Straight from Red Hen’s FAQ Vault … Doing Off-Seasons the RIGHT WAY at Red Hen Turf Farm

PHOTO: One of Jeremy's To-Do Lists

One of Jeremy’s To-Do Lists

Here’s a question we hear A LOT once winter has taken hold of the Michiana area and we throw in the towel as far as harvesting sod is concerned …


Here’s what JEREMY has to say about some of the ways that he spends his off-season time:

PHOTO: Jeremy Cooper, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

I’m actually amazed at how many times we are asked this question. But, it’s a common conundrum for “green industry” professionals … how to make the most out of any off-season downtime that you might have?

Some days, we wish the answer could be, “Well, we HIBERNATE, of course!” but in many ways, Red Hen’s off-season is just about as busy as our sod-production season

Yes, some of our seasonal employees are laid off until early March, but on a daily basis we still have 8 employees working full-time …

 Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours ... That's a lot of hours!

Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours … That’s a lot of hours!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

@ 1:15 p.m.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I am leaving my house to car pool with Rick Glassman, the Environmental Education Coordinator from the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and some of my fellow SWCD Supervisors.

Screenshot - About the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District

Learn more at

The St. Joseph County SWCD is one of the community organizations that I volunteer for. Every January, a few Supervisors from the SWCD go down to Indianapolis to attend the Annual Meeting for the Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD). We Supervisors also take advantage of being in Indy by paying a visit to the State House to speak to our District’s elected officials. We give them our annual legislative presentation materials that highlights all the work that the SWCD does for St. Joseph County, and how the SWCD’s funds (including tax dollars) are put to good use.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

@ 1:00 p.m.

I am heading for home after a whirlwind of meetings with our state legislators and attending a few sessions at the IASWCD Conference.  It’s been a real success.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I am working from Red Hen’s office today.  I’m going through our website ( ONE MORE TIME to catch everything that will need updated for the 2015 season.  I’ve got a meeting in 2 days with our web designer, and there’s plenty of editing that will need to be done.

I also plan out another Indianapolis trip that Lisa (our Office Manager) and I will be taking next week. We’ll be attending the annual Indiana Green Expo, Indiana’s most comprehensive green industry educational conference and trade show. I am also contacting some of our landscaper customers who will be attending Indiana Green with Lisa and I.  Our goal at Indiana Green will be to get some valuable training, and to check out the trade show and the Landscape Challenge. Some of the sessions that Lisa and I are thinking about attending include:

  • The Future of Lawn Care in the Midwest
  • Are You Wasting Money by Wasting Pesticides?
  • Invasive Species and the Green Industry – A Panel Discussion
  • Show Off Your Professionalism: How Do Your Customers Perceive Your Business?
  • How to Implement a Social Media Strategy

@ 3:30 p.m.

I arrive at a meeting in downtown South Bend to discuss the 2015 season with the regional manager for sod distribution to Home Depot and Lowes.

@ 10:30 p.m.

I arrive home for the evening.  Yes, that was a LONG but PRODUCTIVE meeting.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

@ 7:00 a.m.

Bright and early, I arrive at my first-ever South Bend BNI meeting. I only recently learned that on almost every Thursday morning, this eclectic mix of business professionals meet for an hour or so at the Morris Park Country Club.   BNI (or Business Network International) is a global network with local chapters. BNI’s mission is to provide its 150,000 world-wide members with tools to “increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional “word-of-mouth” program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.”   The weekly meetings include a 10-minute presentation by a featured speaker, dates for upcoming training opportunities, and more.

I was given the chance to introduce Red Hen Turf Farm to 50+ great people and then learn about each of their companies.  I hope to attend a few more BNI sessions before our sod season kicks in, and have a feeling I won’t be able to make it too many times between March and November.  These are short meetings and not too far away, so who knows?

Maybe you’re curious if your business would benefit from BNI membership?  Check out BNI’s Why BNI? webpage for a better idea of what to expect.

@ 9:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen Turf Farm’s WORLD HEADQUARTER (haha!).  As soon as I get inside the door, I’m sitting back down with our web designer to go over Red Hen’s website plans.   

@ 1:00 p.m.

