Top 5 Reasons Why Your Fertilizer Isn’t Performing Like You Think It Should – the 2019 Update

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1. Quality.
To save money, the big mass merchandisers have diluted their products so much they no longer deliver the essential nutrients grass plants in the Michiana area need. Because of these watered down “programs”, we have been getting more and more calls about lawn programs that can be traced back to these insufficient products.  At Red Hen Turf Farm, we believe we can offer customers better fertilizing products at better prices than they are paying at big box stores.

2. Over-Measuring or Under-Measuring the Area of Your Lawn.
So, your fertilizer bag label or your soil test results tell you to apply a certain amount of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet and you’re confused about what to do next. The questions run through your head … “How large is 1,000 square feet? How much fertilizer do I need to buy? How do I know if my spreader is putting on the correct amount?”  The first step is to determine the area or square footage of your lawn or garden space. You could use good old-fashioned math problems to calculate the area (REMEMBER GEOMETRY CLASS?), or you could use Red Hen’s Sod Calculator via our website – but that would mean you’d have to take some measurements.

Even easier, and probably “accurate enough” is a Website and App called Lawn Crack Area CalculatorSimply type in your address, find your lawn on the map, and click around the edges and Lawn Crack calculates the area for you.  It probably won’t be 100% accurate, but we’ve been using this tool for a few months and are pleased with how close it usually is.

3. Spreader Calibration.
So, back to the question of “How do I know if my spreader is putting on the correct amount?”  There are so many brands of spreaders, and each one seems to have it’s own settings.  You could try checking the website of the company that manufactured your spreader for the right spreader settings. But even then, how do you really know if the settings are accurate?  Spreaders must be properly calibrated if they are to deliver granular fertilizers and pesticides to turf at correct rates. As spreaders become older and worn, re-calibration ensures you obtain the best results.  Visit Red Hen’s PDF Library and read our whitepaper, “Fertilizer Tips & How to Calibrate that Darn Spreader” to learn more.

4. Soil Testing
You should only apply the nutrients that your lawn needs, but how do you really KNOW what nutrients your lawn needs?  The answers are in the chemistry of the soil, and every lawn has a unique chemical history.  The only way to really know what nutrients your lawn needs is by SOIL TESTING. A soil test of your lawn is a key step, especially if you are particular about your lawn or have grass problems. We recommend that you do a soil test every 3 years.  If you use our soil testing procedures, we’ll provide you with a kit that you’ll mail to a certified lab.  The postage and payment to the lab will end up costing you under $15 for a single sample. The results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms, using this information as an important piece of the puzzle for us to create a Customized Fertilizer Program, designed just for you.  Once we’ve designed your fertilizer program, we can even give you reminders by phone or email for when it’s time for your next application.

5. Timing.
In so many different ways, TIMING plays an important role when fertilizing you lawn.  For some fertilizer products, the instructions tell you to apply on dry grass – so if rain is in the forecast, timing could be especially critical.  Some products may even instruct you to water-in the fertilizer, so timing your application around rain could save you from having to use your sprinkler.  Fertilizers with added Herbicides or Pesticides work when applied around a specific point in the life cycle of the pest you are trying to eliminate – so again TIMING is important.  For example, you can read our previous Blog to learn more about how time is of the essence when it comes to treating potential white grub infestations.  Timing is also important when it comes to the seasonal life-cycle of your grass since you want to fertilize when the roots are actively growing (which is NOT year-round).

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12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best, The 2019 Update

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Red Hen Turf Farm PRESENTS ... 12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best

1.    Mowing 
The best height to keep grass for our area is 2-1/2 to 3 inches high. Mow when the grass grows out ½ to ¾ inch.

  • BONUSCLICK HERE for Purdue Extension’s free publication on Mowing, Thatching, Aerifying, and Rolling Turf …
  • EXTRA BONUS: CLICK HERE for The Lawn Institute’s guidelines on Mowing

2.    Fertilizing (and Liming)
The first rule of fertilizing is to read the label of the product you are using.  Two more important factors to consider when fertilizing your lawn are HOW MUCH and WHEN to apply.

Experts recommend an ANNUAL TOTAL 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet throughout each growing season for most established full-sun lawns (Kentucky bluegrass; Kentucky bluegrass mixed with perennial ryegrass and/or fine fescue) in Michiana. Ideally, your annual total of nitrogen should be split into 2-5 applications, with each single application of nitrogen being about 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft.  For established shade lawns, about half as much nitrogen is suggested.

On the flipside, how often you fertilize affects not only lawn appearance, but also its maintenance level. The more often you fertilize, the more you’ll have to mow, for instance.

