Spring is coming: Fertilizing
Howdy Again from PCLC, today we are in the 3rd installment of our lawn care cultural practices as we head into springtime. Mowing season is here again and if you want to learn more about mowing and why it was the first topic of this series read the article here. Today’s topic is going to be fertilization. Our first round of fertilization will be coming up soon here in North Texas as our grasses begin to come out of dormancy.
Fertilization is an important cultural practice. However, we are speaking about it after mowing and irrigation for good reason. Grass grows on its own, without fertilization. However, growing thick and green turf is hard to do without some sort of fertilization program. This is just going to be a brief overview of why we fertilize and what you put on the ground is going to do.
The first thing that I recommend anyone to do that is serious about starting a fertilization program is do a soil test. Here is a blog post that I wrote about why you need a soil test and what it will tell you, and here is a video from Matt Martin of the grass factor telling you how to read your soil test. This guy is a genius and if you want to learn about turf management, I highly recommend you following his channel and diving headfirst into his content.
What’s in a bag?
Once that is complete and you know what your soil is lacking, it is time to choose your fertilizer. Most fertilizers will give you the exact makeup of the product you buy. The first thing that you will see on the bag is the N-P-K or the Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium. These are the “macro-nutrients” contained in the fertilizer. These numbers are percentage by weight. Therefore, if you have a 100-0-0 that means that 100% of the product is Nitrogen. Below is representation of a common bag of fertilizer.
Now, what does each of these elements do in turf? First, Nitrogen is the workhorse of a fertilizer. This is why most plans are driven by nitrogen. Nitrogen is a limiting factor for plant growth. Photosynthesis just can’t happen without it. Most Extension services recommend 2-4 pounds of N/1000sqft. We would recommend doing this in 4-6 applications. There are many types of N that can come in your fert. It is important to know the type of Nitrogen in the fert as well. Some are organic, some quick release and some slow release.
Phosphorus is important for plant root growth and development. It essential in the establishment of new plant growth. While healthy turfgrasses may need phosphorus, it is at a much lower quantity and usually can be sustained through natural means. Phosphorus in some areas is a very big problem due to its an overabundance in the soil and the leaching that results. The best way to know if you need phosphorus is through the soil test as we spoke above. Otherwise, I would recommend putting a starter fertilizer in the early spring or late fall as your first or last application of the year.
Potassium is a vital element in plant health due to its ability to assist the plan to mitigate stress. It regulates the water intake of the plant, increases root density and increase disease resistance. We typically put down a fair amount of potassium with every application, especially in the spring coming out of dormancy and during the summer months.
Iron is probably the most known of the micro-nutrients, noted because of its ability to give an instant green-up. This is a great way to get that nice dark green color you are looking for without pushing a lot of growth. In our business, we have a product that we like to use in the dead of summer that is 0-0-2 and contains Iron and a lot of other micro-nutrients.
Fertilizing can be as complicated as you want it to be. You can just go to your local garden supply and buy whatever they have on the shelf or you can go get your soil test and sit down and figure out exactly the right NPK ratio and drop rate you need for your lawn. It is fun and exciting to see the results as you go along as well. So go throw it down and watch the progress.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions. Leave a comment, call us or email us. We would love to hear if you are enjoying our content, or if you’re not let us know that too!