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? 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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Lawn Care Part 2 The Right Fertilizer

Residential lawn fertilizers are typically “lower in analysis” than “commercial chemical-type fertilizers”.? Analysis refers to the three numbers you find listed on fertilizers. Those three numbers represent nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in that order. The numbers tell you the percentage of those ingredients in the product by weight. But what do these letters and numbers add up to for the look of your lawn?

Lawn fertilizers are packaged so that the right amount of nutrients is applied per 1,000 square feet. Experts recommend no more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for each application. Therefore a 5 pound bag of 20-4-12 (containing 20 percent nitrogen) will apply 1 pound of nitrogen to 1000 square feet. A 5000 square foot lawn would require 25 pounds of 20-4-12.

Several types of fertilizers are available for lawns. A starter fertilizer which has less nitrogen and more phosphorus, is designed for new lawns to get the roots off to a good start. Some chemical lawn fertilizers contain fast-release forms of nitrogen such as urea or ammonium sulfate. This rapidly-dissolving nitrogen causes lawn to green up quickly, but leaches out of the soil within a few weeks, leaving your grass hungry for more. Slow-release fertilizers are more appropriate for once- or twice-a-year applications. They are formulated to feed grass over time with slow, consistent supplies of nutrients. Synthetic slow-release fertilizers generally contain sulfur- or polymer-coated ureas. There are also many slow-release organic fertilizers available. Organic fertilizers keep your lawn growing at a healthy pace without harming the environment or beneficial soil organisms like earthworms. A good organic lawn fertilizer has a ratio of about 3:1:2.

It is important here to know that nitrogen is toxic to horses and other grazing animals. Lawn weed control products and lawn fertilizers can not be used on grasses that are being grazed. If you truly need to graze your lawn, then you should manage it as a pasture and only use agricultural fertilizers and herbicides that are labeled for pasture use.

Lawn fertilizers are also commonly mixed with herbicides to reduce the labor involved in lawn maintenance. Care should be used in applying these products. Fertilization should be a regular lawn maintenance practice, but herbicides should be used only when specific weed problems occur. A problem with combination products that occurs is that fertilizers should be watered in the following and application for maximum effectiveness and slow burn potential. Many herbicides need to remain on the plant leaves for effective weed control. Using combination fertilizer-herbicide products, you often compromise the effectiveness of one or both products from timing or application standpoint, or both. The one possible exception is the use of fertilizer in combination with a pre-emergence crabgrass killer. If the lawn had received a fall application of fertilizer, then the timing for any spring application of fertilizer and the need to put down a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer could be about the same time. Finally, in an average home lawn, rarely is it ever necessary to broadcast an herbicide over the entire lawn area unless weed problems have gotten completely out of control. It is much better to fertilize separately and only spot treat certain areas or individual plants when necessary. This introduces far less herbicide into the environment and eliminates wasting an herbicide application when there are only a few scattered plants or areas that may need treating.

Another important note about fertilizing that should not be minimized is that returning mulched clippings to your lawn rather than bagging and disposing of them reduces the need for lawn fertilizer by 30 to 50 percent.

Precision Lawn Care is ready to take care of your lawn for you. Call us at? (770) 979-5171 or click here and complete the form selecting the Lawn Care & Tree and Shrub Service box.

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