Lawn Care Part 4 – Tips for Distributing Lawn Fertilizer

We have written about why and when to fertilize your lawn. We will now discuss how to apply that food your lawn so desperately needs.

Lawn fertilizers are high in nitrogen. Nitrogen can burn the grass if applied improperly. Nitrogen is needed for green leafy top growth, but if too much is applied or if it’s applied on a hot summer day without watering it in, the lawn may be damaged. The best time to plan your fertilizer application is immediately before a rain. The rain will wash the fertilizer into the root zone to be utilized by the grass. If you need to apply when no rain is in sight, you may need to water the fertilizer in to keep from burning the grass. Read the directions on the label!

You can use a number of techniques for applying fertilizer. Drop spreaders, walk-behind broadcasters, hand-held broadcasters, and hose-end sprayers all work well. Hose-end sprayers and hand-held broadcasters are perhaps the best for spot fertilizing, but are inefficient if you’re trying to cover a full lawn area. Hose-end sprayers are only good for applying liquid fertilizers.

Borrow or buy a fertilizer spreader and be sure you understand how to calibrate it for your lawn’s favorite granular food. Big Box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s carry a good selection of spreaders for around $60 that will work well for the average homeowner. Drop spreaders are considered the more efficient, most precise tools for applying granular fertilizer directly and evenly onto a lawn.

Finally, you need to consider your walking speed. The faster your move, the faster the spreader disk spins and the product is spread out wider and less concentrated. If you walk slower, you put down more fertilizer in a smaller pattern. When applying fertilizer, you should “walk with a purpose,” which means not a stroll, but not a power walk either just in between. Walk behind the spreader at a good pace (but don’t run), and make a pattern that covers each area of the lawn only once.

Do not fill the spreader when it is sitting on the lawn. Spilling water-soluble fertilizer causes a large dead spot that persists for weeks. Begin applying the fertilizer by making “header” strips around the border of the lawn. Then start at one edge and go back and forth across the lawn. You’ll want to overlap each pass to avoid missing sections and causing a striped pattern as the lawn grows out, but be sure to turn off the flow on the spreader when you reach the border area to avoid over-fertilizing the perimeter. If you’re using a rotary spreader, you may have coverage problems. If that’s the case, reduce the flow and cut the width of your swaths.

Turn off the spreader when the header strip is reached. Do not turn the spreader while fertilizer is dropping through onto the grass. Such corners are over-fertilized and the grass could be burned. Use caution when applying fertilizer combined with herbicide, especially with broadcast spreaders. These spreaders can throw the material into flower beds where the herbicide can injure desirable ornamental plants, or tree and shrub roots can pick these up from under lawns.

If there is an overlap when using a broadcast spreader, the lawn will acquire a green striped effect. If that’s the case, consider a drop spreader, which makes it much easier to see where fertilizer has already been applied.

A treatment for over-fertilization is the same as one for removing pet urine spots. Water consistently (but not so as to drown the lawn) and the nitrogen and salts should eventually flush out. And finally, always wash out the sprayer over turf or soil — never over concrete. The fertilizer or herbicide may run off the concrete area and into storm drains, which lead directly to creeks, bays and rivers.

Remember, we love your lawn. When it looks good – we look good. If you are in the Atlanta area, call Precision Lawn Care. Let our experts take care of your lawn the professional way.

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Lawn Care Part 3 When should I fertilize?

In Lawn Care Part 1 we gave you an introduction to lawn fertilization and getting that lush green grass that you’ve always dreamed of. In part two we gave you an introduction to the types of fertilizers and how they can be used to help you accomplish that goal. And the next post we discuss the actual application of fertilizers, but in this post we will discuss the million-dollar question of, “When should I fertilize?”

There are several factors you should consider in answering that question. These factors include climate, grass type, what type of fertilizer being used and how you actually want your lawn to look. For the purposes of this post we will be considering the Atlanta area (Zones 7a & b USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map? http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/hzm-se1.html) and standard dry granular fertilizers. We will speak generally of the two types of grasses: Warm-Season & Cool-Season. And, we will consider that you would like your lawn to look its best which will require you to fertilize a least 4 to 5 times a year.

Each grass has its own growing season, therefore, each requires a different schedule for fertilizing. As a rule of thumb, it is best to apply fertilizers when your lawn is actively growing. If you fertilize with nitrogen while your lawn is dormant, you can encourage weed growth, and ultimately waste fertilizer.

Cool-Season Grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia) tend to have two flourishing (or growing) periods. The first is after the lawn’s return from winter dormancy. The second is during the early fall, when temperatures moderate and droughts and heat waves typically are gone (after August). For Cool-Season lawns it is usually best to concentrate a larger amount of nitrogen to be applied during the early fall growing period and a lesser amount in the spring.

Warm-Season Grasses (Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, and St. Augustine) flourish during the warmer summer months, and therefore tend to require fertilizing shortly after green-up in the spring and again in the late summer months. Kentucky bluegrass requires more fertilization than turf type fescue, and heavier rates should be used in late fall to encourage root growth. A stronger root system will better support the plant and add to its overall health. Use a lighter rate in spring and summer, enhances top growth, keeps it green and healthy making it more attractive for you.

The following tables are general fertilizing guidelines that can be used to help determine what the best program is for you. Before you begin using the tables as a reference, there are a few things to remember prior to choosing a fertilizer for your lawn:

  • Avoid applying nitrogen when your lawn is dormant or has not yet greened-up.
  • Make sure you read the label on the fertilizer you buy to know how long it lasts
  • Try to make sure your lawn does not have an excess buildup of thatch
  • Avoid fertilizing your lawn during periods of drought or when it is excessively dry

Fertilizer Table

Every lawn and climate is unique. Ultimately, the perfect schedule for your lawn depends on you. If this isn’t something you want to tackle, there are others in your area who do this every day who will be happy to assist you. If you are in the Atlanta, Georgia area our expert technicians stand ready to help you get that lush, green lawn your house deserves.? Call Precision Lawn Care at (770) 979-5171 or click on the Contact us link above.

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