Text Size: A  A  A

Bay Blog: Lawn fertilizer


Va. governor signs bill banning lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale, use and distribution of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus. The legislation will go into effect on Dec. 31, 2013.

The law also prohibits the sale of deicers containing urea, nitrogen or phosphorus. Additionally, golf courses must implement nutrient management plans by 2017.

Phosphorus is one of the two main types of nutrients that pollute the Bay and its local waterways. Too much phosphorus runoff leads to algae blooms and low-oxygen “dead zones” where underwater life cannot survive.


Question of the Week: Is it safe to use an organic fertilizer?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week we'll take a question submitted through the Chesapeake Bay Program website and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question comes from Tom: I recently purchased a house on the Potomac near the Chesapeake Bay and I want to fertilize the lawn this fall.  Is it safe to use an organic fertilizer?

Fertilizing your lawn in the fall rather than in the spring is a great step toward protecting the Bay. Many people believe the spring is the best time to fertilize, but heavy seasonal rainfall can actually wash fertilizers off your lawn and carry them into your local creek or stream. This polluted runoff, which contains nitrogen and phosphorus, fuels the growth of algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Algae blooms are harmful to fish, crabs, oysters and other species that call the Bay home.

Organic fertilizers are a safer choice to use on your lawn because they tend to release nutrients more slowly than regular fertilizers, thus reducing the pollution that could run off your lawn. A variety of organic fertilizers are available, made from all sorts of natural materials. Check out The Organic Gardener for more information.

One of the easiest ways to naturally fertilize your lawn is to recycle your grass clippings and compost the leaves that fall from your trees this time of year.

  • After mowing your lawn, instead of bagging up the clippings, leave them on the grass. The clippings will slowly break down and release up to half of your lawn’s nitrogen needs.
  • In autumn, as leaves cover your yard in a blanket of reds and oranges, consider mulching them with a lawn mower instead of raking and bagging them. Using leaves as a natural mulch for your lawn and garden will not only reduce nutrient pollution from fertilizer, but will cut back on the waste generated from lawn and leaf bags.

Visit our Help the Bay in Your Backyard page for more tips on how to fertilize your lawn for a healthy Bay.

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose it for our Question of the Week!


Light-hearted Chesapeake Club Brings Conservation Message to Virginia

Residents of Hampton Roads and the Greater Richmond area are learning how to “Save the Crabs, then Eat ‘Em” this spring with the return of Chesapeake Club, a multi-media campaign that educates residents about the Bay's nutrient pollution problem in a humorous way.

The Chesapeake Club campaign urges Bay watershed residents to hold off on fertilizing their lawns until the fall, when rainstorms are less frequent and the ground is better able to absorb nutrients contained in fertilizer. This helps protect the Bay's remaining blue crab population, which has been declining in recent years.

There are more than five million lawns in the Bay watershed, each potentially contributing fertilizer, pesticides and other harmful chemicals to the Bay via runoff into streams and storm water drains . Excess nutrients in the Bay cause algal blooms, which block sunlight from reaching bay grasses and deplete the water of oxygen needed to support all aquatic life.

Blue crabs use bay grasses as a nursery and molting area because the grasses protect the crabs from predators. Bay scientists have found that 30 times more juvenile crabs live in bay grasses than in areas without grasses.

Why should we care about the crabs? Because they're the main ingredient in those famous, delicious Chesapeake crab cakes, of course!

To help save the seafood, Chesapeake Club offers yard care tips so you can create a blue crab-friendly lawn. And if you'd rather leave it up to the professionals, there are a growing number of lawn care providers offering the Chesapeake Club standard of yard care.

Think of all the things you could do this spring instead of fertilizing your lawn: Go on a day trip to one of the Bay watershed's many natural or historic areas. Take a romantic getaway to a Bay island. Try a great new recipe for crab soup. Or eat out at an area restaurant that supports the Chesapeake Club.

So skip the lawn fertilizer this spring. Because is the grass really greener if all the blue crabs are gone?

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved