In 2011, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a law establishing statewide fertilizer standards in an effort to protect our rivers, lakes, and bays from pollution caused by lawn chemicals.

The New Jersey Fertilizer Law:

  • Sets standards for fertilizer content;
  • Restricts the amount of nitrogen used in a single application and the total amount used in a year;
  • Sets limits for when and where lawn fertilizer can be applied by homeowners and landscape professionals; and
  • Requires professional applicators to be trained and/or certified in proper fertilizer use.

What Homeowners Need to Know

When Fertilizer Should Not Be Applied

  • Do not apply between November 15th and March 1st.
  • Do not apply when the ground is frozen or saturated with water.
  • Do not apply during or just before a heavy rain.

Where Fertilizer Should Not Be Applied

  • Do not apply to impervious surfaces such as driveways or sidewalks. Sweep up or blow back any fertilizer that inadvertently lands on impervious surfaces.
  • Do not apply within 25 feet of a water body. The protective buffer can be reduced to 10 feet if using any of the following: a drop spreader, rotary spreader with a deflector, or targeted spray liquid fertilizer.
Rain can wash fertilizer that lands on streets and sidewalks into our waterways. New Jersey’s Fertilizer Law requires that residents sweep this excess back onto the lawn.  Photo Credit: Rutgers University

Rain can wash fertilizer that lands on streets and sidewalks into our waterways. New Jersey’s Fertilizer Law requires that residents sweep this excess back onto the lawn.

What the Law Says About Nitrogen

Slow-release nitrogen is a form of nitrogen released over time and is not water soluble. In New Jersey, at least 20 percent of the nitrogen in lawn fertilizers must be slow-release. That’s the minimum – more is even better!

For each application, apply no more than 0.9 pounds of nitrogen for every 1000 square feet of lawn area, and for each year, apply no more than a total of 3.2 pounds of nitrogen for every 1000 square feet of lawn area. Sound complicated? There’s an easy way to get it right! Since all lawn fertilizers sold in New Jersey must meet the content standards, just follow the fertilizer bag’s label directions for spreader settings to apply the correct amount of nitrogen.

And About Phosphorus

To comply with the law’s content standards, manufacturers eliminated phosphorus from most lawn fertilizers. Applying phosphorus is prohibited, but there are some exceptions. Fertilizers containing phosphorus can be applied under certain conditions, such as when a soil test indicates a need or when repairing or establishing a lawn.

Hiring a professional to fertilize your lawn?

If you hire a professional to fertilize your grass, make sure he or she has been trained and/or certified in New Jersey. Under the NJ Fertilizer Law, all professional fertilizer applicators must be certified, or trained and working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Rutgers University administers the online training and certification program and maintains a list of certified fertilizer applicators.

Additional Resources

NJDEP Healthy Lawns Healthy Waters
FAQ Answers for Homeowners about the New Jersey Fertilizer Law
Quick Facts about the New Jersey Fertilizer Law (PDF)
NOAA Nutrient Pollution – Eutrophication