LOADS of TIPS for Proper Annual Fertilizing of Your RED HEN TURF FARM Sodded Yard

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Grass synonyms

A properly fertilized lawn can more easily outcompete weeds and disease issues and will be more resistant to diseases and insects. But what does “properly fertilized” mean?

For one thing, it means that you’re applying your fertilizer at the proper rate, using an appropriate nutrient source, and your timing of the application is appropriate.

Much of the following refers to the Experts at Purdue University’s Turfgrass Science Department’s guide on “Responsible Fertilization of Home Lawns” (HERE) and a few other science-based resources like THIS PURDUE FERTILIZING GUIDE… These tips should be helpful:

  • Every year offers new challenges that Mother Nature throws at us, and every yard has a unique turfgrass profile, soil profile, and lawncare history. All of these things can affect how you may want to approach your plan for fertilizing your lawn throughout the year.
  • Different types of grass will require different amounts of fertilizer annually. For this article, we’ll focus on Kentucky Bluegrass and Turf-type Tall Fescue grasses, since those are the types of sod Red Hen Turf Farm currently grows and sells.
  • THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL: ALWAYS READ YOUR LABELS on all products you use on your lawn. This includes following the label’s recommend rates for the best and safest results.
  • The 3 numbers you typically see on the front of a bag of fertilizer are N-P-K, or Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium. Here’s a good article Red Hen has written that talks more about this topic.
  • A healthy, thriving lawn is one that can out-compete weeds and disease issues. Generally speaking, it will be a lawn that is mowed right, watered right, and fertilized right (among a few other practices that lawn care professionals may refer to as “cultural practices.”)
    • Your essential tools for a beautiful, healthy, turfgrass lawn will need to include proper cultural practices.
    • “Primary cultural practices” might be necessary from time-to-time and include things like mowing, fertilization and irrigation.
    • “Secondary cultural practices” include cultivation (aka growing new grass when needed), topdressing, inter-seeding / over-seeding, pest management, and knowledge of the turfgrass disease triangle.
  • Mowing properly before fertilizing is a good idea.
    • Optimum height for Kentucky Bluegrass is 2.0 -3.5 inches, and for Tall Fescue it’s 2.5 – 4.0 inches.
    • In general, with frequent mowing of your lawn, it’s a great idea to return your clippings to your lawn versus bagging for many reasons, including the fact that clippings give your lawn “Free Nitrogen” (read more about this HERE).
    • Be sure to use a sharp blade.
    • Learn more about proper mowing using THIS LINK from Purdue.
  • Aim to apply fertilizer when the grass can best use it.
    • In other words, according to science, if you’re going to skip any applications, don’t skip your fall (Sept. – Nov.) applications because when the nitrogen in fertilizer is applied in the fall it will promote good root development and most of the benefits will be seen into the next spring so you will see earlier green-up, thicker lawn and better tolerance toward some diseases..
    • May/June after the spring growth flush is also a time where the grass can best use what you apply.
  • Consider how much fertilizer should be applied ANNUALLY for the healthiest possible lawn.
    • For example, a well-maintained Kentucky Bluegrass lawn will typically need 3.5 to 4.0 lbs of Nitrogen per every1000 sq ft over the course of a full year.
      • Generally, with Kentucky Bluegrass, this means you want to fertilize around 4-5 times annually, considering your rates for each application versus the total amount of Nitrogen you should apply annually.
    • On the other hand, Tall Fescue will only need more like 2-3 lbs of Nitrogen per every1000 sq ft over the course of a full year.
      • Generally, with Tall Fescue this means you want to fertilize around 1-3 times annually, considering your rates for each application versus the total amount of Nitrogen you should apply annually.
    • If you reduce that overall amount of fertilizer you apply by even 10 to 30%, it may or may not dramatically affect the appearance or performance of your turfgrass. Only time will tell – and soil types can play into this. If you have a very mature lawn where you’ve regularly returned your clippings, you may find that your lawn could still perform well with 25-50% less nitrogen / fertilizer product overall.
  • Get a soil test! It’s the only way to truly know if nutrients like phosphorus or potassium are lacking in your lawn. Red Hen Turf Farm can help you with this process – read more HERE.
  • Your Soil type and pH will also affect how well your grass will be able to use the fertilizer you apply.
    • A well-balanced silt-loam soil, versus a very sandy or clay-heavy soil, will tend to allow your grass to be able to use more of the fertilizer product.
    • Grass that is grown on a very sandy soil, or a very heavy clay soil, will need more fertilizer annually.
    • Soil type and pH tend to largely effect the amount of phosphorus and potassium that needs to be applied.
  • Unless you are doing a new sodding or seeding, select fertilizer products that are designed specifically for established lawns.
    • For an established lawn, avoid using starter fertilizers as your “go-to” product. Starter fertilizers usually have an analysis with all 3 numbers in the “teens” like 12-12-12 or 10-10-10.
    • IN FACT, an established lawn does NOT need the middle number on a fertilizer bag (which is phosphorus). In some states it’s actually illegal to apply phosphorus to a lawn, unless you are doing a new sodding or seeding
    • Indiana soils generally already contain plenty of phosphorus, but a soil test will confirm any need to add additional phosphorus on a case-by-case basis.
Red Hen carries a variety of Fertilizer Products. We would be happy to help you select what is best for your lawncare program.
  • If your fertilizer spreader is not putting down what you think it is, this can become a problem. Even if you use the settings on your dial, maybe they are not putting out the correct amount of fertilizer for various reasons. For this reason, it is best to periodically calibrate your spreader. That way, you know that you are applying the proper amount of fertilizer, and and that you are applying the product uniformly.
  • If you plan to use our products, since we are very familiar with the N-P-K they contain and the recommended rates, Red Hen can help you create an annual fertilizer plan – just ask!
    • Learning to properly maintain your lawn by using sound, proven cultural practices is a gradual process that can take few years to get a good handle on.
    • It’s good to know who you can contact to confirm whether you’re understanding things correctly and to get a second opinion that is based on science and facts.
    • If you’re in the northwest Indiana / southwest Michigan area, Red Hen Turf Farm is a phone call away for lawncare advice, along with turfgrass sod, grass seed, fertilizer, and MORE – 574-232-6811 is the number to call.

IMAGE SOURCE: Purdue University article “Horticulture professor shares essential advice for a healthy lawn” via https://ag.purdue.edu/stories/horticulture-professor-shares-essential-advice-for-a-healthy-lawn/

MORE TRUSTWORTHY LINKS that are Fact and Science-Based and focused on our Region of the United States (Northwest Indiana / Southwest Michigan):

  • CLICK HERE for Additional Red Hen Blog articles that talk about different aspects of fertilizing lawns
  • CLICK HERE for the lawncare experts at Purdue’s wonderful selection of resources on home lawncare, including a number of articles that discuss fertilizer
  • CLICK HERE for lawncare experts at Michigan State University’s guides on home lawncare, including a number of resources that discuss fertilizer
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