After the past few months of working on the early stages of a customized software project, we are meeting with the project manager from the company we’ve hired to design our “Turf Tracker” / CRM database / communication hub.  This is one of those projects where I’m contributing as part of a team, but our office manager, Lisa, is leading the effort.  We’re really excited about a soft launch possibly as early as the start of our spring season.  Our goal is to be able to provide better service to our customers, and being able to access and communicate information more efficiently is the key.

Friday, January 16, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen’s office and the phone rings.  The caller is asking about shade-tolerant sod, and we discuss some options.   Afterwards, I spend some time doing a little “team building” by catching up with my co-workers who I haven’t seen much of this week.

PHOTO:  Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

@ 10:30 a.m.

Lisa and I are visited by two representatives from South Bend’s WorkOne office.  They give us more information about Indiana’s Operation: Job Ready Veterans program.  We are beginning the process of possibly employing veterans for a few positions within the next few weeks.  I’ve got some work to do to make sure we are fully staffed by early March.

During this meeting with WorkOne, we have a surprise visitor — the newest Red Hen team member who was born this past Sunday – Baby Boy Rhett Millar!  Congratulations to our owner, Gordon, and his wife, Casey!

@ 12:00 p.m.

The remainder of my Friday is filled with more marketing-related preparations.  I even get to check a few things off of my To-Do list.


@ 2:30 p.m.

After a long, productive, week, I decide to leave work an hour and a half early.  Next week is looking to be a busy one, too!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

And last but not least, I’ll throw the question back your way …


We welcome you to answer by leaving a comment or by sending us an email at

Until next time,

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm




The Window for a Fall Grass Seed Planting Will Be Here and Gone Before You Know It!


NOTE:  The post below was published a few years ago.  FOR OUR 2018 UPDATE, CHECK OUT THIS LINK:

This post was originally envisioned as Tip #3 in a 3 Part Series on Late Spring / Early Summer Lawn Care, but here is it August already!  

Do you agree that this SUMMER is FLYING by?  

At any rate, it’s pretty typical for us to get calls about Grass Seed, which we DO SELL in addition to our 100% Kentucky Blue Grass sod and many other lawn care products (including fertilizer).

Red Hen Turf Farm - Grass Seed


You might be surprised to learn that there are certain times of the year that are better to plant grass seed than others.

The BEST TIME to plant Cool Season Grass Seed is in the LATE SUMMER / EARLY FALL.

Specifically, in the northern-third Indiana, August 15th through September 15th is the ideal time period to plant Cool Season Grasses.

Why is this?   Well, according to Purdue turf expert, Zac Reicher, planting turf grass seed in northern Indiana within this late-summer / August 15th – September 15th window offers several advantages:

  • Air and soil temperatures are more moderate, which improves seed GERMINATION.
  • It typically rains more frequently, which helps reduce (but may not eliminate) extra watering … this also improves your chances for successful seed GERMINATION.
  • Grass seedlings face fewer pests than they do in the spring or the hottest parts of summer, again improving GERMINATION.




New grass seedlings have poorly developed root systems, which means they cannot effectively absorb nutrients from the soil.

For this reason, it is important to WATER and FERTILIZE PROPERLY after seeding to encourage germination and establishment.  

  • Fertilizer Application #1 – Do this right after planting your grass seed.   We recommend using 12-12-12 (or another starter fertilizer).  The rate of application will depend on the species of grass you are planting.  You should also water 2-3 Times each day while the seeds are in the process of germinating.  Apply enough water to keep the soil moistened. When you see the new grass plants (seedlings), you may reduce the number of times you water.
  • Fertilizer Application #2 –  4-6 weeks after planting (depending on the type of grass seed you’ve planted).  Use some more of the starter fertilizer that you applied in the first application.  Again, the rate of application will depend on what kind of grass you’ve planted.  Continue to water as needed to prevent the soil from drying out. However, be careful that you do not keep the soil saturated, leaving your new grass vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Fertilizer Application #3 – Do this 4-5 Weeks after your 2nd Application (once again depending on the type of grass seed you’ve planted). Our 25-0-10 fertilizer would be perfect for this 3rd Application. Or, for the 3rd Application, you could apply a broad leaf herbicide if needed to control broadleaf weeds (such as our 22-0-5+Trimec+Iron). On the other hand, if you’re dealing with grassy weeds, they are difficult to kill with herbicides, so proper mowing is your best choice for controlling them.


