Fertilizing Your Lawn: The Do's and Dont's

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Keeping your lawn healthy is important. Not only does a healthy lawn look good, but it also helps protect your home from pests and weeds. Fertilizing your lawn is one of the best things you can do to keep it looking lush and green. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to fertilize your lawn and give you some important tips on how to keep it looking great.

What is Lawn Fertilization and Why is it Important?

Lawn fertilizer feeds your grass and is applied to provide the nutrients needed in order for your lawn to be happy and healthy. Fertilizers always contain three main ingredients in this order on the label: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). These three components are the most essential nutrients for any kind of lawn grass. Applying lawn fertilizer promotes healthy grass growth because it replaces the nutrients that naturally deplete from the soil over time. Lawn fertilization is important because it helps your lawn grow greener, lusher, stronger, and more resistant to bugs and diseases. Lawn fertilizer should be applied according to the manufacturer’s directions and should usually be done three to four times per year depending on your goals and what your lawn needs. Whether you get liquid or granular fertilizer, make sure to apply the fertilizer as evenly as possible to ensure fast, even growth.

Types of Fertilizer and What Each One Does

Fertilizer comes in several different types and formulas, but they all have one common goal: to deliver nutrients to plants. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers are one of the most common types of fertilizer, and they can be either organic or synthetic. Nitrogen is essential for healthy, leafy growth, and it helps to promote that vibrant green color we all know and love. Phosphate or phosphorus-rich fertilizers are another common type of fertilizer, and they are often used to encourage blooming/flowering and strong, healthy root growth. Like nitrogen, phosphate can be either organic or synthetic. Potassium-rich fertilizers are another type of fertilizer that is commonly used to promote the overall health of your lawn. Potassium is essential for water retention and disease resistance.

All three of these fertilizer ingredients are important for healthy lawn growth. You should choose your fertilizer based on what your lawn needs which differs based on your geographic location, grass type, and soil properties. When looking for fertilizer, remember to check the N-P-K label for the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content. This label tells you the percentage of those three ingredients by weight, with the most common all-purpose fertilizer being a 10-10-10. This means the fertilizer has 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium, with the remaining ingredients being other nutrients and fillers. An easy way to remember the N-P-K content order is the “up, down and all-around” method. On the label, the first number promotes rapid growth (up), the second number promotes root development (down) and the third number promotes overall grass health (all around).

The Importance of Fertile Soil

The use of healthy soil with traits that benefit the plants in your garden makes for a great investment. We all know soil supports plant life by supplying root systems with a way to absorb nutrients and water from the ground. The biological life within the dirt also plays a crucial role in the health of plants. Microorganisms and insects found in the soil break down organic materials and recycle nutrients into the ground. The characteristics of healthy soil revolve around its ability to perform essential ecosystem functions like absorbing and filtering water, cycling nutrients, and maintaining a healthy bionetwork. All life on earth depends on the soil in one way or another so we should treat it with the respect it deserves.

Elements of Healthy Soil

Fertile soil is all about content and texture. Healthy dirt should have nutrients easily accessible to root systems and a pH of the recommended level for your plants. Essential nutrients for good soil include phosphorous and nitrogen. These elements encourage strong leaf and root growth. Other nutrients such as calcium and magnesium will also contribute to the overall health of your plants. In addition to these minerals, the pH level of the soil should fall within the range appropriate for the plants living in it. This refers to the acid/alkaline levels of the soil. Some vegetation, like blueberries, prefer acidic soil while others, like geraniums, thrive in alkaline rich soil. You can add lime or wood ash to make soil more alkaline while mixing compost or iron sulfate to make it more acidic.

Soil texture also plays an important role in judging soil types. If you aren’t sure about the soil textures, check out our article A Closer Look At Dirt: Understanding Soil Types for more information. Loam soil tends to work well across the board with an even mixture of clay, silt, and sand. Because of the even mixture, the clay contains important nutrients that the plant can easily absorb in the slow-draining soil. As a general rule, dirt that retains nutrients and allows permeation of water and air will benefit your plant life the most. Plants placed in fertile ground with the right sediment content will produce the strongest growth. Other factors such as sun exposure and climate also play an important role in the health of your plants.

