Island landscapers get up to snuff on new fertilizer regs

The daylong course provided valuable information and the required certification needed to apply fertilizer on Martha’s Vineyard.

Sam Hart, left, and Travis Thurber. — Photo by Max Macleod

Despite frigid temperatures and snowflakes, almost 200 landscapers, groundskeepers, and caretakers attended a daylong seminar Saturday in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center (PAC) to learn about new regulations that govern the application of fertilizer to turf in all Island towns.

The course content included best management practices for soil nutrient management, the when and how of fertilizer application, and maximizing nutrient uptake while protecting the environment. Presenters included Mary Owen, Dr. J. Scott Ebdon, and Dr. Michelle DaCosta from the UMass Amherst Extension Turf Program. Chuck Bramhall of Harrell’s fertilizer manufacturing company explained best practices for calibrating a fertilizer spreader.

The regulations were the outgrowth of a coordinated effort to protect water quality. A fertilizer working group — composed of stakeholders from all of the Island towns including regulators, professionals, and environmental advocates — drafted the regulations that were approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and adopted by voters in each Island town last year.

Edgartown Board of Health agent Matt Poole also presented an explanation of the details of the regulations, which went into effect on January 1, 2015.

The regulations state that an employer may use his or her license to cover the work of up to eight employees, if those employees have been taught how to properly apply fertilizer. The employees, as well as the employer, must carry the license (or a copy of the license) on their person or in the truck at all times. The license must be renewed every three years.

Island homeowners applying fertilizer on their own property must also abide by the regulations, but do not need to earn a certificate or purchase a license.

Adult and Community Education MV (ACE MV) organized the course, which cost $85, on behalf of the six town boards of health. Successful completion allowed the attendees to take an open-book exam and gain a certificate needed to apply in any Island town for a $100 license that is good Island-wide. Immediately following the course on Saturday, 122 attendees completed the exam, with a 96 percent pass rate. The exam may also be taken, or retaken, on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, if requested.

“Today’s event is the largest-ever gathering of the Island’s landscape and turf management professionals,” ACE MV executive director Sam Hart said. “ACE MV is really pleased that so many are committed to the proper fertilizer and pesticide management that is key to protecting our environment. ACE MV is planning future seminars and workshops, including organic fertilizer and pest control methods.”

Mr. Poole thanked ACE MV for the organizing of the course, saying, “Bringing today’s course together was a massive task, and we could not have done it without ACE MV’s help and initiative.”

In general, attendees said the daylong course was very informative.

“The UMass speakers were great; their presentations were very well done,” said Kyle Crossland of Crossland Landscape in Oak Bluffs. Commenting on the certification exam, Mr. Crossland said, “I am really glad it was open-book, but then it is open-book in the field, too.”

To review the regulations, go to

Susan L. Silk is a member of the ACE MV board.