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Home Improvement

The Ultimate Guide to Lawn Fertilizer

Is your lawn in need of a pick-me-up?

When owning a home, a healthy, luscious green lawn is a welcome sight. It boosts your home’s curb appeal and makes your house look well taken care of. Taking care of your lawn can also help eliminate pesky bugs like ticks and mosquitoes.

One great tool to have in your lawn care arsenal is lawn fertilizer. With a good lawn fertilizer, you can polish your yard and even cut down work when it’s time to mow.

Not sure how to start fertilizing your lawn? Here is our guide to lawn care and fertilizing your lawn. Read on to discover more!

What Is Fertilizer?

Everyone knows that fertilizer is good for plants, but what is it? Fertilizers serve as food for plants, providing them with the nutrients to thrive. Fertilizers can help the soil retain water to increase its productivity.

Using the right fertilizers helps plants become more resistant to pests. Some types of fertilizers can improve the soil’s fertility and texture. The ingredients can also help plants for more seeds and develop stronger roots.

However, remember that fertilizer isn’t the same for all plants. Farmers and gardeners may use different fertilizers as their crops have different nutrient needs. Lawn fertilizers carry specially formulated nutrients that are beneficial only for grass.

Why You Need to Fertilize Your Lawn

Many homeowners neglect their lawns because of the time and effort it takes to maintain them. However, as mentioned prior, lawn fertilization is not only for aesthetic purposes. A well-fertilized lawn has healthier and stronger roots.

This allows your lawn to absorb more water and make your soil more firm. Poorly maintained lawns tend to pool water even after a slight drizzle. The improved water retention can help eliminate messy mud puddles and even improve flood control, so you never have to dread the rainy season.

Fertilizers can also reduce the need for weed control by preventing weeds from taking root. Fertilized lawns also create a healthy ecosystem of microorganisms.

This includes garden-dwellers like ladybugs and earthworms that feed on pesky insects and other pests. Fertilizer allows your lawn to become a safer environment for you, your family, and your pets!

Healthy lawns also trap dust and other harmful airborne particles. This improves air quality and gives your kids a nice place to play and get their vitamin D.

When Is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn?

So, how do you capitalize on your fertilizer and get the best results? The first step is knowing when to fertilize your lawn. As a rule of thumb, you must fertilize your lawn at least twice a year to keep your grass looking green and healthy.

However, using fertilizer at the wrong time can encourage weed growth. You can also over-treat your lawn and end up burning the grass. Applying lawn fertilizer when your grass is in its active growing stage is best.

Your lawn’s active growing stage depends on the type of grass you have and where you live.

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses grow in the southern areas of the US. Warm-season grasses love warm temperatures and thrive most in midsummer.

The most common varieties include centipede grass, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine grass. You may also find zoysia grass and Kikuyu grass. These grasses are thick and tough and will only increase in density over time.

The optimal temperature for fertilizing warm-season grasses is between 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a close eye on your lawn and fertilize again when it starts looking greener. You can fertilize your lawn again once you pass the peak of summer.

Cool-Season Grasses

If you live in the northern regions of the US, you may have a cool-season lawn. The most common varieties of cool-season grass include ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and fescues. This type of lawn grass has two peak periods, which are during early spring and early fall.

Dry and hot summers will often make cool-season grasses go dormant. It will become active again when the temperature goes down and water becomes more available.

Any temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for fertilization. It’s best to go a little heavier on the fertilizer during the fall and lighter in early spring. Fertilize your lawn before the peak of summer, which is when your grass may go dormant.

Combination

Transitional zones tend to have a blend of cool and warm season grasses. Lawn maintenance for these types of grasses can be more challenging, as they require different care depending on the season. If you live in a transitional zone, the best thing you can do is observe your grass and see how it behaves.

Cold-season grasses tend to stay green the entire year in transitional zones. On the other hand, warm-season grasses will turn brown after the first frost.

Types of Lawn Fertilizer

Your lawn requires a variety of nutrients to stay green and healthy. Good soil is essential as it gives your lawn basic nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen.

Potassium enhances your lawn’s ability to absorb and use nitrogen. Nitrogen gives your lawn that nice luscious green color and promotes leaf growth. Phosphorus helps the plant grow strong roots and can encourage flower growth.

However, soil alone will not be enough to keep your lawn in good condition. In addition, your soil will lose its nutrients over time.

Fertilizer serves as a nutritional supplement for your lawn and replenishes those lost nutrients. They come in various nutritional profiles and forms. The type of fertilizer you choose will impact the growth and health of your lawn.

Granular Fertilizer

Granular fertilizer is the best option for the average homeowner with beginner lawn care skills. It’s the easiest type of fertilizer to apply, so you don’t have to worry too much about accuracy. You can use a spreader to get the work done easier and faster.

When using granular fertilizer, keep in mind to sweep up the excess. A spreader will sometimes throw granules onto your sidewalk or driveway. This can pollute the environment and end up in storm drains and natural bodies of water when it rains.

