Fertilizers are like skittles candy, they come in a rainbow of colors and flavors. Like oil base to acrylic paints – each kind of fertilizer is more suited to a specific purpose such as supplying nutrients to vegetables, flowers, or lawns. Everyone has an opinion and there are lots formulations from liquid to dry to those mixed with insect or weed control materials.
A common misconception I run into is the pure amount of fertilizer required to generate a visual response in a lawn. Said another way, if you put down 10lbs of 12-8-5 or 50lbs, what is the real difference? Will it be greener? When should you fertilize? What kind of fertilizer should you use? If you apply lots of fertilizer can you do it less often? Do you always just throw some fertilizer around your flowers, you know- just enough- everything usually turns out just fine. Well, while that may be ok for vegetable gardens or flower beds- the same rule will not work or produce results in your lawn. In this area- guessing may be fun on a weekend, but it likely will not get you any real lasting results- even in the short term. In a worst case scenario, you put down too much and damage or even kill sections of your lawn. So what to do?
The first thing you must ask yourself is “why am I doing this”? Do you want to really improve your lawn this year or are you just making yourself feel good because you always put something down in the spring and fall? Second, do you care about weeds or are you just trying to green this baby up so you can sip your lemonade from the porch after work (or other adult beverage) and absorb the pure enjoyment of a green carpet? After you answer these questions- please move onto the level 2.
Level 2- Pick your lawn level!
What lawn?: You do not treat your lawn (why are you reading this?)
Whatever: You put down 1 or no applications per year. You see a bag on sale and give it a go but have no misconceptions, this is futile.
I try: You put down 1-2 treatments and usually upset yourself because deep down you care, but not enough to do more. Your lawn is ok and actually might look nice in the spring.
Semi-Pro: You have hired a professional company in the past and or have one doing something now. You have tasted results and realize what potential exists but may sway from doing it yourself to hiring a company. You understand the fundamentals of turf care and may complete 1-4 treatments yourself- even renting an aerator in the fall!
Mr. or Mrs. Green: You have your lawn treated by a professional turf care company and expect results. Although not a fanatic, you demand results on what you pay for- typically less weeds, crabgrass, and a velvety green carpet like dreams are made of.
Dr. Turf: You measure your grass height before you go to work each morning and strictly forbid children, pets, or any foreign object from walking or resting upon your luxurious turf area called your lawn. Whatever it takes, do it. Your lawn can be tracked by NASA and actually glows at night from the energy released. To you my friend, I salute you.
Product selection will generally involve slow or quick release fertilizer treatments. Slow release is more forgiving and allows you to apply more N per 1,000 square feet- the unit of measurement on how you treat grass. Most programs will talk about N= Nitrogen because turf grass has varying requirements on how much it needs each season. Most turf in New Hampshire or Vermont will require 3-5lbs of N per season. This normally equates to 3 to 5 treatments per season, with 4 being the average. Quick release, high soluble fertilizers are wonderful in the spring or fall, but after that- they risk pre-disposing your lawn to drought stress, disease, sun scald and other issues. This includes liquid or granular formulations. The benefit of granular treatments allows you to change the rate on site with the spreader as opposed to a liquid treatment where the rate is set like octane at the gas station.
If this post causes you to act- ask me a question, comment on the information, or call a local professional for advice like myself. Enjoy your day.