Feed Your Grass Like You Feed Your Body
Early Spring = Breakfast
Late Spring or Early Summer = Snack
Late Summer = Lunch
Early Fall = Supper
Nothing thrives well on a 'Feast-or-Famine' attitude...not even your lawn. There are 16 elements required for lawn growth, but the most important are N-P-K. This is because your lawn uses these nutrients in the greatest quantity. Putting your lawn on a diet will ultimately lower its ability to withstand typical stress from day to day life. Give your lawn a proper meal and prepare your self for easy beauty.
Blends & Ratios
Fertilizer blends are seen as N-P-K and listed in that order. They are listed as a set of numbers in a %ratio such as; 30-10-20 or 24-24-0...which means 30%-10%-20% or 24%-24%-0%. This is the percentage of individual nutrients held within the total weight listed on the bag. Lawns typically require 1 lb. of nitrogen/1000sq. feet. This is because (N) is the element most lacking in soils. Thankfully, most fertilizer labels have done all the math for you, so there's no need to bore you with big calculations. I prefer 3:1:2 blend ratios, they provide a complete balanced meal for established lawns in all seasons. But, remember different blends are made for different reasons. There's spring, summer, autumn, winterizer, seed starter, bio-weed & feeds, summer guards...there's enough blends to make your head spin. Educating yourself by reading the bag instructions is your best protection against failure. Here's a good example and this really happens more than you think. Lets say you just seeded your lawn in early spring, your worried about the weeds popping up and choking out your hard work. You see a product on the shelf called Bio-Weed & Feed, the bag may say the product delays weeds from germinating and feeds your lawn. Your thinking..."wow that's exactly what I need" so you buy it. You rush home and spread it in complete confidence, proud of your hard work. As the weeks go buy with proper techniques you notice very poor results. You then decide to read the user directions and precautions for the first time. You take a deep breathe in....shake your head and read...i.e. DO NOT APPLY TO NEWLY SEEDED LAWNS. That's because some products have a Pre-Emergent Herbicide in them, designed to coat all types of seeds preventing the germination process from occurring. The directions are there for a reason so use them. Make sure bags aren't torn or stretched were you read the instructions, this way if you have some left over you can read labels later on. Just grabbing any ruffed up bag of fertilizer from the store could result in an epic fail. You may end up with lawn burn, over-feeding, thatch build-up, increased pest, or needing a swather to cut your lawn. How I keep track is; for newly seeded or sodded lawns select a fertilizer with a higher middle number i.e. 10-52-10, 24-24-4 or 10-20-5. It may even say Seed Starter or Turf Starter on the bag. (refer to figure 1. bottom page). Remember you want a high middle number for new sod or seedlings because phosphorus develops new roots & shoots. Spring, fall and winterizing blends are very similar. Choose a blend with a low middle number and high outer numbers i.e. 22-0-20, 28-8-20, 30-10-20. The bag may even say Spring + Weed Control or Winterizer or Fall Lawn Fertilizer on it. Spring & winter fertilizers tend to be higher in nitrogen and potassium, and the most important seasons to feed your lawn. This is because (N) provides carbohydrates for the winter months ahead, and provides nice spring green-up. The higher (K) value alleviates seasonal transitions or any wear & tear of stress. Summer blends can range in Low, Medium or High mixes of all elements i.e. 30-0-3 w/ 2% Fe or 32-0-4 w/ 2% Fe or just N-P-K values.
Please note: If you solely rely on rainfall to irrigate your lawn and there's long hot & dry spells, grass growth and colour will slow down. Its very important to limit your fertilizing at these times. Grass will appreciate a lower dose of food when its hot/dry. There's nothing wrong with reducing your broadcasting rate in 1/2 to provide a light snack. Just don't Force-Feed your lawn to grow & green-up when it doesn't want too. Its like someone shoving a big meal in your face, making you to hit the gym + sauna and not provide you any water. But, If you water your lawn properly at 1" per week you can fertilize at normal intervals, and always water your lawn after you fertilize to avoid burn or desiccation.
Try to use rotary spreaders instead of drop spreaders. They require less skill, broadcast evenly, and are more forgiving for the home owner. Application requirements may be in sq. feet or sq. meters or both. Calculate both measurements prior to purchasing product. This eliminates any guess work and ensures you purchase the correct amount in one trip. Also, read the nutrients on the bag, ensure the "Big 3" are in the blend. Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium...look for a good balanced mix. High quality lawn fertilizers initially cost more and may have additional nutrients like sulphur, iron or other element ensuring beautiful results. Try to purchase slow release fertilizers. Fast release brands can burn, cause surge growth, and frequent mowing.
Calibrating spreaders is also challenging. This is because everyone walks & fatigues differently, and granules vary in size from brand to brand. What I do when using different products is, figure out the amount in Lbs./sq. feet. I set the hopper mouth to almost closed, depending on granule sizes. Then I find a comfortable rate set for my walking speed. If the rate its to slow ill open the hopper mouth, if its to fast I'll close it. Once I find my speed and rate I'll do my full broadcast. I recommend 1 pass around the perimeter, 1 coverage north & south, 1 coverage east & west, and 1 diagonal coverage. What's important to remember here is the proper amount of fertilizer / square feet of grass. Good broadcasting ensures proper coverage & uniform growth. If your running out of feed faster than you think...STOP!...close the hopper mouth...check your broadcaster or calculations again.
Note: always fill your broadcaster on the road or drive pad just in case you spill. If you do spill, sweep it up or use a shop vac. Always water in your fertilizer, this helps prevent leaf blades from desiccating or burning. Never hand sow fertilizer ,this will create large green arcs of grass throughout your lawn.
N - Nitrogen
P - Phosphorus
K - Potassium
S - Sulphur
Fe - Iron