Fertilizing Your Lawn


Fertilizing is a simple way to keep your lawn looking great. There are different fertilizers for different times of year and lawn needs. You may be asking: What does nitrogen do? What does Phosphorus do? And what does Potassium do? This article teaches you about the different fertilizer mixes and how and when to use them.

when to fertilize the lawn

time of day to fertilize the lawn: You will probably need to water the grass after fertilizing and early mornings are the best time to water because the ground is at its coolest temperature and the water will not evaporate as quickly as when it is warmer.

how often to fertilize the lawn: To keep a lawn looking its best you should apply fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks.

spring fertilizing: Start fertilizing in the early spring when lawns start to get green, around the middle to end of April.

summer fertilizing: Keep fertilizing every 4 to 6 weeks in the summer. The lawn should be dry when the fertilizer is applied and then watered immediately to prevent burning of the lawn. This is especially true during hot weather.

fall fertilizing: Even though you might not be using the lawn as much in the fall it is important to fertilize when the temperatures start to drop. Fertilizing in the fall is important to strengthen the grass and roots so they can better handle the cold temperatures. Fall fertilizing also helps to keep the grass greener longer and also helps it green up faster in the spring.

how to fertilize lawn: Apply the fertilizer using a fertilizer spreader, either a hand held or walk behind. Figure out how many square feet the lawn you are fertilizing is by measuring and multiplying the length times the width. If your lawn is odd shaped then measure smaller areas and add the areas up. Read the instructions on the packaging for the amount of fertilizer to apply per square foot. Measure out the required amount of fertilizer. Use the spreader to apply the desired amount of fertilizer, in pounds, on the lawn.

what is in fertilizer

Fertilizers use three main Nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Lawn fertilizer bags will have three numbers on the front that denote how much of each nutrient it contains. The first number is nitrogen, the second is phosphorus and the third is potassium. Different times of the year and different lawn conditions will require that you use different amounts of these three nutrients.

Each manufacture has their own "special blends" of other nutrients that they add to the basic Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium mix.

They have formulas for all the seasons and the things that happen at those times of the year. Some help with getting the lawn ready for winter and giving it a head start in the spring, some help the lawn retain water for the warmer months, some kill weeds without killing the grass, some help keep bugs away and some just feed your lawn and keep it healthy.

what the numbers mean

The three numbers are the ratio of each, for example a mix of 1-1-1 would mean that for every one part of nitrogen there is one part phosphorus and one part potassium. 10-10-10 means 10 parts of each. 20-0-8 means 20 parts nitrogen, 0 parts phosphorus and 8 parts potassium.

what do the nutrients do
  • Nitrogen, the first number, improves growth and green color. Without it plants are weaker and more susceptible to harsh conditions, like winter, that is why "winterizer" mixtures have more nitrogen.
  • Phosphorus, the second number, helps a plant grow faster and stronger. This is why it is common to have more phosphorus in fertilizer mixtures that are advertised as "starter" blends. It helps plants use the suns energy to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates. What this means to plants is that it helps your plants to convert the nutrients in the ground, air and fertilizer into useable food. Phosphorus is banned in some areas, that is why you see products being sold that have no phosphorus. The fertilizers that claim to help in starting new growth when planting seedlings will have more phosphorus because
  • Potassium, the third number, helps the plant control its water intake and efficiency. Water strengthens the grass and helps it to be more drought and disease resistant. Just like for humans, potassium helps plants manage water use. This helps keep growth constant because just like humans, when the water supply is gone so is the energy.

There are many formulas but here are some common combinations.

  • 32-0-10 for fall and winter
  • 20-0-8 for summer, helps resist heat
  • 20-27-5 for starting new grass seedlings, notice the higher potassium number.

main types of fertilizer

There are two main types of fertilizer; Water Soluble and Water Insoluble. Water Soluble dissolves quickly and puts all of its nutrition into the roots quickly. They usually release nutrients into the lawn over a 2 week period. It may be desirable to have the grass green up quickly but It will you to re-apply the fertilizer more often, which costs more in the long run and puts your lawn thru a "feast or famine" cycle which shows up as a green and brown cycle.

Higher quality fertilizers, and thus, higher priced fertilizers, are usually Water Insoluble. They are labeled with terms such as "slow release nitrogen", "controlled release", "extended feeding" and of course "water insoluble nitrogen". They usually release nutrients into the lawn over up to a 6 week period depending on the brand. They cost a bit more but you will not need to apply them as often.

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