Having lush grass hasn’t always been about cosmetic maintenance. Indeed, throughout the entire course of history, grass has played a very important role in the global ecosystem. Grazing animals have long been a source of food and commerce for humanity. The animals go where the grass is. Therefore, it became important to learn how to maintain grassy areas. In some cases, it became a matter of survival.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that the lure of grass was simply for its aesthetic appeal; it just looks nice. The iconic image of the brick house and white picket fence would be completely undermined if it were sitting on a patchy, weed-laden lawn.
Beyond our homes, commercial organizations, such as banks, apartment complexes, schools, etc., understand the importance of a well-manicured lawn. It offers curb appeal that signals care and attention.
What, Exactly, is Fertilizer?
Now that we understand why we want to be able to create lush looking lawn, we can look at the best ways to do that. To that end, there is little debate about the importance of fertilization for a healthy lawn. What exactly, though, is in fertilizer that gives our grass the boost it needs?
While there are usually around 18 different nutrients in most fertilizers, there are three main nutrients that really do the heavy lifting and you might remember them from your high school chemistry class and that Periodic Table of Elements that hung on the wall; they are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Of all plant nutrients, it’s nitrogen that the soil requires the most. Coincidentally, it is also the one that soil is generally lacking the most. For grass, nitrogen is key to just about every growth process, from chlorophyll creation to protein synthesis. Depending on your needs, you will use a fertilizer that employs one of two different types of nitrogen: quick release or slow release.
Quick-release fertilizers will start working right away, but require a more frequent application schedule. Oppositely, slow-release fertilizers take a little longer to get the grass growing, but the effects last longer, requiring less frequent application.
While nitrogen is key in lawn growth, it is phosphorus that helps to ensure the overall health of your lawn. Fortunately, you don’t need nearly as much phosphorus as you do nitrogen. New grass, especially, needs a good dose of phosphorus, as it aids in amino acid production, photosynthesis, glycolysis and respiration.
Often the unsung hero of the three main elements, it’s potassium that helps your grass survive those cold, snowy winter months. It also helps create durability so your lawn can better resist the damage caused by traffic, disease, and even long stretches without water. It does so by aiding in photosynthesis and cell division.
Since not all grass needs are the same, different types of fertilizer are necessary. One of the biggest differences is the N-P-K ratio. In other words, the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So, if you see a fertilizer labeled 20-5-15, it means that the fertilizer is 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 15% potassium.
If you do the math, 25+5+15=45. So what is the remaining 55% of fertilizer made from? Primarily inert materials, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, sulfur, and zinc, which can assist the main three nutrients in achieving maximum effectiveness and help ensure even application to avoid patchy growth.
It’s About Timing
Now that we’ve covered a little bit about the makeup of fertilizer and what it does, we need to talk about the timing of fertilization. If you fertilize too frequently, you run the risk of burning your grass. Too infrequently and you are left with a lawn that had a lot more potential.
It’s easy to assume that, when your grass is growing like gangbusters, you can let off the gas. In fact, that is exactly when your grass needs the fertilizer the most. The processes that go into lush lawn growth are churning through essential nutrients and, if not fed, will bottom out. Trying to apply fertilizer after growth has stopped requires a longer ramp up time to get the growth back.
So, in addition to when the grass growth is in full swing, is there a time on the calendar that you can look at as ideal fertilizing time? It turns out, there is; but, it depends on the type of grass you are growing: cool-season grass or warm season grass. As a general rule, you will want to follow a schedule like this:
In addition, you should also ensure the applications are spaced at least one month apart.
One to Grow On
If this all sounds like a bit much to juggle, you are not alone. Many lawns don’t realize their full potential because balancing nutrient needs, with grass choices, and a beneficial fertilization schedule aren’t optimized for the conditions of the terrain and climate.
If you want to get the most out of your lawn and grounds, year in and year out, trust E.P.M. LawnScape and Supply’s commercial lawn fertilization services. Give us a call today at (517) 990-0110 to get started on the best looking lawn you can get.