Lawn Care and Chemicals
Lawn maintenance is a necessary task of property ownership in Montgomery County.
Grass Height, Weeds and Maintaining the Property
The Department of Housing and Community Affairs enforces the code related to grass height, weeds and lawn maintenance. Property owners, lessees, and others in charge of land should be aware of the requirements in the Montgomery County Code to properly maintain lawns and the exteriors of subdivisions, dwelling units, and nonresidential property. Make sure your yard adheres to the requirements to keep our County attractive throughout the spring and summer months.
Brief summary of the rules relating to lawn maintenance from the County Code:
Visit the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to read the Code Enforcement Handbook and view the full regulations regarding lawn maintenance.
In addition to maintaining grass at an appropriate height, there are environmental related concerns related to handling of yard trim materials. Yard trim is plant material that has grown naturally on properties, including leaves, grass clippings and brush.
The dumping of yard trim materials onto adjacent properties is a serious problem in Montgomery County and is prohibited under the Solid Waste Ordinance.
Don’t blow, sweep, hose, or rake leaves or other yard trimmings into the street, gutter, or storm drain.
Disposing of leaves, grass, and brush along streambanks suffocates and kills valuable plants that are vital for protection against streambank erosion. Dumping also contributes a harmful overload of nutrients to the stream, and depletes the stream of oxygen used by fish and aquatic insects. These impacts degrade the quality of your neighborhood stream and ultimately impact the Chesapeake Bay. Remember: Storm drains are designed to convey stormwater runoff directly to a nearby stream.
Properly Dispose of Yard Trim
For guidelines of how to dispose of your yard trim properly, visit the Division of Solid Waste Services Yard Trim webpage. Before dumping yard trim, consider composting the organic material, grasscycling, or utilizing the County recycling services.
To file a complaint about lawn maintenance or the dumping of yard trim please contact 311.
Nutrients—primarily nitrogen and phosphorus—are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer. When it rains, excess nutrients can wash off the land and into the streams and rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. Once in our waterways, excess fertilizers contribute to the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching Bay grasses, rob the water of oxygen and threaten underwater life.
Montgomery County does not directly regulate fertilizer usage, but the County abides by the rules set by the new state fertilizer law.
Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law
Maryland has a lawn fertilizer law designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay from excess nutrients entering its waters from a variety of urban sources, including golf courses, parks, recreation areas, athletic fields, businesses and hundreds of thousands of suburban and urban lawns. Lawn fertilizer now accounts for approximately 44% of the fertilizer sold in Maryland.
New phased-in restrictions affect all lawn fertilizer products sold and distributed in Maryland. The changes are aimed at helping lawn care professionals and homeowners maintain healthy lawns without applying unnecessary amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. The law went into effect on October 1, 2013.
Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers are required to follow University of Maryland recommendations when fertilizing lawns. Mandatory restrictions, similar to those imposed for lawn care professionals, apply.
Pesticides are substances used to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate the effects of any pest ranging from insects, animals and weeds to microorganisms such as fungi, molds, bacteria and viruses. Pesticides are regulated at the federal, state and local level. For information on pesticide laws, click the Pesticide Regulation tab under "On this Page..." to the right.
Common household products considered pesticides include:
Disposing of Pesticides
Pesticides are considered hazardous waste. Proper disposal is essential to prevent contamination of the environment. Never dispose of pesticides in a sink drain, on the ground, or in a storm drain or stream.
To assist with disposal of pesticide related products, Montgomery County has a staffed household hazardous waste receiving area (open 9 am - 5 pm, Sunday through Saturday) at the Shady Grove Solid Waste Transfer Station, in addition to conveniently located satellite collections. Learn more about household hazardous waste collection in the County.
The most effective method of removing pests is to incorporate practices that prevent the pest problem. Practice these alternatives to pesticide use around your home, lawn, and garden to eliminate and prevent pest problems without the need for chemicals:
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated pest management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management. IPM stresses non-chemical prevention to avoid unacceptable levels of pest damage and protect the public and the environment from the hazard of pesticides. IPM uses a wide variety of the best available pest management strategies, which are both economical and pose the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
The IPM approach can be applied to your home, garden, and workplace and takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options, including moderate use of the least-toxic pesticides as a last resort.
Four Steps to Developing an IPM Program
Additional IPM Information
The following resources provide detailed information on IPM:
Commercial Pesticide Applicators
If you choose to hire a business to apply pesticides to your lawn, make certain the applicator is licensed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), follows all safety precautions, and notifies you each time pesticides are applied to your lawn.
MDA has strict guidelines on the type of information a licensed applicator must give to each customer about the pesticide they are applying to a lawn.
It is your right as a consumer to be completely informed about the control method the pesticide applicator is using. Do not hesitate to ask for technical information on the pesticide! For more information on consumer awareness about pesticide applicators, visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Share Pesticide Information with Your Neighbors and Friends
Download the Pesticide Pamphlet in English (PDF, 66KB)
Download the Pesticide Pamphlet in Spanish (PDF, 47KB) PESTICIDAS: Selección, uso seguro y alternativas
Important Contact Information
Maryland Poison Center: Operates 24 hours; 800-222-1222
University of Maryland: Home and garden information center; 800-342-2507
National Pesticide Information Center: Non-emergency information on pesticides and pesticide use; 800-858-7378
Maryland Department of Agriculture, Pesticide Regulation Section: Report complaints about commercial pesticide applicators or pesticide misuse; 410-841-5870
Maryland Pesticide Network: A grassroots coalition of organizations in Maryland dedicated to protecting health and the environment from the hazards of pesticides and promoting solutions for healthy living
Beyond Pesticides: Works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), and Montgomery County have regulations pertaining to pesticides and pesticide use.
The EPA is responsible for regulating the sale and use of pesticides, and the allowable levels of pesticides in or on food. More information is available on EPA's website.
The MDA Pesticide Regulation Section, administers Maryland's Pesticide Applicator's Law, enforces federal laws on the sale and use of pesticides, investigates pesticide accidents or incidents, and consumer complaints on pesticide misuse. The MDA also approves training courses in the handling, storage and use of pesticides, conducts examinations to determine that pesticide applicators are competent to follow prescribed pest control practices, and approves licenses for business pesticide applicators.
Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administers the County’s pesticide law (Chapter 33b of the Montgomery County Code), including those provisions requiring that retail sellers of pesticide products provide written material to purchasers that address general pesticide use and safety, and alternatives to pesticides.
Montgomery County's Pesticides Regulation - Chapter 33B-6 of the Montgomery County Code
1994 as Amended, Effective Date- April 22, 2003
Download a summary of the Regulation (PDF, 46KB)
Download the full Regulation (PDF, 254KB)
Summary of the County Regulation
Pesticide Retailer: A person that sells at retail non-bulk pesticides or non-bulk quantities of a material that contains a pesticide.
Non-bulk Pesticides: Any pesticide distributed, sold, offered for sale, packaged or repackaged in containers designed for less than 10 gallons of liquid or less than 56 pounds of dry weight.
Properly labeled: The written, printed or graphic matter that appears on or is attached to a pesticide or its immediate container and the outside container or wrapper of any retail package of pesticide contains sufficient instructions for use and caution to satisfy the requirements of State and Federal pesticide labeling laws.