley, Secretary
                                                            Michael S. Steele, Lt. Governor    John R. Brooks, D.V.M., Deputy Secretary
                                                                 Narrow the Field—
                                                                 Consumer Protection Tips
                                                                        all several firms and ask to have information

                                                                 C      on their fertilizer and pest control programs
                                                                        sent to you.

                                                                 • Ask neighbors for recommendations. Satisfied
                                                                   customers are the best indicator of a good company,
                                                                   particularly if your neighbor has a longstanding relation-
                                                                   ship with the company.                                             • Ask what happens if you have a problem
                                                                                                                                        between applications. Will an additional service
                                                                 • Get at least three estimates. Make sure that all
                                                                                                                                        call be free, or will you be charged?
                                                                   companies are bidding on similar services. Don’t be afraid
                                                                   to ask for only the services that you want. Get in writing         • Ask for advance notice. Lawn care companies
                                                                   which services are optional and which are included.                  should always provide homeowners with advance
                                                                                                                                        notice of pesticide applications so that lawn furniture
                                                                 • Don’t let cost be the sole determining factor. High
Selecting a                                                        quality fertilizer, seed and other products will inevitably cost
                                                                   more, but in the long run are worth the added investment.
                                                                                                                                        and toys can be removed.The firm should place a
                                                                                                                                        chemical application sign on your property after
                                                                                                                                        treatment and tell you how long to stay off the lawn.
Lawn Care Company                                                • Ask the company to measure your lawn before
                                                                   providing an estimate. Cost is usually based on the size of
                                                                                                                                      • Do your homework. Make sure the firm and its
                                                                                                                                        personnel are licensed and certified by the Maryland
                                                                   your lawn. This measurement is also needed to ensure that
                                                                                                                                        Department of Agriculture (MDA) Pesticide Regulation

       ertilizer applied to a healthy lawn at recommended          fertilizer is applied at the proper rate for your property.
       rates will not pose a threat to water quality. In fact,                                                                          Section. Trained personnel are issued MDA identifica-
                                                                 • Ask if the service is automatically renewed each year.               tion cards and the business license number must be
       most lawns benefit from annual fertilizer treatments        Are there penalties if you cancel your service agreement?            on the service vehicle. Call 410-841-5710 or visit
to encourage dense growth and increased resistance to
                                                                 • Identify environmentally sensitive areas. Tell your         to search a database of licensed
pests and drought. Thick, healthy lawns absorb rainwater
                                                                   lawn care provider not to fertilize areas next to wetlands           companies and certified pesticide applicators.
runoff and help keep soil and other pollutants from reaching       or streams.
storm drains, local streams and other pathways to the Bay.

A lawn care service is a popular alternative for busy
homeowners who want someone else to care for their
lawn. However, the wide array of services offered by lawn
care companies and landscapers can be overwhelming. As
an educated consumer, you want to choose a lawn care
service that embraces environmentally sound management  e
practices. A little comparison shopping before signing on
the dotted line will go a long way toward that end. Her
are some important guidelines to follow to ensure both an
attractive lawn and a healthy environment.
                                         Ask the Right Questions—Interview Prospective Companies
                                                nce you have narrowed your list of potential lawn care services, it’s time to begin the
                                                interview process.Ask to meet with a company representative in your home to answer
                                                questions and diagnose problems. Learn as much as you can about each firm’s fertilizer
                                         program before committing. Here are some key questions to ask.