Here at Red Hen Turf Farm, we sell several varieties of grass seed by the pound, which is handy whether you have a very small or very large area to plant.  Contact us for prices and recommendations based on your specific needs and goals.  Some of your choices include:

100% Kentucky Bluegrass Seed … 

This seed will match our most current varieties of sod in production. Seed can be used to patch small areas in existing sod or seeding a large area next to sod. This seed takes 21 days to germinate and will be very slow to fill in. This seed will require some extra attention to establish, but it exhibits the same deep green color and disease resistance that Red Hen’s sod does.

Greenskeeper Custom Mix Seed … 

Works well in full sun and light amounts of shard.  This variety contains 3 types of grass seeds and each type will germinate at a different time.

Premium Shade Mix Seed …

While no grass loves shade, this blend has varieties that exhibit better growth habits in partially shaded areas. For more information, visit the “Grass In Shade” section of our website.

Other Varieties of Grass Seeds …

We also sell Dry Spell Tall Fescue and Annual Rye.  What’s more, we can get the seed you need. Just let us know the seed specifications you have and we will do what we can to get it for you for a reasonable cost.


  • Contact Red Hen Turf Farm … Whether you’re a recent customer, a customer from years or even decades ago, or you’re simply looking for information or pricing, we’re here to help.  What’s more, regardless of whether you end up purchasing anything from us, we genuinely enjoy talking with and educating people.  Give us a call (574-232-6811) or drop us an email (

RELATED BLOG POSTS from Red Hen Turf Farm


Late-Spring/Early Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long – Part 2 of 3


Tip #2 (of 3)

– The Best Time to FERTILIZE Your SOIL is


“If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it’s because they take better care of it.” – Cecil Selig

  NPK RatingsLend Mother Nature a Hand – Mother Nature has her ways of naturally fertilizing your lawn’s soil.  For example, did you know that during lightning storms, nitrogen atoms are released which are then absorbed by the rain, and when the rain hits your lawn, the nitrogen goes into the soil and your lawn is fertilized? There are at least 17 essential nutrients required for plant growth.  Plants get these nutrients from the air, soil and water.

Typically, even with Mother Nature’s best efforts to REPLENISH these nutrients, your lawn still needs help from you to be lush and green.  Commercial fertilizers contains many of the nutrients that nourish your grass as it grows, including the 3 nutrients at are most crucial to plant growth:

  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Phosphorus (P)
  • Potassium (K) 

On bags of store-bought Fertilizer, you always see 3 Numbers that represent the N-P-K Rating.  If you want to learn more about these N-P-K numbers, check out this Wikipedia article.  Basically, each number is the percentage of N-P-K in the fertilizer.

For example, a 50 pound bag of 25-0-10 fertilizer is made up of:

  • 25% Nitrogen (N) … so 12.5 pounds of the bag’s contents is Nitrogen
  • 0% Phosphorus (P)
  • 10% Potassium (K) … so 5 pounds of the bag’s contents is Potassium
  • 65% other materials like fillers, carriers, etc. that help improve the flowability of the fertilizer, make the nutrient analysis possible, or condition the fertilizer to have special traits …
Cool Season Grasses vs. Warm Season Grasses –

There are a multitude of grass varieties, but did you know that they basically fit into 2 categories of grass types … Cool Season type Grasses and Warm Season type Grasses? Each grass type is better suited for either warmer or cooler climates, and is sensitive to factors like air temperature, soil temperature, moisture, and soil type.

Q: What type of Grasses are best suited for the climate here in Indiana?  A: If you guessed Cool Season Grasses, you are CORRECT.

Image Source:

Image Source:

Image Source:

Image Source:

Again, grass (like any plant) needs Nitrogen and other essential nutrients, especially during times of active root growth.  If you fertilize your grass when it’s naturally dormant, you’re wasting fertilizer (and money!) The healthier and more vigorous your lawn is, the better it can hold up to stress from heat, drought, traffic, and pets. Grasses also grow best with a REGULARLY SUPPLIED application of nitrogen and other nutrients, so if you space your fertilizer applications too far apart, then your grass will grow fine for a while, then slow way down, and then speed up again with the next application. An irregular supply of fertilizer leads to uneven growth spurts and actually puts stress on your grass, giving it little competitive ability against weeds and disease. cool v warm season grasses

Fertilizing with Step Programs … Uninformed Customers = Big Money for Lawn Fertilizer Companies  –

Lawn Fertilizer Companies stand to make a lot of money from prescribing 4-Step and 5-Step fertilizer programs that do NOT take into account YOUR GOALS for how “perfect” you want your lawn to look or the UNIQUE NUTRITIONAL NEEDS of your lawn.

