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Lawns: The Best Way to Fertilize

Lawns: The Best Way to Fertilize

First determine soil nutrient needs

Over-fertilization or applying fertilizer at the wrong time can harm your lawn. First determine IF there is a nutrient deficiency that needs to be corrected. A soil test can determine this and also give essential information about soil pH. Adding fertilizer will not solve a pH problem. Too much nitrogen decreases root growth, increases susceptibility to disease and decreases tolerance of environmental stresses.
(published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

Is the pH Correct?

Turf grasses grow best in soil that is neutral to slightly acidic (pH 6.5-7). Soils in the northeast often need lime to make the soil less acidic. It is best to apply a high-calcium or calcitic limestone rather than dolomitic limestone to avoid adding too much magnesium to the soil.

Adding Nitrogen

Leaving the lawn clippings on the lawn supplies 50% of the lawn's nitrogen requirements.
Most lawns that are kept green all summer will need extra nitrogen. Nearly 50% of this can be supplied by leaving clippings on the lawn. The best time to apply the other 50% is in the fall (mid to late October). Instead of raking leaves, use a mulching lawn mower to shred the leaves and leave them on the lawn. By spring they will have decomposed, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Lawns fertilized in the fall will stay greener longer, green-up earlier the following spring, and have higher energy reserves through the summer. This stored energy helps keep turf grasses healthy and more drought resistant. If you fertilize an existing lawn in mid-summer, you're feeding the weeds.

Broadcasting up to a half of an inch of finished compost on an established lawn provides nitrogen and other trace nutrients and builds organic matter in the soil. More serious nitrogen deficiencies should be corrected with a slow-release, organic source of nitrogen such as blood meal, cottonseed meal or fish meal. Apply in the quantities indicated by your soil test while soil temperatures are above 65 degrees.

Copyright © 2015 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Department of environmentalcertified arborist 

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