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Lawn Care and Chemicals

Lawn maintenance is a necessary task of property ownership in Montgomery County.

 

Grass Height, Weeds and Maintaining the Property

Image of an overgrown lawnThe 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:

  • Grass and weeds on private property may not exceed 12 inches in height. 

  • Dwelling unit lawns must be reasonably free of erosion. Shrubbery, trees, vines, hedges, and other vegetation, which includes dead branches and trees, must be maintained by the property owner so that they do not pose a danger to health or safety. Owners of nonresidential property are required to abide by similar ground maintenance requirements.

  • A weed is defined as "poison ivy; ragweed; kudzu; Canada, musk, nodding, plumeless, and bull thistles; any plant, except another thistle, identified as a noxious weed under State law; and any other plant which the Director finds by regulation endangers public health or safety if allowed to grow unchecked."

Visit the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to read the Code Enforcement Handbook and view the full regulations regarding lawn maintenance.

 

Yard Trim

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.

 

Fertilizers

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

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:

  • Flea and tick sprays, powders and pet collars; 

  • Insect repellents for personal use;

  • Kitchen, laundry and bath disinfectants and sanitizers, including bleach;

  • Products to kill mold and mildew; and

  • Weed control products are considered pesticides.

 

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.

 

Pesticide Alternatives 

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:

  1. Remove sources of food and water in your home

  2. Eliminate places where pests may hide inside and outside your home

  3. Block pest entry into your home

  4. Remove pest breeding sites in your lawn and garden

  5. Make sure you take proper care of the plants around your home, lawn, and garden

For more information on pesticide alternatives, visit the Environmental Protection Agency or the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

 

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 

  1. Identify the pest problem.  Many organisms are harmless or beneficial.  Monitor and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made.

  2. Prevent the pest problem.  Prevent pests from becoming a threat.  Manage lawn and crops that are the target of pests, and keep indoor spaces clean and free of debris that provides food and shelter for pests. Seal them out! Caulk and seal all cracks and crevices, and install sweeps on doors.  Mice can enter your home through a gap as small as ¼ inch under a doorway.

  3. Evaluate the effective options.  If pest control is needed, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, then evaluate methods for effectiveness and risks.  Choose less risky non-chemical pest controls first, including highly targeted products such as pheromones to disrupt pest reproductive cycles, or mechanical controls, such as trapping or weeding.  If lower risk controls do not work, then apply least toxic pesticides in a targeted manner.

  4. Evaluate the results.  Monitor your environment after treating the problem.  Consider these criteria when evaluating your results: (1) compare the pre-treatment situation with the post-treatment conditions and determine if there was a difference; and (2) consider the pros and cons of a short-term solution using chemical treatments against long-term preventative methods.  

 

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.  

  • When the applicator is applying the pesticide, make sure all cooking utensils, toys, pet items, sports equipment, lawn furniture, and other similar items are removed from the area

  • Keep adults, children, and pets from standing in and around the area being treated.  

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

 

Resources

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

 

Additional Information

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

 

 

Pesticide Regulation

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

  1. Definitions

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. 

 

  1. Regulations

  1. Display and Storage of Pesticides

    1. Pesticides, whenever displayed or stored in a retail establishment, must be physically separated from food, medicine, beverages or feed.

    2. A pesticides display or storage area must contain only pesticide containers that are properly labeled and are free of leaks, cracks, tears or open seams. 

  2. Pesticide Spills

    1. A pesticide retailer must promptly clean up any spilled pesticide product upon discovery of the spill.

    2. Disposal: A pesticide retailer must dispose of pesticide that escapes from its container or packaging only in accordance with applicable State and Federal laws.

    3. Repackaging: A pesticide retailer may repackage a pesticide that escapes from its container for return to the distributor if:

      1. The retailer has an agreement that provides for the return of the spilled pesticide.

      2. The procedures used by the retailer to repackage the pesticide for return to the distributor comply with applicable State and Federal laws. 

  3. Public Education

    1. A pesticide retailer must make available to each purchaser of pesticides written materials on general pesticide use and safety explaining the dangers of contamination that may occur from pesticide use, and information on the availability of alternative products.

    2. Written materials need not be product specific and must be prominently displayed in a conspicuous place at or near the point of sale.  

 

  1. Penalty for Violating Chapter 33 Section 33B-6​

  1. Any violation of the chapter is a Class C violation ($50.00 fine).

  2. Each day the violation continues is a separate offense.