Granular fertilizer can come in one of the following varieties:

Quick-Release Granular Fertilizer

Quick-release granular fertilizers consist of small, water-soluble granules. Once you’ve applied fertilizer to the soil’s surface, mix it into the topsoil before watering. This allows the fertilizer to break down and release all those good nutrients into the ground.

Keep in mind that this type of granular fertilizer will take longer to see results. Because of its slower decomposition rate, it can take up to a week before you will notice any improvement in your plants.

Controlled or Slow-Release Granular Fertilizer

This type of granular fertilizer consists of water-insoluble granules and can come with a semi-permeable coat or none at all. Once spread onto the soil, cover the fertilizer with more soil or compost.

Slow-release fertilizers can last between two to nine months after application. You’ll see improvements in your lawn in as little as two weeks. Slow-release fertilizers are best if you want to avoid burning your lawn.

Controlled-release fertilizers tend to be more predictable. This fertilizer’s release rate will depend on the soil’s temperature. On the other hand, the rate of slow-release fertilizers will depend on soil temperature, pH, and moisture.

Slow-release fertilizers are great if you want more time between applications. Because this fertilizer breaks down nutrients over a longer period, you can save time and money.

Liquid Fertilizer

Professional landscapers like our experts at dtltotalturf.com often use liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer gives you more coverage in a short amount of time, especially when using a tanker truck. To use liquid fertilizer, you must first dilute it in water.

Then, you can apply it to your lawn using a watering pot or a hose. Liquid fertilizers are fast-acting, and you’ll see results after only a few days. However, because the nutrients only last between two to three weeks, you will need to reapply fertilizer regularly.

Fertilizer Spikes

If you don’t want bags of fertilizer lying around your property, consider using fertilizer spikes. All you need to do is plant spikes in moist soil and let them decompose. Fertilizer spikes can supplement your soil for up to three months.

However, fertilizer spikes only work on small sections. That’s why most gardeners use these for shrubs and small plants. Fertilizer spikes also contain high concentrations of nutrients.

This means that you can get uneven growth or fertilizer burn. If you want to use fertilizer spikes on your lawn, space them out. We recommend leaving at least three feet between each spike.

This gives you the most even spread of nutrients. When done right, your lawn will start looking greener in a week.

Winter Fertilizer

Winter fertilizers, also known as winterizers, come in during the late fall. This type of fertilizer encourages food storage and enables your lawn to grow strong roots when spring rolls around. Most regular fertilizers have a potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen ratio of 1:1:1.

However, most winterizers have a potassium-to-nitrogen ratio of 2:1. When choosing a winter fertilizer, it’s best to use a quick-release water-soluble formula. Timing is everything, and if you don’t apply fertilizer at the right time, your lawn may be subject to ice and mold.

Depending on your climate, you will need to apply this in November or earlier for colder regions. This allows your lawn to fully absorb the nutrients so it can survive in the winter and flourish in the spring.

Synthetic vs. Organic Formula Fertilizer

Synthetic fertilizers contain chemical compounds, often including urea and ammonium nitrate. This can give our lawn a boost in primary nutrients needed to thrive. The difference is that they don’t contribute microorganisms to the soil.

This means that your lawn’s water retention and the soil’s structure will remain the same. Synthetic fertilizers are more affordable than organic fertilizers. Homeowners tend to see improvements faster.

A downside to synthetic fertilizers is that they don’t last very long. Because they only supply nutrients for up to eight weeks, you will need to reapply regularly. However, that makes it easy to over-apply, which can result in fertilizer burning or killing existing microorganisms in the soil.

Organic fertilizers consist of animal, mineral, or plant remains. These fertilizers are good for the environment and often have lower concentrations of nutrients. Many organic fertilizers have bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, and fish emulsion.

All these ingredients help microorganisms in the soil thrive. Keep in mind that organic fertilizers tend to take longer than synthetic fertilizers.

These fertilizers do not work as fast as quick-release or liquid synthetic varieties. While you may not see improvements immediately, you can worry less about reapplying fertilizer.

How to Choose the Best Fertilizer

Lawn fertilizers have a typical NPK ratio of 1:1:1. However, depending on your soil, you may need to get a fertilizer with a specialized ratio.

If you want to get the best lawn fertilizer, invest in a soil tester. This allows you to test your soil and see which nutrients it needs the most. Testing the soil enables you to choose a fertilizer that can provide ample nutrients to your soil.

A soil tester can also help you determine your soil’s pH. Neutral soil is ideal with a pH unit of seven. The soil in the Midwest tends to have a neutral pH.

If you live in the South or East, you may have more acidic soil. If you live in the West or Southwest, your soil will likely be more alkaline.

Get Greener Grass With the Right Lawn Fertilizer

Keeping your lawn in good condition isn’t just for visual appeal. A healthy lawn is much easier to maintain and can benefit you and your family’s health. The grass can always be greener on your side when you use the right lawn fertilizer.

Did you find this article helpful? Consider checking out our other blog posts for more great guides on home maintenance.

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