A few simple tips for fertilizing your lawn

A few simple tips for fertilizing your lawn

Maintaining a care-free lawn

Unlike deeply rooted perennials, shrubs and trees, grass roots seldom venture far into the soil, which limits their access to nutrients and water buried deep below the soil surface. At the same time, their crowns are constantly growing, producing new leaves.

This rapid growth depletes nutrients that are naturally available in the topsoil, where roots are, so regular fertilizing is necessary to keep the lawn strong, healthy and free of weeds.

  • All grasses crave nitrogen, the nutrient that powers the growth of new leaves.
  • However, too much nitrogen creates a quick flush of green top growth without supplying other nutrients needed for root growth or to support the plants.
  • Grasses perform best when given a slow, steady supply of a fertilizer that contains all three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Such a balanced fertilizer promotes top growth, root development, disease resistance and hardiness.
  • One of the best ways to fertilize the lawn is to use a mulching mower. These rotary mowers pulverize the nitrogen-rich clipped blades into tiny pieces and spread them back into the soil, where organisms break them down to release nutrients.
  • Don't worry about leaving ugly clumps of cut grass on the lawn; clippings from mulching mowers are so small that they sink invisibly between the blades.
  • If you don't have a mulching mower, you can use a regular mower without a bag. If you cut as often as needed to remove no more than one-third of the top growth, the small clippings will disappear.
  • When selecting a commercial fertilizer, look for a formula designed especially for lawns, such as 8-2-2.
  • Stay away from spray-on liquid fertilizers, which supply a blast of nitrogen that is used up quickly or may even run off before plants can access it.
  • A granular fertilizer, especially a timed-release one, is best.
  • Organic fertilizers are preferred not only because they release their nutrients gradually but also because they will not chemically burn grass, or cause it to turn brown, due to an overdose.
  • They also encourage beneficial organisms that break down organic matter in the soil, releasing nutrients in a soluble form that grass roots can absorb.
  • It's important not to fertilize grass too much or too often. Twice a year is usually sufficient, using a fertilizer designed for blade development before plants start their active growth and using one designed for root development before plants go into dormancy.
  • In cold climates, fertilize in spring and fall.
  • In warm climates, fertilize in early and late summer.
  • Read the package directions for recommendations on the proper amount to apply.
  • To ensure even coverage, invest in a drop spreader. This handy piece of equipment has a hopper set between wheels that releases fertilizer in a fixed amount as you roll it over the lawn. It's very easy to use.
  • Most fertilizer packages will tell you how to calibrate the spreader opening to apply exactly the right amount.

Criss-cross lawn fertilizing

To get complete coverage with lawn fertilizer, apply it in a criss-cross pattern on your lawn.

  • Read the package to find out how much fertilizer you need for the size of your yard.
  • Apply half that amount by pushing a loaded drop spreader over the lawn in parallel north-south rows.
  • After, apply the other half while working in an east-west direction.

Fertilizing your lawn is essential for having a beautiful and consistent yard. Be sure to follow these tips when fertilizing to maintain a care-free yard that looks like it was done by a professional landscaper!

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