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Fertilizer burn on lawns

What you can do about over-application of lawn fertilizers

By: Sandy Feather ©2010
Penn State Extension

Q. My spreader was not working properly and I burned my lawn with an application of weed and feed. What can I do to help it recover?
  A. While the over-application of herbicide did not help matters, over-application of the fertilizer may be the worst problem. Fertilizers are salts, much like table salt, except that they contain plant nutrients. Too much fertilizer in a single application can “burn” a plant to death. This occurs when tender plant roots grow close to the fertilizer particles. The fertilizer actually draws water out of the root.

More about over-fertilization

The individual plant cells in the root begin to dehydrate or “burn.” If too much fertilizer is applied, causing too much water to be drawn out of the grass plants, they will dehydrate to the point where they cannot recover. This is very likely what has happened to your lawn.

Brown stripes in a lawn indicate over-application of lawn fertilizer
Long brown stripes in your lawn indicate over-application of lawn fertilizer to certain specific areas

Uneven application of lawn fertilizer leads to stripes like these
Uneven application of lawn fertilizer will look like the striped lawn in the photo above

To remedy the problem, clean up any visible piles of weed and feed (wearing chemical-resistant gloves). Be sure to broadcast the cleaned up weed and feed in another part of your lawn rather than throwing it in the trash. Then try to leach the excess fertilizer out of the soil by running a sprinkler on the area for two or three hours a day for a week to ten days. Depending on the severity of the misapplication, that may be sufficient to take care of the problem.

Lawn repairs after too much fertilizer

Try re-seeding the area and see how well the new grass plants grow. If they grow for a while, then start to die out, there is still too much fertilizer in the soil. You will have to remove the top two inches of soil from the affected area and replace it with fresh topsoil. Then re-seed the area with grass seed that matches the rest of your lawn as closely as possible.



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