When fertilizing the lawn, homeowners can get the best performance for the least cost simply by following some simple practices. Lawn fertilizer should be applied at a rate enough to promote growth but not too heavy so as to waste product, and homeowners get better results when applying fertilizer at the proper time. This yard care guide will detail proper lawn fertilizing, highlighting some simple methods to attain maximum results and efficiency.
A lawn fertilizer will be labeled with specific numbers, like 28-3-5, etc. These numbers tell you the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium available in the fertilizer, in that order. The numbers will not add up to 100; the rest is other nutrients and inert ingredients that are necessary for the fertilizer to be able to be distributed. If the fertilizer is manufactured specifically for lawns, it has sufficient nutrients for a normal lawn.
For lawns, nitrogen is the most important nutrient. It comes in two forms. Water soluble nitrogen is available immediately and can be at risk of leaching or being lost to runoff, especially if the lawn is over-watered or if there are heavy rains right after fertilizing. The other form of nitrogen is slow release nitrogen. Slow release nitrogen does exactly that; it is released throughout the growing season. Fertilizers with at least part slow-release fertilizer result in more even lawns. Water soluble fertilizer triggers fast growth that requires more mowing. When the fertilizer is gone, the lawn growth crashes; such unstable growth makes the lawn less rugged and more susceptible to problems.
More fertilizer will be needed if grass clippings are removed; if clippings are not clotting or blocking growth they should be allowed to remain. If the lawn is mown frequently, clippings shouldn’t be a problem. They will decompose naturally and re-fertilize the lawn when they decay. Fertilizer should be applied in late spring and late summer. Follow the instructions on the bag; it varies slightly depending on the manufacturer and type of fertilizer. Do not fertilize before growth starts in spring or after it has stopped in fall; fertilizer applied then will not be absorbed by the lawn and will leach. Leached fertilizer is a major contributing factor to increased algal growth in ponds.
Apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Therefore, you need to make a few simple calculations. Measure the area being fertilized; you can measure the area of the yard (length and width) then measure the area of the non-lawn areas such as the house and driveway and subtract that from the total, or simply measure the lawn areas; whichever is more simple. Then measure the nitrogen content. Look at the first number in the name of the fertilizer and divide 100 by it, and that will be how many pounds of fertilizer needed per 1000 square feet. For example, a 25-3-5 fertilizer will require approximately 4 pounds per 1000 feet, there is one pound of nitrogen in that 4 pounds as 25% of 4 is 1, because 100 divided by 25 is 4. In the example at the start, a 28-3-5 fertilizer would need approximately 3.5 pounds to spread the pound of nitrogen. The formula is 100/N=Lbs needed.
Liming is a separate operation. Lime is added to lawns to raise the pH of the soil, and is not a fertilizer. In the eastern United states, soil is often too acidic for optimal lawn growth, so lime is used to change the pH of the soil to be more favorable. Lime can be applied as long as the soil is thawed, it is applied at a rate of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Lime should only be applied if the soil is acidic; the best way to determine that is by a soil test. If the region is not acidic in general, don’t apply lime unless the test indicates it is needed.
By applying fertilizer at the proper times and rates, you can have a good lawn while doing minimal impact to both the environment and your wallet.