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Fertilizer restrictions go into effect Oct. 1

What kind of lawn fertilizer should I use in the fall? There are so many kinds with different numbers and different chemicals and some with zero chemicals.

Glad you asked. The Maryland Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 kicks in fully on Oct.1. The law, aimed at protecting the Chesapeake Bay, limits the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer products. We have a new publication on our website that explains the new rules. Go to

The chemical numbers you're referring to is the fertilizer ratio, a designation on all fertilizers. Its three numbers stand for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, always in that order--often called "the N-P-K." Both nitrogen and phosphorus are the big polluting nutrients harming the Bay. Because phosphorus levels in most Maryland soils are adequate, it will no longer be automatically included in lawn fertilizers (and appear as a zero in the ratio), but can be applied if a soil test shows it's needed. Nitrogen can be applied yearly in the proper amounts.

See our publication "How to Fertilize Your Lawn Responsibly" for simple fertilizer charts of what, when, and how much.

Is there is really such thing as a book worm? Some old books in our book case are chewed right through cover to cover.

Termites love books, and magazines, and newspapers, but they aren't reading. Good to know as we accumulate paper products for recycling. Paper, including cardboard, is wood pulp in another form and provides nourishment for termites. See how to identify a termite and what to do for termite control in both our Plant Diagnostic or the Publication section, under Pest Control, on our HGIC website.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the Week

Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Foerster'

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Named the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, ornamental grass Karl Foerster provides three generous seasons of interest. Sturdy green blades emerge early from winter dormancy, growing 2-3-feet tall. Feathery and purplish inflorescences (flower stalks) shoot up high in summer, moving gracefully in breezes. By August, they become narrow and tan, making a strong vertical statement. Effective as single specimens or in masses, Karl Foerster grows best in well-drained, moist soil but adapts to heavier clay soils and drier sites. Plant in sun to prevent inflorescences from flopping. Cut the clump back to about 6 inches in late winter or early spring before new growth. — Debra Ricigliano

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