Taking care of your lawn is both challenging and rewarding and the best part about it is that it never stops. Whether you’re trying to repair the grass or simply keep the pests away from the garden, there are plenty of lawn care products to use for keeping your lawn healthy and well throughout the entire year.
One of the most common lawn care products out there is the fertilizer and going with one should be a responsible decision.
Do plants need fertilizers?
As a matter of fact, plants need multiple types of nutrients. Macronutrients are in fact needed in impressive amount. Not all of them are found in the soil so a fertilizer becomes the best way to keep your lawn healthy.
Here’s what your lawn may need:
- Phosphorous- it’s good for root growth and the creation of flowers, seeds and fruits
- Nitrogen- is good for plant growth, but also for lead development. It’s essential for the production of green color
- Potassium (aka “potash”)- is good for root development and resistance to disease or drought.
Your plants and laws also need secondary nutrients (carbon, oxygen, calcium, sulfur, hydrogen and magnesium) but they’re often found in soil or air.
As for the micronutrients (chlorine, copper, cobalt, manganese, iron, zinc, boron, nickel) you shouldn’t worry much. Your lawn only needs them in small amounts.
It’s always a good idea to perform a soil test before you go shopping for a fertilizer. A home test kit is easy to use, but you may also send a soil sample to a local cooperative extension office for the same type of test. That’s the most reliable way to know if your soil needs or not some fertilizers.
How to read fertilizer numbers?
When you go shopping for fertilizers, you’re going to notice that there are 3 obvious numbers on the package. The NPK value informs you on the percentage of primary macronutrients by weight in a package.
Here’s what is all about:
- N (nitrogen) content is the first number
- P (phosphorous) content is the second number
- K (potassium) content is the third number.
Therefore, a bag marked 16-4-8 is going to contain 16% nitrogen, 4% phosphorous and 8% potassium. In order to find out how much of each is in a bag, you should multiple the percentage by the weight of the bag.
Let’s say you have a 50-pound bag:
This means that your bag contains 8 pounds of nitrogen, 2pounds of phosphorous and 4 pounds of potassium. The rest of it is inert material which helps with the even distribution of the fertilizer, reducing the risk for a chemical burn.
What types of fertilizer can you use?
Fertilizers for laws typically come in granular form which is easier to control. You actually get to see how much you’re using and where you’re spreading them. You can go with one of the two formulations of granular fertilizers:
Also known as water-soluble nitrogen (WSN), this type of fertilizers is going to offer nitrogen to plants really fast. They last for 4 weeks, give or take, depending on the rainfall and temperatures.
The water-insoluble nitrogen (WIN) fertilizers come in sulfur-coated varieties, lasting for 8 weeks or so. The polymer-coated types may even last up to 12 weeks. The time estimates depend a lot on the amount of rainfall. You shouldn’t apply them too often as they produce enough growth. On top of everything else, you don’t need to worry about the burning caused by nitrogen in the case of slow-release fertilizers.
They act really fast and plants absorb them in no time, through the leaves and roots. You need to apply them every 2 or 3 weeks. Most of them need to be mixed with water. Some come with hose-end bottles that create the mixture while applying them. This type of fertilizer is good for container plants, but you may find lawn formulas too.
Plant food spikes
This is a solid form of fertilizer and you need to drive it into the soil so that the nutrients are dispensed in time. They work great for trees, houseplants and shrubs.
Are the lawn fertilizers special?
Lawns come with specific fertilizer needs, depending on the season and the kind of turf grass. You need to read the instructions really carefully before spreading it.
Weed and feed
This type of fertilizer contains weed killer for broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. You should check the label to see the list of weeds that the fertilizer works for.
In order to be effective, this type of fertilizer should be applied at the right time. For instance, you should apply pre-emergent (to prevent crabgrass) early in the season, before weeds start germinate. If the weeds are already growing, they’re useless. In the case of post-emergent, it’s good to know that they kill growing weeds on contact. They’re not going to kill weeds that haven’t germinated just yet.
When you’re also sowing grass seed, you should look at the weed and feed packaging for the right time between applying weed and feed and sowing seed. Keep in mind that weed control products may prevent germination, but they may also kill immature grass seedlings.
Note: check the winterizers as they present high levels of potassium, helping the cool-season lawns to get through the winter. In the case of new lawns, the starter fertilizers are high in phosphorous and help the new lawn grow strong roots.
You can also get lawn fertilizer that is designed for sustaining insect control as it feeds.
Remember that many fertilizers are formulated to be safe to use on lawns, but they may not necessarily be safe for your kids and pets. Follow the directions on the bag before and after application.
What are lawn care chemicals?
This doesn’t include just the fertilizers. Chemicals that are going to kill weeds, insects and an important diversity of diseases are sold individually and also in combination with fertilizers as “weed and feed”.
Are the formulas toxic?
The formulas may include various herbicides that may pose a health risk for your family. Pesticides used in controlling insects and weeds are toxic. The chemicals have been treated to kill pests and many are broad-spectrum biocides. This means that they’re also poisonous to many living organisms, pets, wildlife, garden plants and so on. Some of the inert ingredients may actually be more toxic than the active ones within the formula.
Are lawn chemicals safe when dry?
Many chemicals are going to remain active even for one year and they may release toxic vapors throughout that entire time. Breathing the vapors (even if they come from your neighbor) may lead to various illnesses.
What are the alternatives?
You can always try a natural landscape maintenance program for creating a pest-free landscape. For instance, corn gluten is a natural pre-emergent weed killer and fertilizer that you can try nowadays. You may also enrich your lawn by spreading some compost in the spring and fall.
The natural lawn care practices are going to turn your lawn into a healthy one that even keeps the pests and diseases at distance. A such online shop is greenbeanbuddy.com. This store is selling organic products, pest control products and products for disinfection. If you are planning on placing an order on this website, you can now benefit of a great discount on your order.
What are the organic fertilizer alternatives?
Organic fertilizers, soil additives and soil conditioners are also options to consider for your lawn. Here are some of the most popular choices:
- Bone meal- it’s a byproduct of the meat-packing industry. Bone meal includes calcium and phosphorous, which are fundamental for plant growth
- Blood meal- this is a byproduct of the meat-packing industry. Once it’s steamed and dried, it’s high in phosphorous.
- Compost- it’s an all-around garden material for improving the soil
- Composted manure- it’s good for soil conditioning. You can also use it in the compost pile
- Fish emulsion- it’s a fish-processing byproduct. Nontoxic, mild and organic, fish emulsion works for the tender plants that went through a fertilizer burn
- Peat moss- it’s an amendment that aerates and lightens a heavy soil. It gives mass to a sandy soil, reducing the leaching of nutrients.
No matter which type of lawn care product you’re planning to use, always read and follow the directions when it comes to wearing the right clothing, application procedures, protective equipment a safety issues.
What’s to know about plant food?
The term “plant food” refers to fertilizers for flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees. It comes as liquids, granules or spikes. The market gives you formulas for the indoor plants. Some of the options also contain weed control and you should always check the label before applying.
Keep in mind that some plant foods may not work for the edible plants.
One tip for the road
If you’re determined to keep your lawn and garden healthy and taken care of, you only need to stay informed and follow instructions. The lawn care products are easy to find and you should take time for developing a plan for the health of your lawn. If that sounds too much work for you, remember that there’s always the option of a professional team to take care of everything!