Fertilization is essential for a healthy lawn. Remember that a healthy lawn is more disease resistant and is also able to beat out weeds by simply being too competitive for the weeds to survive.
The best fertilizers for early spring are either slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers or other organic alternatives. What this means is that in order for the nutrients to be released, the fertilizer needs to be broken down by the organisms present in the soil. This results in a slow, steady release of nutrients that will not burn roots, readily leach or present unnatural growth. (Note that organic fertilizers are generally a bit more expensive and contain less nutrients than commercially prepared slow-release alternatives.)
If you are unsure of what to purchase, ensure you go to your favourite garden centre or garden supply store to have the assistance of trained and knowledgeable personnel. Commercially prepared slow release fertilizers may be in the form of ureaform, sulfur-coated urea, milorganite and IBDU. All of these forms will stimulate even or uniform growth over a period of time and will be far less likely to burn the grass. They will not exhibit that quick green-up that fast-release formulations show but will result in a healthier lawn for the long term. Ensure to follow the guidelines for application that are clearly displayed on the label.
There are also conventional fertilizers as another option to use. Conventional fertilizers are released more quickly so should not be used too early. When mid-May rolls around, it is time to fertilize if you are using a conventional fertilizer. If you are using conventional fertilizer then your lawns should be fertilized three times throughout the growing season, with applications made about six weeks apart. If you are using a conventional fertilizer, do not fertilize prior to the middle of May as this will encourage lush growth that is susceptible to freezing damage. Similarly, fertilizing much later that mid-August will encourage lush growth late into the fall, when the grass should be slowing its growth and preparing for winter.
There are many fertilizer formulations available to the home gardener. The three numbers on the fertilizer bag are the relative amount of nutrients that bag of fertilizer contains. From left to right, the three numbers indicate the relative amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K). Most lawn fertilizers will have a high first number, which indicates a high level of nitrogen. High nitrogen levels are ideal for lawn growth because nitrogen is the nutrient that encourages the production of lush, leafy growth. The second number indicates the relative amount of phosphorus contained in the fertilizer. Phosphorus encourages healthy roots, shoots and the production of flowers. A lawn over fertilized with phosphorus will generally be encouraged to produce seed heads. The third number indicates the relative amount of potassium. This nutrient plays a vital role in the proper health of plants.
In spring, it is recommended that a fertilizer containing phosphorus be applied. The other two applications of fertilizer could contain nitrogen alone. Some common fertilizer formulations include: 26-13-0, 21-0-0, 26-0-0, 34-0-0. These formulations should be applied at a rate of 2.0 to 2.5 kilograms per 100 square metres. To ensure an even distribution, apply half the allotted portion of fertilizer in a north-to-south direction, and then apply the other half in an east-to-west direction. The lawn should be dry when the fertilizer is applied so the granules fall right through the leaves to the top of the soil surface. Immediately following a conventional fertilizer application, the lawn should be watered for about one hour. This ensures that the granules will be dissolved and carried to the root zone.
Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at www.orchidhort.com; by phone at 306-931-4769; by email at email@example.com; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.