Tip #2 (of 3)
– The Best Time to FERTILIZE Your SOIL is
When your GRASS ROOTS are ACTIVELY GROWING –
“If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it’s because they take better care of it.” – Cecil Selig
Lend 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: http://www.american-lawns.com/
Image Source: http://www.american-lawns.com/grasses/grasses.html
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.
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
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)”
…and… COMING SOON
PART 3 OF 3 (sort of)
The Window for a Fall Grass Seed Planting Will Be Here and Gone Before You Know It!