All about Fertilizer – Follow your instincts
Choosing a lawn fertilizer for your lawn or garden can baffle even the most seasoned horticulturist. The first option you may want to evaluate is whether to use inorganic or organic fertilizers. Wading through the extensive research documents and periodicals will likely convince you of what you already supposed.
Decide what your needs and tastes are to save some time. Should you be aiming to dwarf your neighbor’s tomatoes and make his lawn look like a wasteland, you’ll probably want some chemical fertilizer. If you derive great pride from a natural approach, go organic with organic fertilizers that you can buy from the Amazon store below.
The main elements of most commercial fertilizers are the three main macronutrients; Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus. Respectively, they are responsible for increasing yields, photosynthesis, and efficient water use. The three numbers on all fertilizer labels display the percentage content of each macronutrient. Typically, the bulk of your fertilizer will be filler, which assists in even distribution, and a slew of macronutrients. Exactly what ratios you need will depend on your soil.
Chemicals – Nutritious or Pernicious?
Building an argument against the use of chemical plant fertilizers is a lofty task. It is a highly regulated industry and the subject of many safety and efficiency studies that typically encourage responsible chemical use. Widespread use of chemicals with modern fertilizer equipment has provided affordable, abundant fruits and vegetables, increased land efficiency, and staved off global warming by encouraging the production of oxygen in healthy plants.
However, there is a cause for concern that spurs the popularity of organic fertilizer. Sulphuric and hydrochloric acids present in chemical fertilizers prove hazardous to microorganisms and micronutrients necessary for healthy plants. It is also evident that citrus trees produce fruits lacking in vitamin C when chemically treated. Proponents will also often cite the success of organic techniques for farmers in developing countries. It should be noted that when funds are available, these farmers prefer chemically enhanced supplements over supposedly eco-friendly alternatives.
So, you may want to go for the natural approach with some homemade compost or manure. They add nutrients, improve the soil structure and water-holding capacity, and reduce erosion. So there’s still a good chance you can disgrace your neighbor’s laboratory garden at a fraction of the cost with minimal effort.
Fertilizer Tips and Techniques – Some Common Fertilizer Terms and Tips for Growing a Great Lawn
Gardening, just like other forms of cultivated leisure, always offers a secret or two to the experienced practitioner. Not to worry, though; these secrets can be revealed to a persistent and curious novice. So in honor of The DaVinci Code, consider this article to be the Sir Leigh Teabing of fertilizer, only much less conspiratorial.
The Language of Fertilizer
To understand the secrets of fertilizer you first must know its language.
The acronym NPK comes from the table of elements’ symbols for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium/potash, the three macronutrients commonly found in fertilizer. A fertilizer with all three of these chemicals is known as a complete fertilizer.
Each chemical in fertilizer serves a particular purpose. Nitrogen primarily feeds the green and leafy above-ground parts of plants. Lawn fertilizer often contains larger amounts of nitrogen than general-purpose fertilizer. Phosphorus is necessary for strong roots. Potassium makes grass hardier, helps flowers to germinate, and makes homegrown fruits and vegetables taste better.
The fertilizer ratio represents the proportion of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer. These percentages are represented by a series of three numbers. A balanced fertilizer contains an equal percentage of each chemical and would feature a number such as 10-10-10.
Sometimes soil tests indicate that one chemical is needed more than another. In such cases, the fertilizer ratio might be 4:1:2, or 20 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphorus, and 10 percent potassium. Some common lawn fertilizer ratios are 3:1:1, 4:1:1, and 4:1:2. Fertilizer that contains a higher proportion of nitrogen than other elements is called nitrogen fertilizer.
Specialty fertilizers used for particular plants or soil imbalances can be referred to as incomplete fertilizers or high-analysis fertilizers. An incomplete fertilizer will be missing one or two of the NPK macronutrients, while a high-analysis fertilizer is one that contains an active nutrient with a content above 30 percent.
