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Fertilizers are literally plant food additives. Very few soils are fertile enough to supply the nutrients which healthy plants need. The soil in most areas has
become so depleted over the years that fertilizers and other additives must
often be added.
Soil color is deceiving... and does
not indicate soil fertility as the darkest soil may be lacking
in essential nutrients. While lawn grass will survive without
fertilization, it will not look and perform to the
standards most people expect. A healthy, green, lush lawn
is generally a result of a correct fertilization program.
You will find a lot of different opinions among
the experts, about how often and when to fertilize. In
general you should fertilize at the beginning of the growing season when
the type of grass you have (cool or warm season) most actively
grows. For cool season grasses this is in fall and
spring. For warm season grasses the time is late spring as
growth really accelerates.
How often you fertilize also depends on
the intensity of maintenance required. Low maintenance lawns require
less fertilization (cool season - in fall / warm season in spring
and early summer). Medium maintenance lawns usually have one
additional fertilization added to the schedule. For cool
season lawns this is generally in spring and for warm season lawns
a fall application is added. High maintenance lawns are
fertilized on a more precise application schedule during the most active
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Lawn Fertilizers - Cool Season Grasses
Cool Season Grasses - With the exception of
Bermuda and Zoysia (both warm season grasses); grasses in the temperate area
grasses - Fescues, Bluegrasses and Ryegrasses) do well with one
to two light feedings in the early fall to
promote root growth but not heavy enough to promote top growing.
Mid spring feeding will help promote top growth and thicker foliage
development. Never heavily fertilize in the summer or late spring
and do not use a fast acting fertilizer on a cool season grass
late in spring.
Fall feedings are certainly the best, as
it helps the grass to store more carbohydrates which allows your
cool season grass to survive the harsh winter dormancy period and
come out growing strong in the spring.
Fertilizing Warm Season Grasses
Warm Season Grasses - Warm season grasses
grow the most in late spring to early summer. This is the
time that they need the additional nutrients supplied by
fertilizers. A first application in early spring
(when grass starts to green up and frost danger is past) will help
the grass to start growing.
Each grass variety
needs varying amounts of fertilization and nitrogen levels during
the growing season to continue healthy root development and
increased foliage. The amount of fertilizer applied is dependant upon the specific grass variety,
--- see our web page for fertilization
rates. Fertilization rates are also dependant upon soil fertility, the climatic conditions, watering
schedules and the type of fertilizer that will be added.
Due to the growing season
in the south, fertilizers should be applied on a regular basis
wherever lawns stay green all year. In the colder areas of the
south, warm grasses will most likely go dormant, but still need to be fed in
preparation for the spring warm-up. Early spring and early fall
feedings are good times for full fertilization and other
nutrients to be added for a good root system to continue and
develop more intensively in preparation for the stress of the heat
of summer. Do not fertilize warm season grasses in late fall
as this could make the grass more susceptible to cold weather
Summer Lawn Fertilization
Summer Fertilization of warm
season grasses can be
handled during the summer by light applications of fertilizers.
The time-released fertilizers are easy for the homeowner to manage
and will not burn the grass if sufficient rainfall occurs or
systematic watering is available. The level of maintenance
you wish to provide (more fertilizer = more work, more mowing more
disease control monitoring and more water) will determine how many
applications you make to your grass. Higher maintenance
could require monthly applications, but usually in smaller more
precise amounts of nutrients. Do not fertilizer cool season
grasses during the summer.
Soil testing before fall or
spring will give you the edge on the balance of other nutrients
that may need to be added for the healthiest lawn.
Over-fertilization is certainly more harmful than
under-fertilization. The phrase "if a little will do I will
apply more" concept does not apply to a good fertilization
program. Contact your local county extension service about
getting your lawn soil professionally tested. You can check you PH and make
basic soil tests on your own with soil test kits from Seedland -- but a
professional soil test, at least to begin with, is recommended.
Fertilizers - New Lawns - Planting Seed, Sod Or Grass Plugs
Seed plantings require a different
fertilizer analysis content than do established lawns. Seedlings that are germinating need phosphorus and
potassium to build healthy and strong roots. Newly
sodded, sprigged or plugged lawns need to build root growth
also. Nitrogen is used in
the foliage part of the plant. The higher degree of nitrogen can
always be added later but phosphorus and potassium need to be in
the soil from the beginning.
Lawn Starter fertilizers need to be worked
into the seedbed as one of the last steps before planting and
these will contain a balanced blend of the three most necessary
ingredients, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus for a health
beginning. Many more elements are needed besides the main three
and soil tests are conducted for this.
Always avoid the use of any of the weed & feed
fertilizers with new seeding or sodding. These may work great
for spring use on established lawns, but the chemicals used in
these fertilizers can damage or kill your newly planted grass
while it is attempting to establish itself in its new home (your
a beautiful tomorrow!®