Black-Out Dates For Fertilizer Use in New Jersey’s Fertilizer Law

Help spread the word – but NOT the fertilizer!

As the weather turns colder, applying fertilizer makes little sense. The ground is hard and grass has stopped growing. It’s also against the law.

Former Governor Chris Christie signed one of the nation’s toughest fertilizer laws and it sets standards that are designed to protect New Jersey’s waterways from nutrient pollution. One feature of the law is that it determines when fertilizer can and cannot be used. Referred to as “Black-out dates,” when fertilizer cannot be applied.

The reason for the black-out dates is a common-sense approach to water quality protection. When the ground is frozen, the possibility is greater for having runoff from fertilizer, as well as leachate into groundwater, impair the State’s surface and groundwater quality.

You cannot apply fertilizer after November 15 and before March 1 in any calendar year.
Commercial Fertilizer Applicators:
You must complete your customer service cycle of late fall nitrogen or phosphorus fertilization by December 1 and then fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus cannot be applied again until March 1. All other materials, such as products containing potassium, lime and composts, are still legal to apply during the blackout dates.

New Jersey’s fertilizer law also established a new content standard for fertilizer that is reducing excess nutrient runoff by decreasing the total amount of nitrogen in fertilizer and increasing the amount of slow release nitrogen. As of January 5 of this year, all fertilizer products for turf now contain at least 20 percent slow-release nitrogen, and zero phosphorus unless a soil test demonstrates a need for more.

The law also created a fertilizer application certification program for professional fertilizer applicators, through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University and in consultation with the DEP.

The certification program

To learn more about ProFACT (Professional Fertilizer Applicator Certification and Training effort), launched by Rutgers University in late 2011, go to:

The DEP worked with members of the Healthy Lawns Healthy Waters Workgroup and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University to implement the fertilizer law. To learn more about the law’s components and status, visit:

Implementation of this law is also part of former Governor Christie’s 10-point action plan to protect and restore Barnegat Bay. To learn about how this law is being carried out in the Barnegat Bay watershed, visit:

Help spread the word – but NOT the fertilizer, and help protect and restore New Jersey’s water resources.