A law that began being phased in on July 3, 2009 will help educate consumers and landscapers in Westchester about the dangers of phosphorous-containing lawn fertilizers and provide guidelines for the care of lawns.

The 2009 lawn fertilizer law, which limits the use of phosphorous-containing lawn fertilizers and imposes other common-sense restrictions on their application, was passed April 27, 2009 in an effort to minimize the damaging run-off that enters storm drainage systems and is carried to rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. The legislation is intended to provide comprehensive public education resources for both homeowners and landscapers as it restricts the sale of certain products.

Westchester is the first county in the state to implement such restrictions, although the Governor’s office is proposing similar legislation statewide that would prohibit phosphorus-containing dish detergents as well.

Home improvement contractors providing turf or lawn services must abide by the following:

Effective July 3, 2009

  • Fertilizer cannot be applied between December 1 and April 1, when the ground is frozen and more likely to produce runoff.
  • Fertilizer cannot be applied on impervious surfaces such as driveways, parking lots, roadways or sidewalks.
  • Fertilizer cannot be applied to lawn areas that are within 20 feet of any surface water, unless a natural vegetative buffer at least 10 feet wide separates the lawn area and the surface water.

Effective Nov. 1, 2009

  • Must complete approved turf management course and submit proof of completion when applying for or renewing home improvement license. This course is held at the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection on an ongoing basis.  More information is available by calling (914) 995-2211.

Effective Jan. 1, 2011

  • Fertilizer containing phosphorous cannot be applied to lawn areas unless soil tests confirm the need for additional phosphorous application.
  • Fertilizer containing phosphorous can be applied to newly established turf or lawn areas during their first growing season, when more nutrients are needed for the grass to take root.
  • Fertilizer can be applied to vegetable and flower gardens, trees and shrubs.