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FERTILIZING LAWNS

In Pennsylvania, and much of the midwest and northeastern US, you should fertilize your lawn 2 to 3 times per year:

Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving - skip Thanksgiving for 2x year schedule.

This timing of applications is conducive to the natural growth cycle of grasses and using the "holiday schedule" makes it easy to remember!


  • The real difficulty with designing your own lawn fertilization program is being able to address the potential need for weed and insect controls. That's why it's often simplest to use something like a "1-2-3-4" program commonly called "weed & feed."
     
  • Combination products with the 1-2-3-4 schedule are popular -- they usually have "everything" included for that particular season of the year.
     
  • Always read and follow label instructions. Sweep fertilizer off walks and driveways to minimize the chance of it reaching waterways and having detrimental effects.

Going with an Organic fertilizer? 

If you don't want to use herbicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer, then consider using an organic fertilizer such as the old golf course favorite, Milorganite. Processed Milwaukee sewage sludge has a 6-2-0 analysis fertilizer with a hardy 4 percent Iron. Other organic fertilizers are available on the market. Overall, expect to pay more for organic fertilizers than chemical fertilizers. 

fertilizer bags

A successful lawn fertilization program promotes vigorous growth that chokes out invasive weeds. However, over-fertilization should be avoided since it will produce excess thatch and contribute to the severity of many turfgrass diseases. Therefore, it's always best to have a well-designed and timed fertilization program, without overdoing it. We strongly recommend beginning with a soil test when seeking the best possible results.

 

The two basic types of lawn spreaders

drop spreader
Drop Spreader

cyclone spreader
Cyclone Spreader

Uses: Application of fertilizer & weed control "combination products."

Advantage: Precision

Disadvantages
* Harder to apply fertilizer without leaving missed areas or "skunk stripes."
* Finely ground products such as pulverized lime tend to "bridge" over spreader outlets.

Uses: Application of straight fertilizer without "combination products."

Advantage: Speed

Disadvantages
* Harder to apply fertilizer accurately along beds and pavement.
* Difficult to use on narrow sections of lawn.
* Pavements must be cleaned following use.


SEEING 'SKUNK STRIPES'
unevenly fertilized lawn with 'skunk stripes'
'Skunk Stripes' are due to uneven fertilization

   
 LAWN FERTILIZER APPLICATION TIP 

Want to avoid lawn striping?

Then split your total fertilizer application in half and apply it in two passes instead of one. Make the two applications in a criss-cross direction.

Example: Apply half of the fertilizer going north & south, then apply the second half going east & west. This reduces the chances of "skunk stripes" as well as burned-out or missed spots.
    

  

  
YouTube video about RED THREAD DISEASE one of the only lawn diseases which calls for nitrogen fertilization to help the grass 'grow away' from the disease.

 

   
  
Fertilizer Analysis

Research has shown that turfgrass prefers a fertilizer analysis of 4-1-2 or 3-1-2.  This would translate into a fertilizer product that might have 24-6-12 or 18-6-12 on the label.  The key is the higher percentage of Nitrogen.

Less expensive fertilizers contain all 'quick release' nitrogen which becomes soluble as soon as it is watered into the lawn.  Quick release nitrogen has a short duration and applications aren't usually effective for more than 4 weeks.


'WIN' Nitrogen

Slow release nitrogen is generally more expensive and comes in many forms.  The slow release part is listed on the label as 'WIN' or 'Water Insoluble Nitrogen'.  There are several ways manufacturers can produce slow release nitrogen. 

Organic fertilizers such as Milorganite have very slow release nitrogen since it requires microbial activity in the soil to make the nitrogen available to plants. Always read and follow label directions.


MORE

Learn more about fertilizer analysis numbers

Why September is considered lawn month

Core aeration helps lawns be healthy lawns

       


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