Mowing and trimming your lawn is not enough to help it stay strong, fertilizer is an essential part of that too. However when used improperly fertilizer can cause more harm than good, so we created this guide to lawn fertilization to help you give your lawn the care it needs.
What Does It Do?
Fertilizer is intended to replace important nutrients found in the soil which enhance its quality. Nutrients will gradually, naturally decrease over time. Even a yard that is kept free of all pests and harsh weather will need new nutrients eventually. The three essential nutrients required to help with both soil quality and the grass’s growth are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen is what gives your lawn its vibrant green color. It leads to thicker grass and denser roots. Phosphorus stimulates the growth and development of the roots. Lastly, potassium strengthens the cell walls of your grass. This allows it to thrive in spite of insects, foot traffic, and intense weather conditions. It also strengthens their resistance to disease, extreme heat, and extreme cold.
You will find an N-P-K ratio somewhere on the packaging which tells you how much of each nutrient is in the product. For example, if the ratio is 20-5-10 it contains 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. This ratio is considered ideal for springtime applications.
When Should I Use Fertilizer?
The month can vary depending on where you are in the country, but the best time to begin applying fertilizer in Michigan is early spring. You should do so based on the soil temperature, rather than the air temperature. The ideal measurement is 50-55 ℉. Blooming lilacs and growing grass are indicators that the soil is in the right temperature range. But if you want something more precise you can use a soil thermometer for an accurate measurement.
How Do I Use It?
Before fertilizer can be applied to your lawn it must be watered three days prior with an inch of water. You should not go beyond this because the goal is to get the ground moist while keeping the grass itself dry. Fertilizers can travel more easily in moist soil. When you apply the fertilizer it is important that you provide your lawn with even coverage. Fertilizers can be applied with a lawn sprayer if you are using a liquid type or a lawn spreader for a granular type.
What Are My Options?
Liquid fertilizers are absorbed quickly so they require multiple applications. The fertilizer itself is more consistent, as each spray contains the same amount of nutrients, but it is hard to evenly apply it to your lawn. They are generally very concentrated and need to be diluted before use. You also need to be mindful of the weather when using liquid fertilizers as too much rain can lead to runoff.
Granular fertilizers have a long-term effect and require fewer applications. Unlike liquid fertilizers, they do not provide nutrients consistently, as each granule has different nutrient contents. However, the fertilizer itself is easier to evenly distribute to give your lawn consistent coverage.
Fertilizers can also be divided up by how quickly they deliver nutrients to the roots- quick release or slow release. All liquid fertilizers are quick release, whereas granular can be either quick or slow.
When you use quick-release fertilizers the nutrients are immediately available to the grass, encouraging faster growth. However, the grass in your yard will weaken over time due to inclimate weather, insects, lack of nutrients, and even disease.m a good choice for a newly established lawn or one that is recovering from disease. They are also useful if you simply want to liven up the color of your lawn.
Slow-release prevents the roots from absorbing too much nitrogen at once, which is a detriment to your lawn’s health. The downside to using slow release is that the nutrients are not immediately available to the roots, so they are best used on a lawn that is already established. They might become less effective when the soil is cool. However, they are the least likely to cause damage from over-fertilization.
Over-fertilizing can lead to ‘fertilizer burn’. When the mineral salts in fertilizer accumulate, the build-up in the soil will dry out your lawn. This causes the grass to turn yellow or brown. While fertilizer burn is not always deadly to your lawn it will be hard to predict if and when the grass will recover. Lawns in poor condition must be fed carefully because weak grass is more susceptible to fertilizer burn.
If you already see signs of fertilizer burn you should water your lawn immediately. Water will dilute the soil and flush out the build-up of mineral salts. It is recommended that you use a sprinkler to distribute the water evenly. Start by watering your lawn until the grass can no longer soak up any more, then water it as normal once a day for a week. Be sure to do so in the morning to reduce the risk of fungal diseases. This is not guaranteed to remove fertilizer burn but it will give your lawn a fighting chance.
The easiest way to reduce the risk of fertilizer burn is to have the experts at Victory Lawnscape take care of the process for you. To learn more about our Lawn Fertilization Program and custom-made fertilizers contact us today.