Learn the basics of lawn fertilization you need to know to help you get a healthy beautiful lawn.
When you fertilize your lawn properly, you help your lawn stay healthy, grow thicker and denser, crowd out weeds and achieve that dark green that homeowners crave.
In this article, we will educate you on the basics of lawn fertilization that you should know and link you to more in-depth information on related topics.
If you’re interested in our professional lawn care services in Chicagoland, contact Green T today.
Why should we fertilize our lawns?
You might think that since grass is a natural plant that needs water and sunlight, why do we fertilize it anyway?
Nutrients are beneficial to our grass because of the many stress they receive. Our lawns are not just for show. They are walked on, played on by kids, the playground for baseball and football games, the place where people stand at cookouts, the bathroom for our dogs and receive constant stress from mowing and fluctuations in temperature and watering.
Our lawns may survive on their own, but if you want your lawn to THRIVE, then adding nutrients through fertilization is critical. It helps create the thickest grass that can resist everyday wear and crowd out invading weeds.
Related: Lawn care schedule for Northern Illinois
What are the main nutrients in fertilizer?
Lawn fertilizer contains three main nutrients necessary for growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, phosphorus supports root system and seed growth, and potassium supports overall grass vitality.
What is the difference between organic and manufactured fertilizer?
The two basic kinds of fertilizer you will find in stores are natural and manufactured.
The names really say it all: natural fertilizer is made up of natural organic plant and animal waste products. Manufactured fertilizer is made in a factory from chemically synthesized ingredients.
Natural fertilizer may consist of a variety of substances including decomposed plant matter, manure, compost, bone meal, and cottonseed meal.
Manufactured fertilizer is comprised of minerals and synthetics containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium such as ammonia, urea, nitric acid, and ammonium phosphate.
Amount of fertilizer used is important
Your lawn will usually require somewhere between four and seven applications of fertilizer annually. This may vary depending on the fertilizer, variety of grass and your soil.
At Green T Lawn Care we use a 7 Step Fertilization program from early spring through late fall to fertilize lawns and prevent weeds.
You should always follow the instructions on the fertilizer that you use and make sure that you do not overfertilize your lawn. Overfertilizing your lawn can burn patches of your grass and creates runoff that is bad for the environment.
Related: How often should I fertilize my lawn?
Timing your applications is important
The type and amount of fertilizer you use will vary depending on the time of year.
In spring you need to apply a high nitrogen, slow release fertilizer to help your lawn recover from winter damage.
In fall you need to use a fertilizer blend with slow release, granular fertilization so grass can absorb nutrients as it prepares for winter. Counter to what many believe, fall fertilization is actually more important than spring fertilization because it helps your grass survive winter and restart healthy in spring.
Related: When is the best time to fertilize my lawn?
What do the numbers on fertilizer mean?
When you purchase a fertilizer, you will see there are three numbers on the label These three numbers (Example: 10-10-10 or 20-10-5) represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium in the fertilizer.
A label showing 20-10-5 means the bag of fertilizer will have 20 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate, and 5 percent potassium. The remaining percentage of the bag will be filler material that helps ensure an even application.
20-5-10 mixture is usually a good fertilizer mix for spring.
Types of fertilizer spreaders
Broadcast spreader (rotary spreader) – These are usually best for fertilizing larger or entire lawns.
Drop spreader – Good for controlled fertilizer distribution and usually most popular with suburban homeowners
Handheld spreader – Works well for fertilizing small areas or when different parts of your lawn require different fertilizers ( sunny and shady areas).
Battery powered spreader – Works well on small areas or areas that a hard to use a push spreader on (hilly areas).
Watering when fertilizing
You should water your lawn thoroughly a day or two before applying fertilizer.
After the grass has dried, apply your fertilizer, then lightly water again. The second watering will wash fertilizer off your grass and into soil.
Don’t fertilize before a downpour or your fertilizer may wash away.
Avoid applying fertilizer during a drought when your lawn grass is losing its color or turning brown.
Related: Tips for proper watering
Aerate your lawn before fertilizing
If you are planning to aerate your lawn, do that first before you fertilize. The holes created by your aerator will help water and fertilizer reach the grass roots.
Related: Why aerate your lawn?
Sweep up excess fertilizer
When using a granular fertilizer, sweep up any excess that ends up on your sidewalk or driveway. You could let the rain wash it away but excess fertilizer is not good for the environment.