How to Prepare Healthy Soil

Adding organic matter to any type of soil will boost its nutritional value. Organic matter of course means decaying plant and animal matter such as compost, manure, or peat moss. This addition of nutrient-rich materials gives plants an additional source of food for healthy growth. Home composting allows you to control what materials you feed to your ground, but you may also purchase compost. We highly recommend composting soil as this largely plant-based organic matter contains minerals easily absorbed by other plants. In the advanced stage of decomposition, compost is dark and without smell. It teems with microorganism activity, which causes soil particles to bind and form aggregates. The aggregates form pockets of air in the dirt and allows for healthy drainage, all of which is a part of a healthy soil system.  

If lacks nutritional value and you don’t have access to compost, you may use inorganic or organic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers, which are manufactured chemically, may be found at your local home improvement store. You apply these fertilizers in either a dry form that you rake lightly at the base of a plant or in a liquid form, which you usually sprayed at the soil line. Inorganic fertilizers come with some disadvantages, the most important being that: 1) they release nutrients faster than ideal, and 2) plants may develop a tolerance over time. This means you would have to apply more and more each application to have an effect. On the other hand, organic fertilizers stay more in tune with nature. Created from the remains or by-product of a living organism, organic fertilizers naturally contain nutrients good for plants. They actively work to enhance the soil as opposed to just “feeding it” like man-made fertilizers.  

When to Fertilize Your Lawn – Spring, Summer, and Early Fall

When it comes to fertilizing your lawn, the timing is everything. Of course, the other important factors to consider are the type of grass you have and what kind of fertilizer you choose to use. The type of fertilizer you use, organic, synthetic, slow-release, or instant, will play a significant role in when you should fertilize your lawn.

Feeding your lawn in the spring is very important because new grass growth flourishes with the nutrients provided by fertilizers. As a general rule, you should fertilize your lawn when at least half of the dormant grass is green again. For most cases, you should apply a slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizer at the start of spring and summer. Summers can be lawn killers because of intense heat, little water, insects, and increased foot traffic. Unless you have cool-season grasses, use a slow-release fertilizer when summer starts to help keep your grass strong all season long.

It is vitally important to fertilize your lawn is in the early fall when the grass begins storing nutrients for the winter unless you have warm-season grasses. Using nitrogen and potassium-rich, slow-release fertilizer before it starts getting too cool will help your lawn stay fed until the upcoming spring.

If you’re using organic fertilizer, it’s best to apply it in early spring and every six to eight weeks afterward. A good rule to follow is fertilizing when your grass is growing the fastest, so you are supporting the natural growth cycle of your grass, whether it’s cool-season grasses or warm-season grasses.

How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer: The Dos and Don’ts

Applying fertilizer to your lawn is an important part of maintaining a healthy and beautiful yard. Here are the basic dos and don’ts on how to fertilize your lawn: 

Always use a spreader when applying fertilizer, whether it’s handheld, broadcast, or a drop spreader. This will help ensure an even distribution of the fertilizer. We suggest using an overlapping pattern when spreading fertilizer by making one complete pass vertically across your lawn and, if needed, a second pass horizontally. Remember to clean your spreader before storing it to reduce dirt and chemical buildup.

Apply fertilizer to dry grass to reduce your chances of leaf or fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn can also be caused by overfertilizing, especially if you use synthetic fertilizers. Leaf burn is characterized by yellow or brown spots that turn into dry, crunchy leaves and are easily spotted as the lawn grass dies and browns.

Be sure to thoroughly water your lawn after fertilizer application. This will help the nutrients reach the roots of the grass and prevent fertilizer burn. If you can, try to plan on fertilizing your lawn on a day that has light, steady rain in the forecast so you can use nature instead of your sprinkler to help nutrients seep into the soil. But beware of heavy rains or your fertilizer will wash away.

Tips for Keeping Your Grass Healthy and Green

Fertilizing your lawn is an important part of keeping it healthy and green. However, it’s also important to know how to care for your lawn after fertilizing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Water regularly. Fertilizer can cause grass to grow more quickly, so it’s important to water regularly to prevent the grass from drying out.
  • Mow regularly. Mowing helps to keep grass healthy by removing dead leaves and blades. It also helps to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Aerate the soil. Aerating the soil helps to improve drainage and prevents compacting. This is especially important if you live in an area with heavy clay soils.

Lawn fertilization is an important part of keeping your lawn healthy and green. The different types of fertilizer each serve a specific purpose, so it’s important to understand what your lawn needs compared to the type of fertilizer you’re using before you begin application. Once you know how much and what kind of fertilizer your lawn needs and when to apply it, the process is relatively simple. Just make sure you use the right tools and follow our tips for keeping your grass looking great after fertilizing. If you need help with lawn fertilization in central Arkansas, give us a call – we would be more than happy to make your lawn amazing.

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