Q:  Since every lawn has its own unique history of maintenance, use, and abuse, HOW can you possibly know what nutrients your lawn’s soil is lacking (or has too much of)? A:  Have your soil tested by a certified lab.  At Red Hen Turf Farm, we recommend that you do a soil test for every 10,000 sq. ft. of lawn, every 3 years.  We regularly use A&L Great Lakes Laboratories for our farm fields’ soil testing, and feel confident about recommending them to our customers.  The current cost is $8.35 per each soil sample, plus the cost of shipping the soil test bags to the lab. If you use our Soil Testing Procedures (available by CLICKING HERE), the results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms and work with you to make recommendations for fertilizing your lawn based on its particular nutritional needs.

So, WHAT are your GOALS for your Lawn this year?  Generally, the more pristine you want your lawn to look, the more “steps” or applications of fertilizer you’ll need plan on doing.

Fertilizer burn on a Kentucky bluegrass lawn   - Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips Website

Fertilizer burn on a Kentucky bluegrass lawn – Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips Website

First, it is important to know that if you apply too much Nitrogen at once, you will probably end up burning your grass. To avoid the chemical burn from too much Nitrogen, you’ll want to apply no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet with each application. Also (and please read this sentence ONE MORE TIME): It is very important to read the label on the fertilizer bag. 

My Goal is a Picture-Perfect Lawn (Highest Maintenance – 3 to 5 Steps): 
  • Fertilize your lawn once every 6-8 weeks during its active-growth periods.
  • Generally, this means that each year, you’ll want to apply 3 to 4 pounds of Nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
  • For regular, even feeding of your lawn, break up the yearly requirement of Nitrogen into the appropriate number of applications … For instance, for Cool Season Grasses plan on 1-2 fertilizer applications in the Spring and 2-3 applications in the Fall.


My Goal is a Pretty, But Not-Quite-Perfect Lawn (Lower Maintenance – 2 Steps): 
  • Fertilize once in Spring and once in Fall for Cool Season Grasses and you will still have a pretty nice lawn.
  • A lower-maintenance lawn typically requires 1 to 2 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn per year so, again, break up the yearly requirement of Nitrogen between these 2 applications.


My Goal is to Fertilize as Little as Possible and Still Have a Decent-Looking Lawn (Lowest Maintenance – 1 Step): 
  • Fertilize Cool Season Grasses once a year in the Fall, but remember to apply no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Whichever way you go, here are some tips from Purdue Extension for how to apply your fertilizer, although here at Red Hen Turf Farm, we recommend using a high-quality, properly calibrated Broadcast Spreader (aka Rotary Spreader) rather than hand-held Drop Spreaders (aka Gravity Spreaders) because Drop Spreaders generally take a lot more time to use, and they tend to give you a more consistent spread pattern.

Red Hen Turf Farm … Yep, We Sell Fertilizer, But We Want to Help You Make Informed Decisions Even if You Don’t Buy From Us

So, here we are.  It’s northwestern Indiana in mid-June, and for the majority of homes have Cool Season Grasses to tend to, and you still have time to nourish your lawn with your second (or even your first) late-Spring round of fertilizer.

  • If you’re dealing with dandelions and other broadleaf weeds, you could go with our phosphorus-free 22-0-5 + Trimec Fertilizer (a combination fertilizer / broadleaf week killer + Iron).
  • If you’re looking for a good all-around fertilizer without any weed or pest-control, our 25-0-10 Fertilizer is a good (also phosphorus-free) choice that has an extra boost of Potassium (K).  Potassium helps plants by increasing disease resistance, strengthening cell walls, increasing winter hardiness and drought resistance
  • If you’d prefer a more organic approach, something like Suståne’s Natural Lawn & Landscape Fertilizer might be the way to go.

Not sure where to start?  Having issues with your lawn that you’re not sure how to deal with? Are you ready to take a more informed approach to your lawn care? Contact Red Hen Turf Farm at 574-232-6811, and we’ll be happy to chat with you.  Our current hours are Monday – Friday 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM EST, and Saturday from 7:30 AM – 11:30 AM EST.  

