Why Does My Lawn Need Fertilizers?
Fertilizers are minerals that provide the necessary nutrients to aid in the growth of your plants. They also help improve soil quality and restore its pH levels. In addition, some fertilizers also help to keep insects and weeds away from plants, helping to protect them.
Fertilizing your lawn regularly will give your plants and grass a much-needed boost that will help them stay healthy.
However, you cannot use a single fertilizer for all your plants. Before applying fertilizer to your lawns, you need to know the growth pattern of every plant and what nutrients they need for their development. You should also be familiar with when to apply fertilizer to your lawn and how much.
When Should I Apply Fertilizer to My Lawns?
If you want to ensure that you have green and healthy lawns and plants all year round, watering them and providing them with minerals is not enough. Since plants absorb building blocks such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate at different times of their growth cycle, it is essential to know when to apply fertilizers—season and time of day.
Should You Fertilize Your Lawn Before it Rains?
Since most fertilizers need to be mixed with water for easy absorption by plants, lawn owners apply fertilizers right before it rains. This is counter-productive as a heavy downpour will wash away loose soil along with the fertilizer before your plants can absorb it.
Heavy rainfall can also result in the nutrients seeping into lower layers of the ground, beyond the reach of your grass’s short roots. Your efforts will hence, be futile, leading to a waste of time and money.
Experts advise that fertilizing after rainfall is beneficial as your plants and grass will be more receptive to nutrients.
It is also suggested that lawn owners limit fertilizer use during a drought as chemicals present in fertilizers generate heat. When spread over dry grass, fertilizer will burn rather than helping the grass grow.
Which is the Best Season to Apply Fertilizer?
Spring is considered ideal for fertilizing lawns since the soil temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which is believed to be neither too warm nor too cold. At this temperature, a fertilizer boost will ensure that your grass blades will grow and flourish.
However, if your area experiences a late freeze, forced growth from fertilizing can harm your plants. If you’re unsure, use a soil thermometer to check the temperature before applying fertilizer.
Should I Fertilize in the Morning or Evening?
Although fertilizing grass in the morning or evening has its respective benefits, it is generally recommended that such products be applied early in the day.
- Low-speed winds will not lead to uneven distribution of fertilizer
- Thirsty plants will greedily absorb fertilizer-laden water early in the morning
- Fertilizer application will not burn your lawn due to the presence of dew and cool temperatures
- Plants are more receptive to nutrients as they aren’t exhausted by the midday heat
Though it is widely believed that the best time to apply fertilizer to your lawns is in the day, sometimes, morning may not be the best time to do so.
Why Should You Not Apply fertilizer in the Morning?
If the weather forecast predicts a bright and hot sunny day or heavy rain, it is best to avoid applying fertilizer. If the day temperatures are expected to soar, then the grass may become too dry, and the chemicals in the fertilizer may cause your lawn to burn.
On the other hand, if there is a heavy downpour, then the rain will wash off all the nutrients and fertilizer from your soil. If you are keen on applying fertilizer in the morning, it is best to do so before 7 am.
If you choose to fertilize your lawns in the evening, the drip system of irrigation is highly recommended. Under the drip system, the fertilizer is injected into the water to help it reach plant roots without wetting the foliage. This process is known as fertigation.
Can I Apply Fertilizer to Damp Grass?
Fertilizer application to damp grass is usually not recommended. When the soil is already saturated, fertilizer application will lead to adverse results. Here’s why:
- Fertilizers will leach into nearby water bodies if the ground is already saturated, leading to pollution.
- Fertilizer isn’t static—it moves with water and wind. If your grass is damp, fertilizer will either runoff or be unequally distributed.
- Applying fertilizer after a heavy watering means it will seep too deep into the soil, such that the grass will not be able to benefit and absorb the nutrients.
Should I Water My Lawn After I Fertilize It?
Once you have applied fertilizer to your lawn, either water plants immediately or wait for 24 hours before sprinkling water on them. Watering your lawn immediately after application helps prevent a wide range of problems that can plague the plants or the soil. Remember – the more you water your lawn, the more fertilizer it will require.
We have looked at the benefits of fertilizers and the best time to apply them. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before applying fertilizer to your lawns.
Type of Grass
In the U.S., there are broadly two types of grasses: warm-season grass and cool-season grass. While cool-season grasses flourish in lower temperatures and grow in the northern parts of the country, such as Kentucky, warm-season grass thrives in southern states like Florida.
Some areas also have transitional grasses, which are a combination of warm-season and cool-season grass. Fertilizer timing and needs will depend entirely on the type of grass growing on your lawn.
Since cool-season grasses experience growth during the spring and early fall, fertilization should take place during these periods. On the other hand, warm-season grass grows best during summer. Hence, lawn owners should fertilize when temperatures begin to rise.
What Kind of Fertilizer Should I Apply?
Fertilizers come in various forms, such as liquid fertilizer and granular fertilizer. While granular fertilizers are slow-release lawn fertilizers and need moisture to break down, liquid fertilizers act fast and can be easily absorbed by plants.
How Should I Apply Fertilizer to My Lawn?
Begin by applying the fertilizer around your lawn’s perimeter, followed by spreading it in the middle in a single direction. After this, put down fertilizer by moving in a perpendicular direction to ensure that it has spread uniformly all over your lawn.
Which Spreader Works Best for My Lawn?
Fertilizer can be applied either through a broadcast or drop spreaders. The first works by flinging fertilizer across the lawn as you walk, while a drop spreader drops rather than ‘flings.’ A broadcast spreader is used for large-sized yards, whereas a drop spreader is more suitable for small-sized lawns that corner sidewalks, pathways, and driveways.
Consider a spreader based on your lawn size and the fertilizer you have chosen for your lawns.
Can Fertilizers Damage My Lawns?
Some people believe that fertilizers are toxic to the environment and may do more harm than good.
If fertilizers are applied to the lawns in adequate amounts and during the ideal season, depending upon the type of grass or soil, then fertilizers will help your lawn to flourish.
On the other hand, if someone applies excess fertilizer to their lawn or applies it during a heavy downpour or when the temperatures are soaring, there is a high chance that it will damage plants.
For those who are worried about harmful chemicals in fertilizers, opt for organic and environment-friendly substitutes.
What is a Weed & Feed?
Some people ask, “What about a Weed & Feed?” or “Can I use Weed & Feed on my lawns?”
A weed & feed is a combination of fertilizer and a herbicide. It is designed to eliminate weeds and fertilize your lawn simultaneously. The market has several kinds ranging from granular to liquid, and pre and post-emergent varieties, etc.
Before investing in a weed & deed product, check if the weeds in your lawn will be affected by the herbicide. For instance, some products work well against Bermuda grass, while others perform better if you have Kentucky bluegrass.
Consider a weed & feed as a short-term solution—as your lawn grass begins to flourish, phase out the product to avoid chemical buildup in the soil and nearby water bodies.
In general, I don’t like combining products. I recommend individual products for specific purposes.
Fertilizers play an important role in ensuring plants and grass are healthy and remain vibrantly green during the growing season. That said, overuse or incorrect use will not yield results.
Before investing in fertilizers, consider which works best for your lawns based on the type of grass, your lawn equipment, season, and what time of day you intend to apply fertilizer.