There’s nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer! As the days begin to warm up, your yard is beginning to wake up and turn green which means that it’s time for one of the most important tasks of the year- the first application of fertilizer for the season.
Nitrogen is the most important element for making your grass green and making it grow so you need to be sure that your plants have enough of it to be healthy. After the winter snow and cold, most lawns are generally lacking in nitrogen which is why this first application is so important. It’s essential for good growth going into the season.
There are many fertilizer choices for lawns but I like Fertilome Lawn Food Plus Iron. It’s a well balanced fertilizer which contains iron that helps to green it up even faster. Although there are many popular “step” programs available, the difference is that they contain a higher shot of nitrogen in the first step, then decrease that and increase the phosphorous as you move through the program. As a rule, in our area there is plenty of phosphorous in the soil so you really don’t need the extra phosphorous that these steps contain. Nitrogen will leach out of the soil which is why it needs to be added on a regular basis, but in general phosphorous won’t.
Another popular choice is a lawn fertilizer with herbicide to control weeds. Fertiliome’s brand is called Weed Out, but others are available as well. The trick to success with these products is to be sure your lawn is wet before applying so that the granules stick to the weeds to kill them. If you apply to a dry lawn, the granules simply fall to the ground and although you’ll have some success, it won’t be as effective as it will be if applied when the blades are wet.
Apply with a broadcast spreader which you can get locally or even rent if you don’t wish to purchase one. Fill the spreader making sure to adjust the broadcast settings according to the directions you’ll find on the back of the fertilizer bag. Each brand is different, so be sure to follow their instructions. Spread in rows across your yard, then turn and go in the opposite direction forming a cross hatched pattern to eliminate streaks. Think of a baseball diamond on television when they take a shot of the field from above. You can usually clearly see the cross hatch pattern where the grounds keepers have applied their fertilizer.
If you have a very small yard, you can broadcast by hand but it’s very difficult to get the right application rate by doing it this way, so a spreader is really the best tool.
Lawn issues throughout the summer months are almost always related to nitrogen which is why it’s important to continue to fertilize throughout the summer. In general three applications throughout the year work best- once now, again mid summer in July, and finally in September or October to prep the lawn for winter. If your lawn seems to be struggling even after fertilizing, then a soil test is also a good idea.
I’ve always though it quite ironic that we fertilize the yard only to mumble down the road when mowing time comes, but it’s a necessary and important step for a healthy lawn. Just think about how great it’s going to feel to wiggle your toes in it and smell that fresh cut aroma come summer!