When emerging from winter dormancy, your lawn will greatly benefit from an application of fertilizer with no more than 5% nitrogen, but rich with micronutrients such as calcium, sulfur, copper, zinc, magnesium, and predominantly iron. Iron is a major building block of chlorophyll, which is responsible for photosynthesis and is basically the engine of the plant. Iron gives tree leaves and grass blades their rich, green color. Note: iron will react with water and will stain concrete and masonry, so sweep or otherwise remove all fertilizer pellets from hardscape surfaces after application! Continue reading for a detailed explanation and other helpful advice.
The Daffodil are in full bloom and that means the big box stores are aggressively advertising sales on their spring lawn fertilizer. While right now is an optimal time to apply fertilizer to your lawn, use a little caution and take a moment to educate yourself before heading out to the lumber yard or your local garden center.
As you walk the isles the choice and selection can be overwhelming. Not all fertilizers are the same and many can be outright detrimental to your lawn if applied at this time! All fertilizers carry an analysis which indicates the percentages of the three primary plant nutrients, which are nitrogen, phosphate, and potash, and displayed as 5-10-10 (or any combination of numbers relating to how this particular brand of fertilizer was formulated). In this example the bag contains 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphate, and 10% potash.
Nitrogen is major building block of plant cells and is primarily responsible for stimulating growth. The Colorado State University Extension Service
recommends that no more than one pound of nitrogen be applied to lawns per 1,000 square feet at this time of year. Therefore, you should look for a fertilizer with no more than 5% nitrogen for a Spring application (higher is acceptable if available in a slow release formulation). Many of the brands you encounter may contain upwards of 20% nitrogen, and this is potentially harmful for the long-term health of your bluegrass lawn.
If you apply high nitrogen fertilizers to your lawn at this time, you will be amazed at the results. Your winter-brown lawn will green up instantly and you will soon be mowing twice a week to keep up with the rapid growth. By mid-June you may be gazing at your lush lawn quite pleased with your results. However, the intense heat of July and August will bake your stressed-out grass and your lawn will likely burn out, resulting in patchy, weed infested, and browned-out turf.
I think the national brands do this intentionally to sell you more lawn conditioners and weed killers later in the season. You think you’ve done the right thing because you saw great results initially, and the good folks at brand X have all the products you need to keep your lawn healthy and weed free all summer long, right? Please be a responsible steward of your property and heed the following advise for a more sustainable landscape.
When emerging from winter dormancy, your lawn will greatly benefit from an application of fertilizer with no more than 5% nitrogen, but rich with micronutrients such as calcium, sulfur, copper, zinc, magnesium, and predominantly iron. Iron is a major building block of chlorophyll, which is responsible for photosynthesis and is basically the engine of the plant. Iron gives tree leaves and grass blades their rich, green color. Feeding your lawn with iron and micronutrients at this time will result in a greener, more water efficient lawn throughout the summer. Note: iron will react with water and will stain concrete and masonry, so sweep or otherwise remove all fertilizer pellets from hardscape surfaces after application!
One of the most exciting advances in agricultural science is the introduction of live cultures of beneficial bacteria and fungi into our soil for the benefit of agricultural crops and landscape plants. We have long thought of bacteria and fungi as pathogens to be eradicated from our gardens. We are only recently beginning to understand the essential role that beneficial bacteria and fungi contribute to promote a healthy soil ecosystem that supports plant life above ground. These products are now becoming commercially available and I would encourage you to seek them out at your local garden center or nursery and incorporate them into your gardening practices.
With a good spreader fertilizing is perhaps one of the easiest chores that any homeowner can accomplish with the right information. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has a simple guide to help you calculate how much fertilizer to apply in order to achieve 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf: http://www.ncagr.gov/cyber/kidswrld/plant/label.htm
Check back often for other seasonal gardening tips. Thank you for your consideration of Happy Trees and have a great day!