About applying lime … Red Hen Turf Farm does NOT recommend that you blindly follow this annual ritual unless you have done a recent soil test that indicates you need to adjust your soil pH.   While lot of so-called “experts” recommend lime (especially in the fall) as a way of adjusting the pH of your soil to make it less acidic, we don’t agree with this advice.  The idea behind liming your lawn is that you are trying to raise the soil pH near neutral to increase the availability of most plant nutrients.  While proper soil pH is necessary to achieve a healthy, attractive lawn, most Indiana soils under turfgrass do not need liming. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  At Red Hen Turf Farm, we feel that the reality is that every single lawn has its own unique needs, so we recommend that you do a soil test every 3 years. If you use our soil testing procedures, we’ll provide you with a kit that you’ll mail to a certified lab.  The cost is $25 for a single sample, and $10 for each additional sample. The results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms, using this
information as an important piece of the puzzle for us to create a Customized Fertilizer Program, designed just for you

  • BONUS:  Learn how Red Hen Turf Farm can help you get your soil tested AND help design YOUR Customized Fertilizer Program by CLICKING HERE … And, Yes, we do sell high quality Fertilizer, and people seem to love the results, especially at our competitive prices Here’s our 2019 Price List.

3.    Watering 
Very few people who have an “automatic” sprinkler system water turf properly. Most end up over-watering! You should water when the soil is dry to a depth of 4 inches and then water long enough to wet the soil 4 inches deep. Looking at the soil is the best way to tell how moist it is. Invest in a soil probe! Avoid watering in the late afternoon or early evening.

  • BONUS: Check out Purdue Extension’s free publication, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns” by CLICKING HERE
  • EXTRA BONUS: CLICK HERE for The Lawn Institute’s guidelines on why you may want to consider letting your grass go dormant during periods of drought or more extreme heat, such as what’s typical in late July / early August in the NW Indiana / surrounding regions.

4.    Shade 
There is no grass that likes shade. Turf is poor in shade for two reasons:

  • One is lack of quality and quantity of sunlight present and
  • The other is reduced air movement that keeps sun or wind from drying wet leaves.

Lessen shade and increase air flow for better grass. You can have either healthy grass or shade, not both…

  • BONUS: Learn more about trying to grow Grass in Shade via our website by CLICKING HERE

5.    Grubs
Most people are caught up in the hype of killing every grub. The truth is that most grubs do VERY LITTLE HARM, and it’s completely normal to have SOME grubs in your lawn … in fact, all lawns have grubs! It takes 5 or more per square foot to cause problems. Protect the environment and save some $$ by eliminating or reduce the size of preventative applications. If you are sure you have “grub problem,” there are a number of pesticides with varying efficacy depending on when you apply them.  For example, we currently carry a combination fertilizer / grub control product – 15-0-3 PLUS IMI  (“PLUS IMI” means that the 15-0-3 fertilizer has an added chemical called “Imidacloprid,” a widely used and powerful insecticide that can also affect non-targeted beneficial insects.)  We carry the 15-0-3 as well as a granular insecticide without a fertilizer “built in” called Dylox 6.2.

  • BONUS:  CLICK HERE to read our previous blog post on the topic of Grubs … especially if you think you might have a true “grub problem”, including the times of the year that are most effective for treating the affected area.
Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension's "New White Grub Pests of Indiana"

Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension’s “New White Grub Pests of Indiana”

6.    Moles 
The primary diet of moles is earthworms, not grubs!  Old fashioned traps and gell baits that mimic worms are the only things that work.  Tomcat mole killer is a brand that Purdue Extension recommends.

7.    Thatch 
Thatch is the dark cocoa brown material that is below the green and above the soil. It is created by the death of old plant parts that are below the mowing height. Clippings do not produce thatch! 

How much thatch is ok?  Up to ½ inch of thatch is ideal and greater amounts are bad. Increasing levels of thatch are caused by over applications of fertilizer and water.Multiple passes (8 or more) with a core aerifier in September for a 2 or more years along with management changes can reduce thatch.

8.    Dog spots 
Pick up the feces and for urine, dump some water on the spot if you observe the act. Re-seed or sod as there is no resistant grass for this area. Despite what you may have heard, we, along with Dr. Steve Thompson, DVM, Director of Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Wellness Clinic, do not recommend changing your dog’s diet without consulting your own vet first. It is either dogs or turf!