In case you missed Part 1 in this series, check out

“How to Know if You REALLY Have a White Grub Problem (and Chances are, You DON’T)”


PART 3 OF 3 (sort of) 

The Window for a Fall Grass Seed Planting Will Be Here and Gone Before You Know It! 




Late-Spring/Early Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long – Part 1 of 3

Tip #1 (of 3)
– How to Know if You REALLY Have a White Grub Problem
(and Chances are, You DON’T) –

Q: So what are those white grubs, anyhow?

A: Grubs are NOT worms.  White grubs are larvae that will grow into beetles.

There are more than a half-dozen species of beetles that have a grub stage in their life cycle.

In Indiana, the beetles that have a white grub / larva stage in their life cycles include:

  • Japanese beetles
  • Masked chafer beetles (aka June beetles)
  • European chafer beetles
  • Asiatic garden beetles
  • Oriental beetles

Q: My lawn had some grubs this spring. What should I do to kill these horrible insects?

A: 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.

Q:  What do you MEAN, it’s normal for me to have grubs in my lawn?

A. Almost every yard has grubs, and we’ve been hearing that there seem to be more grubs this spring than there have been for the past few spring seasons. 

Most grubs do very little harm. However, most expert entomologists believe that until you reach 5-10 grub larvae per square foot, there are not enough of them in one location to do damage to your lawn, and until you are seeing 5-10 grubs per square foot, there likely is no need to even consider using chemical insecticides to kill them.

(NOTE:  There is not a universally accepted grub damage threshold among the expert scientists who study these beetles and their larvae, but if you read various studies on this topic, the range does seem to fall within 5-10 grubs per square foot.)

In the spring, the grubs that were in the soil last fall move up closer to the soil surface from their over-wintering location down a foot or two in the soil.

While the grubs do some spring-time feeding on grass roots, it’s rarely enough to cause enough damage that you’ll notice the effects on your lawn lawn. After a few weeks of feeding, the weather will warm the soil and the grubs will pupate about 3 to 6 inches from the soil surface.  The pupa will develop into adult beetles in May, June and July  (the timing for when they become adults depends on what kind of beetle they are since different beetles have different life cycles.)

Life Cycle of the Japanese Beetle via the University of Arkansas Turfgrass Science website

Life Cycle of the Japanese Beetle via the University of Arkansas Turfgrass Science website

Lawn insecticides do not work well throughout the pupa or adult stages because the beetles are not doing a lot of feeding during these times.

The adult beetles fly around for miles, so killing off spring grubs will have no effect on how many beetles will fly in from elsewhere to lay eggs.  Again, different beetles lay their eggs at different times of the year.

Q:  But my Lawn Fertilizer Company says I need to kill these grubs in the spring. 

A. Again, the presence of grubs in your lawn is normal, and is typically not harmful at all. 

The real trouble starts when people are flooded with advertisements about grub-killing products that don’t tell the whole story.  Frankly, there are numerous insecticides sold in the spring that claim to give season-long grub control. For most people’s lawns, this just means that you are paying for a season of chemicals on your lawn that are simply not needed.

In fact, some of these chemicals will also kill beneficial insects that make their home in your lawn.

Grubs are not particularly susceptible to pesticides unless they are in a stage when they are feeding actively, so springtime is pretty much the LEAST effective time for white grub control.

In Indiana, the most-damaging grub stage occurs in late summer after eggs hatch and newly hatched grubs are aggressively feeding on turf roots throughout the summer and fall.   Therefore, wait until late-June to early July to apply a grub-control product. This will allow the insecticide to get fully incorporated into the soil to control the new grubs which are just hatching, are closer to the surface, and are more susceptible to the effects of pesticides.

Trying to treat grubs in the spring is pretty much a waste of time and money.

In fact, because, through the eyes of the average homeowner, the chemicals don’t appear to be working with springtime applications, there’s a tendency to over apply the grub-killing products, and that’s when excess chemicals tend run off into our water supplies, causing harm to human health and the environment.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle - Image Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle – Image Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Q:  But if I don’t kill the grubs, won’t they keep multiplying and getting worse?