                                         • Will the company develop a customized lawn                          Applying fertilizers during periods of prolonged heat and                 and vice versa. Maintaining the proper pH level is
                                           care program for your property? Make sure the                       drought, or when the ground is frozen, increases the                      extremely important to your lawn. Soil pH that is too
                                           firm will develop a customized lawn care plan for your              potential for runoff.                                                     high or too low inhibits the ability of the grass to absorb
                                           needs, rather than a blanket approach utilizing standard                                                                                      fertilizer and increases the likelihood that unused nutrients
                                                                                                             • Are slow-release nitrogen sources available? Nitrogen
                                           amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. Companies that                                                                                          will leach into groundwater. Due to natural biological
                                                                                                               (N) is a major ingredient in most fertilizers. It promotes
                                           collectively fertilize 10 or more acres of land (regardless                                                                                   processes, Maryland soils can become more acidic over
                                                                                                               grass shoot growth and leafy top growth. Nitrogen is avail-
                                           of individual lot size) are required by law to develop a                                                                                      time.Turf grows best in soil that is slightly acidic; however,
                                                                                                               able in two forms: slow release (also called water insoluble
                                           customized fertilizer application program for their                                                                                           problems may start to occur if the pH falls below 5.4.
                                                                                                               N or controlled-release N) and quick release (soluble). Slow
                                           customers.                                                                                                                                    Therefore, periodic applications of lime are often necessary
                                                                                                               release nitrogen provides more uniform plant growth over a
                                                                                                                                                                                         in order to raise the pH. Some companies apply a mainte-
                                         • Will the company test the soil to determine                         longer period of time, with less chance of injury to the grass
                                                                                                                                                                                         nance level of lime each year as part of their standard
                                           existing nutrient levels? Lawn care companies that                  and a reduced potential for leaching and impacting water
                                                                                                                                                                                         program. Others recommend a lime application based on
                                           apply fertilizers to 10 or more acres of land (regardless           quality. Quick release nitrogen promotes rapid grass growth
                                                                                                                                                                                         soil test results. Find out what you’re getting.
                                           of individual lot size) are also required by law to perform         and dark green color; however, this form is more likely to
                                           soil tests. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of how             leach through the soil. Quick release fertilizers should be             • Does the firm use Integrated Pest
                                           much fertilizer to apply. It is the single most important way       avoided when the grass is not growing actively and on lawns               Management (IPM)? Most lawn care services
                                           to ensure that your lawn is not over-fertilized and that nutri-     that are prone to runoff or leaching. Ask your lawn care                  offer a variety of weed and pest control programs.
                                           ents applied to your lawn are used by plants and not lost to        service about the availability of slow release nitrogen.                  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) uses a range of
                                           the environment. Soil tests should be repeated every three                                                                                    management strategies to control weeds and insects
                                                                                                             • Do I have a choice of liquid or granular fertilizer?
                                           years. Determine the frequency of testing and the related                                                                                     only when they reach threatening levels. Frequent
                                                                                                               Liquid and granular fertilizers work equally well in
                                           charge. Ask for a copy of the soil test results.                                                                                              pest monitoring is required.
                                                                                                               promoting a healthy lawn. Slow release nitrogen can be
                                         • When should my lawn be fertilized? Fertilizer                       applied in granular or liquid form.                                     • Who will perform the work? Ask about employ-
                                           applications should be made when the grass is actively                                                                                        ees. How are they trained? Do they attend continuing
                                                                                                             • Will fertilizer be applied when heavy rain is fore-
                                           growing. Ask your lawn care service to follow these                                                                                           education classes or receive refresher training on a
                                                                                                               cast? Ask your lawn care service not to fertilize if heavy
                                           guidelines:                                                                                                                                   regular basis?
                                                                                                               rain is predicted. Heavy rainfall may cause nutrients to
                                           Warm Season Grasses – (zoysia grass and Bermuda                     leach through the soil or wash off the lawn and into storm              • How often is equipment calibrated? Fertilizer
                                           grass) These grasses stay green throughout the summer               drains. Nutrient losses will be minimized if slow release                 sprayers and spreaders should be calibrated regularly
                                           and turn brown early in the fall. They should be fertilized         (water insoluble) nitrogen is used.                                       in order to ensure that nutrients are being applied to
                                           in the early summer when they are growing most actively.                                                                                      your lawn at the proper rate. As a rule, the more
                                                                                                             • Is the technician trained to keep fertilizer off hard
                                                                                                                                                                                         frequently equipment is calibrated, the more accurate
                                           Cool Season Grasses – (tall fescue, bluegrass, fine                 surfaces? Granular fertilizer applied to sidewalks or
                                                                                                                                                                                         the fertilizer application.
                                           fescue, and perennial ryegrass) These grasses grow                  driveways can easily wash into storm drains, local streams
                                           best in cool weather. Shoots grow actively in the spring.           and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Ask if the firm’s                    • Is the firm a member of a turf related
                                           Top growth slows in the fall, but root growth continues.            spreaders are equipped with edge guards. If not, ask the                  professional organization? Professional organiza-
                                           Because Maryland weather is variable, these grasses may             technician to sweep or blow excess fertilizer off hard                    tions such as the Maryland Turfgrass Council provide
                                           show growth at any time of the year. Most of the total              surfaces and onto the lawn.                                               ongoing training opportunities for their members.
                                           fertilizer applied during the year should be applied in the                                                                                   They also update members on new products, equip-
                                                                                                             • Will lime be applied? Soil pH is a measurement of a soil’s
                                           fall to help the grass recover from summer stresses.                                                                                          ment, regulations and safety issues.
                                                                                                               acidity or alkalinity.The lower the pH, the more acidic the soil


