It is common knowledge that the best time to fertilize your lawn is during the spring. But the reason for this is not widely known. It is actually because of the soil temperature, which is increasing during the seasonal change. You will be able to notice this visually as certain lilacs around your home will blossom and the grass begins to, seemingly, spring back into life once more. At this time, this means that the first grass-feeding can be applied, which is usually around mid-April.
To help you to get the most out of your lawn and to learn more about the quick and easy fertilization process, Best of Tools have put together this article to assist you, combined with information from Jeff Turnbull, who is an expert in lawns and is the president of the LCS Lawn Service.
Getting Good at Numbers
If you have ever bought fertilizers, and chances are if you are concerned about your lawn and its health, then you will have done, you may have noticed that there are numbers of the side of your fertilizers container. These numbers are actually percentages and illustrate the amount of three vital nutrients that your grass needs in order to flourish. Nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium are the three most vital nutrients for the grass.
An average fertilizer bag is known as a 20-5-10 bag. It sounds complex, but actually, it is incredibly simple. What this means is that there is 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphate and 10% potassium within the fertilizer you are using. The 65% remaining (in this case) is made up of filler for the even application of fertile covering when you feed your lawn. In the spring, when your grass is “waking up,” this mix of 20-5-10 is the ideal fertilizer solution.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Choosing to apply slow-release fertilizer has multiple benefits, not only for your lawn but for you, as well.
It enables you to go longer periods of time without having to fertilize your lawn again. Not only does this free up more time for you to do other things around your home and garden, but it also cuts down the cost of having to use more fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizer actually enables you to go twice the length of time between grass feeds, although this is dependent on the amount of water that your grass receives during this period.
Turnbull recommends that you use slow-release fertilizers for your lawn that contain lower levels of nitrogen. This is because nitrogen promotes the green color of your grass, and if you add more than 0.1 pounds of nitrogen each week, it is a waste of time, money and effort, as you grass cannot physically get any greener through being fed more nitrogen.
The only thing that is going to happen with the additional nitrogen is that your grass will grow at an increased rate. This will just be an inconvenience to you, as you will be required to mow it much more frequently to keep in under control and healthy. Turnbull also states that the healthiest grass is the slower-growing grass, so huge amounts of nitrogen are detrimental.
Using the example of a 25-0-4 bag of fertilizer, this equates to 0.25 pounds of fertilizer every week, not 0.1 pounds, as recommended. This is going to wreck your lawn, not fertilize it, and will lead only to hay baling, not grass mowing in the not too distant future.
For the majority of us, fertilizing the lawn is not something we do every day unless you are a landscaped gardener or something of that ilk. If you are, then you will have the knowledge and the experience to use spray fertilizer and the process will be rapid – but you know how to take external factors into consideration.
The rest of us who don’t do this every day is much safer using fertilizer granules. The reason behind this is that it is much easier to apply in this manner, you will get much better coverage, and your grass will not be at such high risk from anything going wrong. You are able to remain in firm control of granule fertilizer, which allows you to be impressively accurate during your application, unlike the method of spraying, which can be inconsistent and uneven.
Five is the Magic Number
Five feeds are the recommended number of feeds throughout the year that you should fertilize your grass with for optimum health, growth, and greenness.
The first can be applied in mid to late April when the soil temperature has risen to around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. As previously mentioned, you can visibly see that the temperature is perfect for your first fertilizer application when the lilacs around you spring into action. Alternatively, your local university extension office always has a precise and reliable soil temperature at hand, which you could use.
Around one month later, apply your second fertilizer application, which would usually be around mid-May time. After this, continue to apply your chosen fertilizer every 1.5 to 2 months until October hits.
When you feed your grass for the third time in the year, change from the traditional style of fertilizer to organic matter instead. You must also keep in mind that your grass needs to be fed during autumn, too, because this is when the roots are lowering into the soil. It is also still growing during this season. Due to these two processes occurring, the use of fertilizer is more vital during the fall than at any other time of the year. To help your grass during this time, increase the percentage of phosphorus and potassium intake so as to increase the healthy root growth.
Water of Life
It is believed by some people that if you water your grass a lot, you won’t need to fertilize it very much. Actually, this is quite the opposite. With water comes life, and by this, we mean that your grass will grow a lot faster, so will require more nutrients to be able to keep up with the growth rates. Due to this, it will require you to fertilize it more frequently.
Don’t go over the top – this just means that you will need to fertilize your lawn around every six weeks if it gets regularly watered. If you don’t regularly water it or don’t have a sprinkler system, then leaving your lawn for two months between fertilization cycles is absolutely fine.
When you buy fertilizer, especially one you may not have used before, check to see whether your lawn needs to be water prior to or post-fertilization. Some granules need water to be broken down, whereas others need to soak into a pre-watered lawn.
Tips for Fertilizing
If you are able to fill your spreader up off the lawn area, then this is recommended, although we know that it is not always possible. If you do not have an area away from the grass where you can fill up your spreader, make sure that you put something down underneath the spreader to catch any granules which may escape during loading. If a large dose of fertilizer lands in one place, it will burn the grass in that area and kill it.
Before you start filling your spreader, be sure to check that the hopper is closed so that the granules do not just run straight through.
Always choose a broadcast spreader over a drop spreader. They are easier to use and spread granules in a wider radius, so there’s less room for error, less chance of overlap, and fewer patches that can be missed out across your lawn. Broadcast spreaders are also cheaper.
If you have a thin or small grassed area, purchase a handheld broadcast spreader.
When you are spreading fertilizer, no matter what type of spreader you are using, you must remember to walk at a steady pace to apply a consistent amount of fertilizer to the entirety of your lawn.
How to Apply your Fertilizer
Turnbull states that fertilizer should be applied half as liberally than what is stated on the application labels on fertilizer bags. Whatever is recommended, half it!
Begin the fertilization process by applying the granules to the perimeter of your lawn, then fill in the remaining area working in one direction only. Then spread for a second time but in a perpendicular motion for the best coverage. Remember, less fertilizer is better for your lawn than too much. Not only will excessive fertilizer burn and kill your grass, but it will also cost you a fortune each year.
As you are applying half of the recommended quantity of fertilizer, the outreach will not be huge. Use the tracks on the spreader to guide you in an even coverage of the entirety of your lawn.
Remember to check the weather forecast before you fertilize your grass. If it’s going to rain, don’t apply your fertilizer, as the majority of it will simply be washed away.
Clear Up Thoroughly
You may have been very careful when you loaded your fertilizer spreader but there will be granules that have escaped. Your spreader is also very likely to have spat out some granules as you have guided it around your lawn, which will no doubt have ended up on your drive, pathway, or seating area.
Once you have finished fertilizing your lawn, it is imperative that you sweep away the stray granules of fertilizer. Do not leave this for the rain to wash away for you, as this is hugely detrimental to the environment, ending up in the rivers, lakes, and streams in your area and polluting them all.
When you have finished your lawn fertilization for that period of time, be sure to clear up and store your fertilizer correctly. To do this, empty your spreader of any leftover fertilizer and tightly seal the contents in their original packaging. These will need to be stored in a cool, dry place, ready for their next use, and must not be within reach of pets or children. We don’t want any unnecessary accidents to occur that we could easily have prevented.