Carbon is a basic building block of organic life
Along with nitrogen and oxygen, carbon is one of the essential building blocks of all organic life. In fact, 18 percent of the human body is made up of carbon while approximately 50 percent of a plant is made up of carbon. Soil is not excluded from the definition of organic life. Like plants and animals, soil is also carbon-based and needs carbon, nitrogen and oxygen to remain balanced and healthy.
Carbon is important to photosynthesis
Carbon—in the form of carbon dioxide—is a required element for photosynthesis. Lawns and other green plants use carbon to make vital organic compounds. Plants receive the carbon from the air. Once carbon is inside a plant, it enters the cell walls and the small green structure called the chloroplast. This is what gives all plants their green color and serves to capture light energy from the Sun. A complex chain of reactions happens next in which water and carbon dioxide are converted into sugars using the Sun’s energy. Oxygen released during this reaction is the same oxygen humans inhale.
Carbon is important to microbes
Healthy lawns depend on healthy soil and healthy soil depends on healthy microbes, which survive on organic carbon compounds and nitrogen for growth. Let’s say that in the top six inches of a healthy 5,000 sq. ft. lawn, there are 230,000 pounds of soil. Ideally, this soil would include around 7,000 pounds of organic carbon, 700 pounds of organic nitrogen, 300 pounds of organic phosphorus and 100 pounds of microbes. Critical to your lawn is the health of these microorganisms, which affect soil structure, protect lawns from stress and break down nutrients in the soil and release them to the root zone of the lawn. Carbon is critical to microbial health.
Nutrient balance is key
We live in a culture where ”more is better.” However, when it comes to healthy soil and lawns, nutrient balance is the key, NOT maximizing nutrient quantity. Simply stated, the nutrient “problem” with a majority of lawns is that most homeowners overly apply nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important primary macronutrient all plants need, but when nitrogen is over-applied on a regular basis, several harmful effects can take place, including the disruption of the carbon to nitrogen ratio in your soil (C:N). This over application of nitrogen has several harmful effects, but one of them is the disruption of the ideal carbon-nitrogen ratio of somewhere between 8:1 to 15:1. When this carbon-nitrogen balance is achieved, the result is a natural release of the nitrogen and phosphorus already contained in the soil.
The solution to achieving this carbon-nitrogen balance is twofold: restrict the total amount of nitrogen you apply to your lawn and increase the carbon inputs.
Do not apply more nitrogen to your lawn than needed. Although there is some variability based on what cultivar you have and where you live, below is a pretty good guideline on total annual nitrogen inputs by grass type. Try to stay on the lower end of this range.
Bermudagrass 3 to 7 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
Centipedegrass 1 to 3 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
St. Augustinegrass 2 to 6 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
Zoysiagrass 2 to 6 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
Kentucky Bluegrass 3 to 4 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fescue 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.
Increasing carbon to your lawn can be as simple as annually incorporating into the soil organic compounds such as manure/compost or other organic amendments.
Another simple solution is to feed your lawn with a carbon-based fertilizer, such as LawnifiTM.
Lawnifi Annual Program
For best results, we recommend using the Lawnifi Annual Program on your lawn. Three of the four Lawnifi products are carbon-based and will contribute to an appropriate carbon-nitrogen ratio to keep your soil and grass balanced and healthy. The fourth Lawnifi product, Boost, delivers a controlled release nitrogen package that greens up grass quickly and continues to feed for up to six weeks. One bottle of Boost delivers .66 pounds of nitrogen for 5,000 sq. ft., or only .132 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. Nitrogen is important for your lawn, but the soil must remain nutritionally balanced or it stops absorbing the nutrients you spend money and time applying. Nitrogen fertilizers like Boost should be used in combination with other products like Maintain, which contains phosphorus, potassium, carbon and other micronutrients to balance out nitrogen inputs.
For more information on the benefits of using Lawnifi, read our Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer? blog or learn more about Boost in Lawnifi’s Boost: Instant ‘Green Up’ For Your Lawn. You can also read about Collecting and Submitting a Soil Analysis so you can get detailed results on which nutrients your soil needs most.