                                         Maintenance                                                                                                         Place a can on the
                                                                                                                                                             lawn during irrigation.   • Aerate your soil. Water, air and nutrients needed

                                                                                                                                                             When one inch of            by grass roots cannot penetrate soils that are
                                                here are many things homeowners can do to maintain
                                                                                                                                                             water is collected,         compressed or compacted due to heavy foot traffic
                                                and enhance the health and beauty of lawns while limit-
                                                                                                                                                             you can turn off the        or high clay content. Lawns should be core aerated
                                                ing environmental impacts. Here are a few suggestions:
                                                                                                                                                             sprinkler.                  periodically to reduce compaction and allow grass
                                         • Mow to the right height. Mowing lawns to the                                                                                                  roots to strengthen and grow. You can rent a sod
                                           proper height can reduce weed problems by as much as              • Keep lawnmower blades sharp. Have your lawn-                              coring tool or motorized aerator or ask your lawn
                                           80 percent. Low and infrequent mowing can damage                    mower blade sharpened each spring. A dull blade can                       care specialist to provide this service.
                                           your lawn, as well. Make certain that no more than                  damage grass and increase the likelihood of disease.
                                                                                                                                                                                       • Recycle grass clippings. Grass clippings supply free
Woodberry, 2nd bullet has been updated

                                           1/3 of the grass blade is removed after each mowing.
                                                                                                             • Water wisely. Many species of turf grass naturally                        fertilizer and will not cause thatch problems, as long
                                         • Mowing guide.                                                       go dormant during the hot, dry summer months. It is                       as the grass is not allowed to get too long before
                                             Kentucky Bluegrass               21?2   - 3 in                    not necessary to water grass that has gone dormant. If                    mowing. If grass clippings are routinely left on the
                                             Tall Fescue                      2?
                                                                                 2   - 31? in
                                                                                         2                     you must water your lawn, (and watering of grass is not                   lawn for two years or longer, you may be able to
                                             Perennial Rye                    21?2   - 3 in                    prohibited because of drought conditions), do so early in                 lower nitrogen fertilizer applications by 25 percent or
                                             Fine Fescue                      2?
                                                                                 2   - 31? in
                                                                                         2                     the day using a sprinkler. As a rule, water less often for                more. Keep grass clippings and other lawn debris out
                                             Bermuda Grass                     1
                                                                                ?2   - 1 inch                  longer lengths of time. Avoid frequent, light watering—it                 of street gutters and storm drains where they can
                                             Zoysia                            1
                                                                                ?2   - 1 inch                  promotes shallow root growth and encourages weeds.                        leach nutrients into Bay pathways as they decompose.

                                         Choose a Lawn Care Service That’s Right for You… the Chesapeake Bay

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