  • BONUS: Read Dr. Thompson’s article, “Dog-Gone-It Lawn Problems!” by CLICKING HERE

9.    Weed control 
The best way to prevent weeds is to have thick turf that is mowed high and not over-watered. Grass will out-compete most weeds. By the way … moss is not an invading weed. Moss likes shade and tends to occur where turf is then (and thin turf usually ALSO accompanies shade conditions). You can’t fight Mother Nature, so the reality is that you will usually need to just live with the moss, or even give up on grass and install ornamental beds with shade loving plants. Another option is to cut down the trees to allow the grass to thrive, and you can read our website link on “Grass in Shade” to learn more.

10.    Crabgrass 
The best crabgrass preventer is to mow high and manage the turf so it is thick. TV adds scare people into applying outrageous amounts of herbicides that may not not needed! If you continually have a crabgrass problem, make a first application of a preventative herbicide in mid-April/early May, and a second application in late June. Red Hen carries Award-brand Fertilizer + Crabgrass Preventer … Here’s our 2018 Price List.

11.    Disease                           
Lawns that are mowed, watered, and fertilized properly have the fewest diseases. Disease outbreaks are the result of a combination of factors occurring at the same time. These factors include the presence of the pathogen, the status and vulnerability of the turf, and certain prevailing environmental conditions.  A prolonged period of hot, humid weather can cause occasional non-fatal outbreaks. The genetics of your grass play an important role in disease control. For example, newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (such as the ones that Red Hen Turf Farm uses in our 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod) have greater overall resistance compared to fescues, ryegrasses and old bluegrass varieties. 

To effectively control a lawn disease, first you need to accurately diagnose the problem  – BUT lawn diseases are hard to identify because the pathogens are typically microscopic.  Diagnosing lawn diseases is both an ART and a SCIENCE that requires a systematic approach. What we are able to observe is usually the RESULT of an infection, and not the pathogens themselves. In other words, if you are seeing patches of discoloration in your lawn, you could be seeing the RESULT of a lawn disease caused by a microscopic pathogen.  Another challenge to diagnosing the problem is TIME – if you can recognize the initial stages of the outbreak, this will greatly increase the likelihood that you can treat it and your lawn will recover.

If you decide to start applying chemicals to your lawn without first confirming what the disease is, this can be expensive decision and can actually cause more problems.  If you think you are seeing signs of disease in your lawn, we would recommend limiting yourself to scientific research-based resources.  Specifically, for this part of  mid-west Indiana, we endorse the following:

12.    Finding Reliable Answers                      
As we have already touched on, we feel that Googling random website or following word-of-mouth advice are not reliable ways of getting lawn care information.  Everyday, we talk to customers that have been following certain lawn practices their entire lives … and so often it turns out they were mis-informed.

There are so many “urban myths” out there, especially when it comes to the 11 topics discussed above.  If you’re ready to make sure that the information you know is based on science and research, you’d be best off limiting your resources to:

  • Purdue Extension / Department of Agronomy (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location) – Online at www.agry.purdue.edu/turf
  • Michigan State University Extension (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location)  – Online at www.msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/home_lawns
  • The Lawn Institute – While this site is not regionally-based, in 1955, The Lawn Institute was created as a not-for-profit corporation to assist and encourage through research and education the improvement of lawns and sports turf. Since then, the Institute has been one of the most respected authorities in the world among turf professionals and scientists for monitoring, reporting, and interpreting the latest advances in turfgrass research, landscape horticulture, and agronomic science. – Online at www.thelawninstitute.org
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s website (our info is derived from Purdue / MSU Extension and other reliable sources, including decades of experience) – Online at www.redhenturf.com
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s Customer Service Crew, especially Turf Operations Manager, Jeremy Cooper … our contact info is below!

CONTACT US

RED HEN TURF FARM is located at 29435 Darden Rd, New Carlisle IN – CHECK OUT OUR GOOGLE LANDING PAGE – WE’D LOVE TO GET A REVIEW FROM YOU WHILE YOU’RE THERE – HERE’s THE LINK
Phone
: 574-232-6811
Emailturf@redhenturf.com
Webwww.redhenturf.com

GET UPDATES when we publish new blog articles and share other helpful, timely tips SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR EMAIL INBOX – It’s Easy to Subscribe to Red Hen’s E-Newsletter by CLICKING HERE

Red Hen Turf Farm – The Best Turf on Earth!  We grow & sell KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD HARVESTED FARM-FRESH ON DEMAND in Northern Indiana, along with GRASS SEED, FERTILIZER, WEED CONTROL PRODUCTS & MORE to homeowners, landscapers, contractors, garden centers alike

Originally posted 6/6/14, Updated 5/12/17, Updated 4/17/18
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