The Fine Art of Fertilizing
Posted in Lawn and Landscape on May 30, 2014
Fertilizing is simply providing nourishment to your lawn on top of what it naturally receives from the soil. It helps keep your lawn lush, green and healthy, the best on the block. It’s important to do it with the right product, in the right way and at the right time. Fertilizing can be confusing, especially with so many different products available, so we put together this handy guide to feeding your lawn.
Fertilizer labels have three numbers that tell you the percentage of the basic nutrients that support a healthy lawn: nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, in that order. If you buy a bag of 20-5-10, that fertilizer contains twenty percent nitrogen, five percent phosphate and ten percent potassium. Notice that doesn’t add up to 100 percent! The balance of the ingredients is a filler to help with more even application. A good mix for summer fertilizing is BEST Super Turf 25-5-5 or Super Green 4D 16-3-1.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The best choice of fertilizer is slow-release. The nutrients in this type take more time to break down which means you can go longer between applications. Depending on your watering schedule, slow-release fertilizers allow you to fertilize every six to twelve weeks as opposed to every four weeks.
Granules are Great!
Professionals use spray fertilizers, pumped from a truck and are usually done in a remarkably short time. There’s a reason for that: They’re professionals; they have their applicators license & they have the training to take wind direction and other factors into consideration to ensure complete coverage. They also have specialized equipment. Non-professionals, however, are better off to use granular fertilizer applied with a spreader. It’s much easier to use and to get an even application.
Timing is Everything
A good fertilization schedule ensures a healthy lawn. Experts say that five applications over the growing season is a good target. Here is our recommended schedule:
- First application: Spring. When the soil temperature is reliably at 55F, it’s time to feed the lawn. How will you know the soil temp? Local university extension offices can tell you or you can just look around. The soil is at 55F when lilacs bloom and grass starts growing; this is typically about mid-April for most folks. But can be earlier, especially when warmer weather starts earlier.
- Second application: Roughly a month later, around early- mid-May.
- Third application: Six to eight weeks later. For this application, use an organic fertilizer like manure.
- Fourth & fifth applications: Six to eight weeks later for number four, then another six to eight weeks for number five. This should take you through October.
- There are also cool–season fertilizers such as BEST Nitra King which is great to put down in during the winter months if needed.
It’s important not to miss the fifth application as grass still grows in the fall. Roots are growing deeper and need the extra food; it is, in fact, the most important feeding of the season. Here’s another great guide – Best Fertilizer Schedule.
Make It Rain
We all know that water is crucial for lawn health. However, what many don’t know is that the more a lawn is watered, the more fertilizer it needs. Water = growth, growth = more nutrient use, more nutrient use = the need for more fertilizer. There are two important things to note when it comes to watering your lawn:
- If you use a sprinkler system, you need to fertilize on the every six week schedule. If you don’t have an irrigation system (you should be as it is more efficient and thus saves water and you money), choose the every eight week schedule.
- Follow label instructions when fertilizing. Some fertilizers, such as granules, require moisture to break down. Others need to be applied after the lawn is watered with approximately one quarter-inch of water.
Spread the Love
Fertilizer spreaders are the way to go for non-professional applications. There are two types available, the drop spreader and the broadcast spreader. We recommend the broadcast spreader; it costs about half as much as the drop spreader and is much easier to use. Broadcast spreaders cover a wider distance leaving less chance of stripes in your lawn due to not properly overlapping the rows. For smaller areas you can use a hand-held broadcast spreader and for larger, a push spreader.
Filling the spreader is easy, too; just remember to close the hopper beforehand to avoid a pile of fertilizer under the spreader. It’s a common mistake that most people make at least once. The best place to fill the spreader is either in the driveway or over a tarp; this keeps any spilled fertilizer from piling up and burning or killing your lawn.
Read your label and follow the directions for application. If you have any questions, ask the pro’s at Hydro-Scape on your next visit. We can help you pick the right fertilizer for the job too.