When And How You Should Be Fertilizing Your Yard
The lawn, plants and trees in your garden require nutrients, water and sunlight in order to thrive and flourish. Nutrients are normally received from the soil which is naturally replenished by rotting leaves and other plant matter. Because humans remove this matter, the soil in their yards are often low in nutrients.
It is therefore necessary to fertilize the yard on a regular basis to ensure that the lawn and plants are getting the ideal nutrition. However, it is also important not to overdo it. Nutrient rich soil can have a negative impact in lawn and plants in the garden.
So how should you fertilize different areas in your yard and how often should you do so?
- The Lawn
There are 3 essential ingredients that should be in your fertilizer – nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. These ingredients will be represented by numbers which reflect the percentage of each mineral or phosphate included in the mix. For example, 20-5-10 contains 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphate and 10% potassium. The other 65% of the mix is made up mainly of filler which is there to ensure that the mix is spread evenly. This is considered to be the ideal mix for springtime fertilizers.
Which brings us to when it’s the best time to fertilize. Early spring, when the ground has started to thaw, and soil temperatures reach around 55 ℉. This would normally be around mid April for most locations in the Northern Hemisphere. It is recommended to use a slow release mix at this time of year which will steadily release the minerals over a period of 6-8 weeks.
The next spread should take place about 4 weeks later with a third spread 6-8 weeks after the second. The third spread should contain organic or biological matter like compost or manure. After that, spread fertilizer every 6-8 weeks until October.
It is also advisable to use a fertilizer hopper or spreader in order to ensure that the mix is spread evenly and that it reaches all areas of the lawn. Spreading by hand can result in patches where there is no fertilizer and other areas that have too much which will result in a patchy and uneven lawn.
Keep in mind that the more often you water your lawn, the more fertilizer you will require. This is not because it dilutes the nutrient concentration but rather because more water results in more growth which basically uses up the nutrients much faster.
- Garden Beds
Once again, early spring is the best time to fertilize garden beds as is using a slow release fertilizer. It is also advisable to mix fertilizer into the soil when you are planting new seedlings or plants. Some types of slow release fertilizer last months and it is advisable to use these in the late Autumn before the first snowfall while soil temperatures are above 55 ℉. While this will provide your plants with nutrition throughout the winter months as well as early spring, it does not mean that you should skip the spring fertilizer spread.
General fertilizer is suitable but if you are focusing on the garden beds, it is best to select a fertilizer that is designed for the type of plants that are in the bed. Granules are best and including organic matter is also advisable. Adding mulch can also be beneficial to keeping moisture as well as nutrients in the bed soil and prevent it from leeching away.
It is recommended to loosen the soil in the bed and then spread the fertilizer by hand, mixing it into the soil. Keep in mind that fertilizer can damage or “burn” your plants so be careful to prevent it from coming into contact with leaves, stems, roots, etc. It is very important not to use too much fertilizer.
If you are not using a slow release fertilizer, you should spread again once or twice during the summer months. Make sure that the plants are well hydrated before spreading and spread at least 6-8 weeks apart. Also, be sure to water the garden beds well after spreading fertilizer to activate it and allow it too soak into the soil. However, don’t water until the water runs off the beds as this will also allow the nutrients to flow away from the beds.
When planting saplings, it is recommended to use fertilizer, mixed sparingly into the soil. Water well and repeat every 6-8 weeks. Larger trees have very deep root systems and therefore get their nutrients from much deeper under the ground. It can therefore be difficult to provide them with additional nutrition if necessary. Large trees normally require fertilizer due to environmental stress which can result from poor air quality, low moisture, compacted soil and other factors in the urban surroundings.
Most trees will benefit from a fertilizer in the early spring when the ground is workable (around mid April) and just before they begin their main growth cycle in about May. One application should be sufficient as the growth slows as the summer months arrive. However, it is advisable to split the mix over two applications in early and late spring for sandy soils.
It may be necessary to determine any soil deficiencies before purchasing a fertilizer. Fertilizers that have a higher percentage of Nitrogen than that used for lawn care are generally recommended. However, a fertilizer higher in Phosphate would be preferable if there is a deficiency in the soil. A soil sample can be sent to a lab for analysis to test the nutrient concentration as well as the pH balance.
In all areas of the yard, it is important to always keep balance in mind. Too little or too much fertilizer will show specific signs and symptoms that you can address during your next application. Once the balance is right, it is important to maintain it.
If in doubt regarding the signs and symptoms, have your soil tested or call in Discover Ziehler West Chester to help determine the problem and recommend when and how to apply fertilizer.