Weed and Feed
A weed and feed fertilizer contain both fertilizer and herbicide. Why it’s called weed and feed rather than feed and weed is one of those inexplicable fertilizer mysteries.
Lawn Fertilizer Tips and techniques
Having a green and flourishing lawn is always a badge of honor in neighborhoods, so we turn our attention to lawn fertilizer tips and techniques that will make your neighbors sick with envy. After all, jealousy, as Shakespeare’s Othello tells us, is a “green-eyed monster.”
Time is a critical element for lawn fertilization success. Apply lawn fertilizer about four times year-round, including once in late autumn or early winter, and again in late spring after the year’s first growth spurt. Remember that over-fertilizing will not only burn the lawn but also encourages imbalanced growth. Luscious grass above ground can sometimes signal weaker root growth that will afflict a lawn later in the year.
Time is also critical to how lawn fertilizer works. A soluble “fast-release” lawn fertilizer may produce a burst of greenery, but slow-release lawn fertilizer promotes long-term health. Light and frequent lawn fertilizer applications are better than heavy dousing.
Though it’s more expensive, try to find a compound lawn fertilizer that features 50 percent slow-release nitrogen and 50 percent soluble nitrogen. This will give you the best of both worlds.
As for lawn fertilizer application techniques, you’re going to want to use a spreader. A rotary spreader will be faster, but if you’re serious about having a uniformly growing, precisely fed lawn and are willing to invest the time, a drop spreader is more of a precision tool than a rotary spreader. Sowing lawn fertilizer with a drop spreader will help you avoid unsightly streaks and patches.
Fertilizer Types – Experience is the Best Indicator
Understanding fertilizer and the ways it can be applied will help pare down the many options that intimidate some gardeners. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on which types of fertilizers confer the most benefit to particular plants. Experience with your lawn or garden is always the best indicator of what works best.
The most frequently used variety of fertilizer is still synthetically produced NPK fertilizer. While composed primarily of micronutrients and filler, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the vital ingredients that promote growth. Typically they come in water-soluble solids that are applied with a fertilizer spreader which gets the nutrients into the soil. You’ll also find liquid fertilizers that are applied with foliar spraying. Convenience should be your main concern in choosing between these two options.
Plant fertilizers are often concentrated and tend to “burn” and overfeed. An overfed plant is more susceptible to disease and any nutrients it can’t use will run off into the water supply or feed less desirable plants elsewhere. This is easily solved with slow-release products made by agri-businesses like Lesco or Scotts.
In spite of the slight disadvantages, don’t let naysayers discourage the use of chemical fertilizers. The little evidence that suggests inorganic methods poison the soil is highly debatable. Using land for agriculture will inevitably necessitate replenishing the micronutrients in the soil, regardless of the fertilizer used.
- Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed3 weed killer plus fertilizer kills existing weeds and feeds to thicken your lawn and crowd out future weeds
- Controls over 50 listed lawn weeds, including clover, dandelion, plantain, morningglory, chicory, eveningprimrose, and purslane
- Apply this combination weed control and lawn food to a wet lawn when weeds are actively growing and daytime temperatures are consistently between 60°F and 90°F
- This lawn care product can be applied to Bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, Bluegrass, Centipedegrass, Fescue, Ryegrass, and Zoysiagrass
- One 42.87 lb. bag of Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed3 covers 15,000 sq. ft.
En Vogue or Effective?
Organic Gardening techniques are gaining in popularity and effectiveness. These include the expected materials like compost and manure, but peat, seaweed, and crop residue also number among organic fertilizers. Among the most beneficial advantages is that all nitrogen found in organic materials is insoluble, in effect mimicking a slow-release fertilizer. Add the effect of replenishing microbes and micronutrients to the soil and it is difficult to justify paying for pricier synthetic fertilizers.
