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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