Today on Sod U we share a common fertilizing error and outline steps you can take to avoid it. Each year, DIY homeowners all over the country get their lawns ready to look their best. Fertilization is an important part of this process, but done incorrectly, your lawn can end up looking more like a zebra than the uniform, plush, green carpet you desire.
A key ingredient in most fertilization regimes is a group of minerals that contribute to enhancing the green color of your lawn. These minerals include nitrogen, iron and sulfur. Nitrogen fertilizers are classified as either quick release or slow release. Specifically, it is the misapplication of quick release nitrogen fertilizer that causes the unwanted striping in a lawn.
Steps to take to avoid this error:
Use a broadcast spreader, not a drop spreader
As the name implies, a broadcast spreader broadcasts whatever dry material you are applying to your lawn (fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide, grass seed, etc.) while a drop spreader drops whatever you are applying. For a novice DIY homeowner, a broadcast spreader is more forgiving and allows for the applicator to slightly overlap their application. Read more about the differences between the two in Broadcast vs. Drop Spreaders.
Pictured above: a drop spreader.
Be methodical in how you apply the fertilizer
One way to to apply liquid or granular fertilizer is by using a pattern that crosses over paths similar to a checkerboard. You will be crossing over the same areas multiple times, so to avoid applying too much fertilizer, make half an application as you cross the lawn vertically and make the other half of the application as you cross the lawn horizontally. This prevents over fertilization and you’ll be covering all angles. There are a few other strategic patterns for proper fertilizer applications.
As you apply in rows back and forth, approach the job as if you were vacuuming your carpet. Slightly overlap so as to be sure to not leave any gaps but not so much as to increase the number of passes you have to make. Another benefit of applying to the perimeter first is that you can cut off the application of fertilizer as you make the turn.
The sports field pictured above had a granular fertilizer applied by a tow behind spreader and the applicator did not overlap the application, leaving huge gaps between the fertilized (dark green) and non-fertilized (light green) sections of the field.
Make sure you have the appropriate amount of fertilizer for your size yard
One reason a homeowner might not be as methodical in applying fertilizer is they did not purchase enough and skimped on the application. To avoid this error, you must know and do three things:
- Know how many sq. ft. are in your lawn. This will direct how much fertilizer to purchase. If you do not know, a simple online tool you can use to determine approximately how many sq. ft. in your yard is the Area Calculator Tool.
- Know how many sq. ft. can be treated by each bag of fertilizer. Most packaged fertilizer will state on the front label how many square feet can be treated by that sized package.
- Set your spreader correctly so as to not apply at too heavy a rate and run out halfway through your yard. Most dry fertilizer products will include a chart of the various manufacturers of spreaders and the correct setting to apply the recommended amount. For more details on this topic, read How to Read a Fertilizer Label.
The photo below is of a homeowner’s front yard who, because they saw they were going to run out of product, applied the last of their fertilizer in a haphazard pattern, resulting in dark green grass where the fertilizer was applied and light green where it was not. Knowing how much fertilizer you need, how many sq. ft. your yard is and setting your spreader correctly will prevent this from happening.
Consider using Lawnifi
This fertilizer error can occur more often than you think—and it can be done with both liquid and granular fertilizers. As previously mentioned, fertilizers that contain quick-release nitrogen cause this issue the most. This is why we recommend Lawnifi®. Lawnifi is powered by Catalyst TechnologyTM, which nano-sizes its nutrients so that more of them are absorbed through the roots and leaves. Since Lawnifi nano-sizes its nutrients, larger amounts of nutrients are efficiently delivered to plants. The amount of product that needs to be applied is significantly reduced while using 80 percent less nitrogen while yielding better results. Lawnifi’s Boost, a liquid fertilizer, and Foundation, a granular fertilizer, both feature slow-release nitrogen to feed your lawn and plants over an extended period of time. Reasons to use Lawnifi include:
- Lawnifi does not rely on nitrogen alone to green up lawns. It incorporates iron and other micronutrients,
- Lawnifi is carbon-based, so it makes the nitrogen you do apply more effective by balancing C:N ratios,
- Nitrogen in the year-long Lawnifi program is a combination of quick release and slow release.
Using these helpful tools and tips when making fertilizer applications to your lawn will help you avoid common errors homeowners seem to encounter frequently. To learn more about Lawnifi, read the Sod University article, Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer? or visit Lawnifi.com.