But don’t run off to buy a heaping pile of manure just yet, especially if you need consistent results or have a lot of ground to cover. Since organic fertilizers are a very dilute source of nutrients, frequent application is the key to getting a good yield. The reliable outcomes and easy transportation costs of chemical fertilizers have secured their position as the preferred products among large-scale farmers and the most competitive gardeners.
Fertilizer Equipment – Spreaders and sprayers and how to calibrate and clean them
Unless you’ve decided to apply your lawn fertilizer by hand — usually a bad idea — you’re going to need fertilizer equipment. What kind of fertilizer equipment you need depends on which type of fertilizer you’re applying. If you slow-release dry fertilizer, you must purchase either a drop spreader or a rotary spreader, also known as a whirling spreader or broadcast spreader. If applying liquid lawn fertilizer, you’ll need to use a sprayer.
A drop spreader is the commonest type of spreader used for home lawn fertilization. Drop spreaders are essentially buckets on wheels that you push around your lawn while powdered fertilizer dispenses from holes in the bottom of the bucket.
Drop fertilizer spreaders offer several advantages over rotary spreaders:
- even and precise distribution,
- cost-efficiency, and
- ease of use.
Drop spreaders are recommended for smaller lawns, or lawns that feature many awkward or hard-to-reach places. If your lawn is sculpted or contains many flowerbeds or decorative flourishes, a drop spreader will be the easiest way to apply lawn fertilizer.
Rotary spreaders work like drop spreaders except that they throw lawn fertilizer out in wide swathes. Rotary fertilizer spreaders are thus quick and easy to use, but less precise than drop spreaders and prone to casting fertilizer beyond lawn edges. Maintaining a consistent pace when pushing a rotary spreader will help ensure even fertilization. Rotary spreaders are recommended for large lawns with uncomplicated landscape features.
Fertilizer Spreader Calibration
Lawn fertilizer spreaders come with the manufacturer’s suggestions for settings, but calibration is often required. The lawn fertilizer you purchase should also provide a recommended amount to apply per 1000 square feet.
To verify or measure an appropriate swath width on your fertilizer spreader, set up a tarp or measure out a spot on your driveway where spills are easy to clean. Make about five passes in that space, and then sweep up and weigh the fertilizer used. You should be able to extrapolate from that small square footage to the larger one of your lawn. Or, if the whole procedure seems too complicated to even bother, guesswork will do just fine.
We recommend applying the lawn fertilizer in two separate runs. That way any patches too lightly or heavily fertilized on the first run should balance out on the second. Always move forward when pushing rather than forward and backward.
Fertilizer sprayers are used to apply liquid lawn fertilizer or dry fertilizer diluted in water. Lawn fertilizer used with a sprayer will need to be diluted. The product you buy should indicate how many ounces of fertilizer to use per gallon of water.
To ensure thorough mixing of the lawn fertilizer with the water, add some water to the sprayer first, then add the fertilizer, and then top it off with more water. Shake this mix thoroughly, allow the sprayer to sit for a few minutes, and then shake again before spraying.
There are three common types of lawn fertilizer sprayers: handheld, tank compression, and hose end. Handheld fertilizer sprayers are essentially sprayed bottles and are suitable for small areas. Tank compression fertilizer sprayers use a pressure pump to spray and are often worn like a backpack. Hose-end fertilizer sprayers screw onto your garden hose and mix water and fertilizer according to a ratio set on an adjustable dial.
Because it can handle several gallons at once, the tank compression fertilizer sprayer is preferable for larger lawns.
Fertilizer Equipment Cleanup
To keep your fertilizer equipment in working condition, always follow these cleanup procedures:
- Wash and dry equipment thoroughly after the fertilizer application is finished.
- Oil any moving parts susceptible to rust.
- DO NOT leave unused fertilizer in fertilizer equipment.
Fertilizers can be highly corrosive if stored improperly. Always follow proper safety precautions when applying lawn fertilizer, such as gloves or protective masks.