As one of the most important and advanced lawn care practices, fertilizing your lawn can have an enormously positive impact on the appearance of your grass. There are a variety of important times to fertilize your lawn, not the least of which is during fall before your lawn goes into a dormant period over winter. If you fertilize improperly, however, a number of issues can arise. Therefore, it is important to properly research the correct way to fertilize to make sure your lawn receives the care it deserves. Read below for some tips on how you can fertilize your lawn as effectively as possible.
The first step in fertilizing your lawn, and perhaps the most important, is choosing the correct fertilizer. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to which fertilizer is "best." It all depends on your particular lawn, your goals, and a variety of other factors. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient contained in the fertilizer, and it is expressed as the first number in a series of three which details the fertilizer's components. A 5/10/5 fertilizer, for example, has five parts of nitrogen for every 10 and five parts of phosphorus and potassium, respectively.
All things being equal, you want as much nitrogen as possible. The more nitrogen, the less fertilizer you need to use on your lawn. Some people believe too much nitrogen can burn grass, but this is not true, assuming you adjust the amount of fertilizer spread on the lawn according to the nitrogen percentage.
In reality, the type of nitrogen you use determines whether your grass may get burned. Some fertilizers contain a nitrogen that release into the soil quickly which, when used in abundance, can cause grass to burn due to their high sodium content. Other fertilizers, though, are time-released. In general, it is best to secure a fertilizer that has a combination of both fast and slow-release nitrogen. That way, your grass will enjoy a quick greening without excessive growth, yet still have nitrogen stores available later.
Sometimes, balanced fertilizers with a 1:1:1 nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio are suggested, but these are not suitable for long-term use on your lawn. This is too much phosphorus for you grass, and it will ultimately result in runoff problems and excessive weeds. Plus, balanced fertilizers tend to contain only fast-release nitrogen, which can lead to grass burn.
Another way to prevent grass burn is to use a completely organic fertilizer. These fertilizers contain far less sodium than synthetic varieties. Slow-release synthetic options, however, also pose very little risk to burn your lawn. A synthetic fertilizer that contains plenty of slow-release nitrogen is popular because it contains enough nitrogen to keep your lawn healthy, but few drawbacks. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, rarely possess a high percentage of nitrogen and rely on soil microbes to break them down in order for the nitrogen to be released. This means they are rather ineffective when used in cold soil.
As a general rule, you want to apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Obviously, you would need just one pound of a 100 percent nitrogen fertilizer to accomplish this task. Fertilizers do not contain all nitrogen, however, so you need to calculate the correct dosage. Simply divide 100 by the percentage of nitrogen your fertilizer contains to uncover the total amount. If your fertilizer contains 25 percent nitrogen, for example, you would need 100/25 (four) pounds of fertilizer to cover 1,000 square feet of your lawn.
The total amount of fertilizer needed for an entire lawn of course depends on the size of it. Divide the lawn's total square footage by 1,000, then multiply this number by the amount of fertilizer needed for 1,000 square feet. A lawn that is 20,000 square feet would require 80 pounds of the 25 percent nitrogen fertilizer used in the aforementioned example.
Another option for purchasing a fertilizer is to select one that contains a built-in weed control mechanism. Since both weed control and fertilization are popular in fall, it is natural to combine the two. Other products contain herbicide with the fertilizer, and these are to be used in spring in an effort to control things like crabgrass over the growing season.
Lastly, you might want to look into a fertilizer spreader to aid you in your lawn care efforts. The two main types of spreaders are rotary and drop spreaders. A rotary spreader disperses fertilizer over a large area and is tremendous for large lawns. A drop spreader is better for smaller lawns or lawns with "obstacles" you must avoid fertilizing because it is more accurate.