One topic, more than any other, seems to elude do-it-yourself lawn aficionados: fertilizer. We all know we’re supposed to do it, but nobody seems to know when, or with what, how often, or how much. Heck, most of us don’t even know how to read a package of fertilizer. Let’s start with the basics:
On any given package of fertilizer, you will likely see three numbers separated by dashes, such as 10-8-6. The first number tells us the percentage of nitrogen contained in this fertilizer. The second number represents the percentage of phosphate, and the third number is the percentage of potash. In this case, the fertilizer is 10% nitrogen, 8% phosphate, and 6% potash. The most critical nutrient for a lush lawn in our area is nitrogen. Lawns deficient in nitrogen will turn a yellow-green color, their growth will slow, and blades or leaves become narrow. Typically, no nutrients other than nitrogen are needed on your lawn, unless you’ve had a soil analysis that tells you otherwise.
How Much Fertilizer to Use
To achieve the optimal lawn, feed 1 pound of available nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, every four to six weeks during the growing season (beginning in mid- to late April). If your fertilizer is 12% to 15% nitrogen, it will take 7 to 8 pounds to provide 1 available pound. If your fertilizer is 24% to 28% nitrogen, it will take 3.5 to 4 pounds to provide 1 available pound. Finally, if your fertilizer is 45% to 46% nitrogen, you will need 2 to 2.25 pounds to make one available pound.
To apply your fertilizer, follow the package directions carefully, and calibrate your spreader accordingly. Fertilize only on dry grass (unless directions indicate otherwise) and apply in two directions at right angles to each other. Water immediately afterward.
If you have sandy soil, you may need to fertilize more frequently, using smaller quantities of fertilizer. If you do not spread your grass clippings when you mow you will need to increase your fertilizer use as grass clippings contribute significant nutrients to your lawn.
As you can see, fertilizing your lawn is a somewhat complex and time consuming process. One alternative is to hire a professional lawn service such as All Green Pest Control and Lawn Care to handle fertilizing and other routine lawn maintenance tasks for you. A professional lawn service can determine the most appropriate fertilizer for your lawn and soil conditions, and may recommend the additional application of products designed to control weeds, weed grasses, and for controlling grubs or other pests that can damage your lawn.