Spring is here along with the annual ritual of lawn sprucing, raking and fertilizing! Skip Orth, owner of Father and Son Pest and Lawn Solutions in Navarre has some advise on how to avoid some common mistakes when applying fertilizer this year! Skip has been in the lawn service business for over 25 years, he is the author of the book “What Every Home Owner Along The Emerald Coast Needs To Know About Lawn Care”, he has authored several articles and holds frequent workshops on the topic of lawn care in the local area
1. DON’T JUMP THE GUN – APPLYING
FERTILIZER TOO EARLY!
Skip says that one of the biggest mistakes he sees people making when it comes to applying fertilizer to their lawn is that they put it out too soon. “It seems that at the first hint of warm weather the race is on to see who can get their lawn green the fastest!”
Skip says the reason early spring fertilizer application is a bad practice is that the grass is only able to absorb a small fraction of the applied nutrients while the soil temperatures are below 80 degrees. “Most of the fertilizer applied during cool spring weather goes down into the soil right past the roots before the grass is actually able to absorb it! Another consequence of fertilizing too early is that the grass may actually turn yellow instead of green – a condition called chlorosis. When we apply spring fertilizer to the lawns we service it is usually not until April or May – based on the temperature.”
2. NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE NUMBERS!
Skip says that the numbers on the fertilizer you apply (such as 16-4-8 or 10-10-10) are important to pay attention to! “They represent the percentage of three major nutrients the grass needs to be healthy. The first number stands for nitrogen, the second, phosphorus and the third potassium.” Skip says the only real way to know what you should be applying to your lawn is to take a soil sample. “However, having taken hundreds of soil samples in the Navarre and Gulf Breeze areas, I can tell you that our soil here is consistently low on everything.”
(the first number)
According to Skip, this nutrient gives you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to green color and growth in your lawn but should be used sparingly. “Giving your lawn too much nitrogen is like giving your own body steroids. It creates a lot of growth in a short amount of time – however it creates a lot of health issues for the lawn later on! For the overall, long term health of your lawn it is better to error on the side of applying too little nitrogen than over applying it.”
(the second number)
Skip says this nutrient aids the grass in several different ways. “The unique problem we have with phosphorus here in this area is that our soil is one of the few places in the state that is low – very low on this nutrient. Most other soils in Florida are very high in phosphorus, which is not good for the grass either. Consequently, most fertilizers that are mass marketed have very little to no phosphorus in them. When you look for a fertilizer to apply to your lawn you probably need to hunt for one that has a significant amount of phosphorus in it.”
(the third number)
The main function of potassium, Skip explains is to help build root structure and store energy. “Although potassium can be applied any time of the year, the most important time to apply it is in the fall and winter to assist the grass in storing energy it will need to come out of dormancy in the spring.”
3. BUYING FERTILIZER BASED ON BRAND.
“The major fertilizer companies have done a great job marketing their products and creating a perception in the public’s mind that using a certain brand fertilizer will create the healthiest lawn – that’s simply not true. On the contrary, there are numerous times when I consult with people who have lawn problems and they tell me they have been using _____ brand fertilizer ‘every spring and fall’. The most important thing is NOT the brand fertilizer you use but the specific numbers on the fertilizer you use. Fertilizer is fertilizer no matter what name it has on the bag.”
4. LEAVING OUT THE LIME!
Skip says he’s not talking about Corona here! “Lime raises soil pH. The reason raising pH can be good is if the pH of the soil is too low (acidic), it will inhibit the grass from absorbing the nutrients that are applied to it. Yards with pine and oak trees have a tendency to be too acidic – locking up vital nutrients in the soil the grass needs to be healthy! The only way to tell for sure is by doing a soil pH test to find out. The test will also give specific recommendations for how much lime should be applied to the lawn to put the pH in the right spot.”
5. OVERDOING WEED
Skip warns home owners to be cautions when applying a weed and feed product to their lawn. “There have been a number of lawns over the years I have been hired to resod because well meaning home owners misapplied weed and feed products to their lawn and killed it.”
According to Skip, if you are going to apply a weed and feed product to your lawn read the directions very carefully and be sure you apply it exactly the way it says to. Some types of grasses are more sensitive to herbicides than others so be sure you know what type of grass you have in your yard before applying.
6. GIVING YOUR LAWN THE APPEARANCE OF AN ATHLETIC FIELD
Have you ever noticed some yards looking like a sports field in the spring – dark stripe, light stripe, dark stripe, light stripe? This comes from failure to properly overlap the fertilizer application. Skip says to avoid this, simply apply half the fertilizer in one direction over the lawn and then change directions 90 degrees and apply the other half like a tic-tac-toe grid. This will insure overlapping. Be sure to set the spreader so that it only puts out half of what you intend to apply!
NEED SOME ASSISTANCE GETTING YOUR LAWN
Skip’s business, Father and Son Peat and Lawn Solutions offers free lawn consultations for anyone struggling to keep their lawn healthy. They can be reached at 850-240-7935. For more information and other helpful lawn tips visit his web site at fatherandsonlandscape.com.