Some of the best memories of our lives are made in our backyards. It’s a great place to spend time with family, kids and pets, entertain your guests, or sit and simply relax. A proper maintenance schedule is a prerequisite for a beautiful lawn. One of the essential parts of this maintenance schedule is the appropriate and timely use of fertilizer.
What is Fertilizer?
A product that contains nutrients, which are needed for plant growth is known as fertilizer. The most common type of nutrients that are essential for lawn care are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and iron.
Naturally, the grass gets these nutrients from the soil, water, or air. But sometimes we need to supplement one or more of these nutrients when they are low. A ratio of N, P, K is mentioned on almost all the fertilizer products; these are the primary type of nutrients that grass needs for its growth.
Checking the Fertilizer Requirement:
Usually, you can determine the need for fertilizer by merely looking at your lawn.
- If your lawn is dealing with the deficiency of nitrogen, it will have stunted growth, yellow-green to yellowish blades, and weeds. You’ll also notice that the clippings, collected after mowing, will be less than normal.
- Deficiency of iron gives your lawn a yellowish color; other than that; there isn’t any prominent stunting.
- A lawn that is deficient in phosphorus gives a bluish-green shade, with some leaves turning reddish or purple.
You can also check the nutrient deficiencies of your soil by having a soil test. These tests can be ordered online through some nurseries, or your local university’s extension office can be contacted for more details.
Fertilizing New Turf
A starter fertilizer gives your grass a perfect kick if you’re growing a new lawn from plugs, seeds or sod, or you’re doing a lawn spot repair. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for the new grass; it helps in the development of a robust root system.
Provide an ideal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other important lawn nutrients that include iron for a lush, healthy turf.
If you’re starting your lawn through plugs or seeds: Apply fertilizer before planting with a regular lawn spreader.
If you’re growing the lawn with sod: Fertilize after your sod is in place.
With a new lawn area, don’t use fertilizers and weedicides within four weeks before planting time. After seeding, wait until your new turf gets established, and you’ve mown the lawn at least three times.
Fertilizing Your Established Lawn:
The time and the frequency of fertilizing depend on the grass type. Nitrogen and other nutrients are required in ample amounts during the growing season of grasses.
Using fertilizer when the grass is in the dormant phase, is of no use. Space your applications far apart at first, and your grass will start developing. Then it will be ready to accelerate with subsequent applications.
How to Fertilize Warm-Season Grasses?
Warm-season grasses, like St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass, grow speedily in warm weather. Warm-season grasses are generally fertilized from late spring to early autumn. If the grass is fertilized too early in spring, the nitrogen will promote the growth of cool-season weeds. We don’t want that.
On the other hand, fertilizing the grass late in autumn will make it less hardy as it enters the cold weather, and it will be more prone to be affected by the freezing injury.
How to Fertilize Cool-Season Grasses?
Grasses of cool-season, such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, grow vigorously in the colder months of autumn and spring. Autumn and spring is an important period to feed the cool-season grasses. Autumn, in particular, is a necessary period to fertilize cool-season grasses; it helps them to grow in cold-weather and also provides the reserves that are required for quick green-up in the spring.
In fact, you should abstain from fertilizing cool-season grasses too soon in spring, or you’ll end up with excessive top development with poor root growth, and that is a clear problem. Moreover, if you fertilize in autumn (as you should), the lawn will not require another application until later in the spring.
For a good looking lawn, fertilize it about once every six to eight weeks during the active growth period of grass. Distribute the annual requirement of nitrogen into multiple applications, in different seasons, say a couple of applications in spring and a few in autumn for cool-season grasses and three during the summer for warm-season grasses.
If you can’t invest much of your time in the maintenance of your lawn:
- For Cool-season Grasses: Fertilize once in spring and once in autumn.
- For Warm-season Grasses: Fertilize once in early summer and once in late summer.
This will not give the fastest blade growth but still gives you a pretty impressive lawn.
Fertilizer and Irrigation:
Pre-planning for fertilizing your lawn is extremely crucial. Irrigate your lawn, a day or two before applying fertilizer. Apply fertilizer after the grass dries up. Then lightly water again after the application. This second watering is essential, because it washes fertilizer off the grass leaves, into the soil.
You can also plan fertilizer application between rainfalls so the rainwater can wash fertilizer into the soil. Just be sure you don’t fertilize before a downpour, or the fertilizer will completely wash away. Avoid applying fertilizer during a drought when a lawn has turned brown or withered from lack of moisture.
Types of Fertilizers Used in Lawn
Below are the basic types of fertilizer for your lawn:
- Slow-release Fertilizer: You don’t have to use slow-release fertilizers as often, and they are usually more expensive.
- Fast-release Fertilizer: They are used in frequent smaller doses, but you get quick results with these types of fertilizers. If used in a higher amount, they can burn your lawn.
- Liquid Fertilizers: These aren’t recommended because their even distribution is difficult, and they also require frequent applications.
- Compost and Manure: The essential nutrients aren’t available in concentrated form in these types of fertilizers, so you have to use them in a higher amount. Be sure that your compost is processed properly, and manure is dried enough before applying it to the lawn. One thing also needs to be kept in mind, that some manure like horse manure can contain weed seeds that can infest the lawn.
Proper fertilizing of your lawn is a way to a dense and healthy turf with lush green color and a well-developed root system. A healthy lawn that is taken care of is less likely to be infected by pests. Maintaining a fertilizing schedule can help prevent the growth of weeds while keeping your grass healthy. Simultaneously, the overuse of fertilizers can cause severe damage to your lawn and the environment.