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Turf Tips: Fertilizer

by Nel Newman

When do you fertilize the lawn? Spring and fall? Once in summer? When it looks pale? Get on a regular program, use the products your lawn really needs, and reap the rewards of a better looking, longer-lived lawn. The rule of thumb relies on the kind of grass you're growing. Where cool season grasses dominate, fertilize in spring and fall; for warm season grasses, add a summer feeding. Most gardeners begin feeding the lawn just after it greens up in the spring, and again in fall as the lawn goes into dormancy. Midsummer applications on warm season grasses bridge the gap over their long, hot growing season.

Lawn experts recommend using a balanced formula fertilizer, preferably one with about six percent nitrogen that is released slowly over time. Generally speaking, turfgrass needs fifteen pounds of such a fertilizer per thousand square feet. Your Growise Center can recommend fertilizer formulas designed for your area, to accommodate local soil needs for phosphorus and potassium.

Another oft-recommended nutrient for lawns is iron. Used to green up lawns with yellowing leaves, its effects are readily apparent. Although not a fertilizer per se, most homeowners apply lime because adjusting pH contributes to nutrient availability, and the all-important goal of grass growth.

The average square foot of lawn has hundreds of individual plants competing for water, sun, and fertilizer. When you nurture the grass plants, there’s often less trouble from pests, diseases, and weeds. Nitrogen contributes to green leaves and is primarily responsible for grass growth. Phosphorus and potassium work to build cell walls, roots, and the essential stolons and rhizomes that knit the grass together.

Lawn fertilizers also contain micronutrients, those needed in microscopic amounts. If you choose to use organic sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, be sure to read their labels for the micros. At the other end of the spectrum, if you use combination fertilizer/herbicide products, read their directions carefully. Watering, or not, can be crucial in the success of the popular ‘weed and feed’ fertilizers.



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