A. There is no relationship of the number of grubs in your lawn from one year to the next.

If a lot of adult beetles are noticed in July (remember the threshold of 7-10 per square foot), then a treatment in August MIGHT be warranted.  Also, keep in mind that during wet summers, the beetles typically lay their so far apart in the grass that the grubs don’t do harm. On the flip side, during cool summers or very hot summers, grubs die from diseases and drying out, so again, very often treatment is not needed.

Q.  Why does my lawn have grubs, but my neighbor’s lawn seems grub-free?

A. Keep in mind that the adult stage of the grub life cycle is a beetle, and beetles can fly. 

Random chance does play a role in where the beetles lay their eggs. Adult beetles like to lay their eggs in lawns will full-sun and plenty of soil moisture. The masked chafer beetle and Japanese beetle lay eggs in July, so if the weather has been dry but your lawn is watered and surrounded by dry lawns, it is a prime target for egg laying.

Q:  Look, I just don’t like the thought of grubs living in my lawn … I’d rather be safe than sorry.

A. Pesticides are powerful things that should only be used when necessary.   

These chemicals can kill beneficial insects right along with the grubs you are trying to target.  Pesticides can also cause pollution. One thing for sure, the advertising for grub control insecticides has inspired the use of pesticides when they were not needed.

We urge you to consider the information in this post before resorting to using products that promise to make your lawn grub-free.

That said, there are circumstances where treating for grubs may warranted. 

You might consider using a fertilizer with added grub-targeting pesticides, like the 15-0-3+IMI that we sell (+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.)

If you think you might truly have a “grub problem,” contact Red Hen Turf Farm at 574-232-6811, and we’ll be happy to chat with you. 

Our current hours are available HERE – 



Late-Spring/Early Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long  –  Part 2 of 3:

– The Best Time to FERTILIZE Your SOIL is



Low potassium fertilizers, bad for lawns, good for profits.


In 2007, when the price of fertilizers went through the roof, fertilizer manufacturers sought a way to maintain profits in a way that did not cause sticker shock to consumers.  They did this by totally removing phosphorus and drastically reducing the amount of potassium.  Removing phosphorus was good because most soils in Michiana naturally contain enough for lawns, as well as being the responsible environmental thing to do.  Reduced amounts of potassium in fertilizers kept profits up for manufacturers, but has resulted in lawns that range from looking okay at times to lawns having poor color, poor draught tolerance, poor disease resistance, slow recovery from insect damage, and poor spring green up.

Nitrogen, the first number on a bag of fertilizer gets the most attention, because it is the most abundant ingredient and has the quickest, most noticeable response.  Phosphorus is the second number on a bag and is a “0” most often.  Potassium, the last number, is the silent workhorse in a grass plant.  Just as good assistants make the boss look good, soils with enough potassium make a lawn look good.

Experts say the amount of potassium that should be applied varies between one third and one half of the amount of nitrogen depending on soil type.  This means the last number on a bag should be between one third and one half of the first number.  If the first number is about 30, then the last number should be between 10 and 15.  If you look at a bag of the most common, popular fertilizers, the last number is around 3, which means the fertilizer contains only about one third of what the plant needs!  Is it any wonder that some lawns look worse and worse each year as the turf uses up the potassium in the soil?

What can you do?  If you are really fussy about your lawn, have your soil tested to determine potassium levels.  Send it off to a lab because quick strip tests are not accurate.  Red Hen Turf Farm will send a soil testing kit to you upon request.  If the results show low potassium levels, a supplement fertilizer, 0-0-60, can be added to raise levels.  Then make changes in your yearly program by either changing brands or regularly adding the supplement.  Read this article to learn How to Evaluate A Fertilizer Program.

If you like your current fertilizer but it needs more potassium, you can apply a supplement.  0-0-60 fertilizer can usually be bought at garden stores or Red Hen  and should be applied spring and fall in addition to your other fertilizer at the rate of 1 lb. per thousand sq. ft.

If you don’t want the work of making extra applications, you can buy fertilizer that has the recommended amount of potassium.  It is unlikely it will be a popular brand at a box store.  You can try your local garden center or come to Red Hen Turf Farm.  Our fertilizer programs are specially designed to meet the potassium needs of turfgrass.

For more details about potassium and fertilizing, see our links section and Google “potassium for turfgrass.”  Look for articles that discuss the grass species you have, as they will be more appropriate.