WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Homeowners preparing to get their lawns in top shape for spring and summer might be shocked by the decals.
Some of the same price increases that impacted agricultural fertilizers have also begun to affect the lawn care industry.
But homeowners and lawn warriors can control those fertilizer costs with a few simple steps – and still have a lush, green, thick lawn that’s the talk of the neighborhood.
“I’m a big advocate for lawn fertilization and recommend people fertilize their lawns at least once a year,” said Purdue Master Gardener state coordinator John Orick.
When it comes to keeping grass green and healthy, Orick understands the mission. His experience includes a decade in golf course maintenance, including jobs as Assistant Golf Course Superintendent at two Indiana golf courses.
Like its cousin corn, lawn grasses are grasses or monocots. And like corn, grass responds better to nitrogen.
“Grasses, monocots, respond much more to nitrogen as a nutrient in growth than to other nutrients that are typically found in a lawn fertilizer. This is why we usually see a fairly high percentage of nitrogen in these fertilizers. We typically assess lawn fertilizer application rates based on nitrogen,” Orick said.
The best time to apply lawn fertilizer is in the fall, and Orick said it’s important to understand the difference between nitrogen rates and actual fertilizer.
“A typical nitrogen rate for a residential lawn, a granular application, would be about one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet. It’s real nitrogen, not real fertilizer and it depends on the analysis of the fertilizer,” he said.
For owners who want to save money or want to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer, Orick said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“One option might be to lower the rates a bit, rather than using one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, reduce that rate to three-quarters or half a pound, depending on your soil fertility” , did he declare.
Those who apply fertilizer in the spring with a crabgrass preventative can also adjust their applications if the costs exceed their lawn care budget.
“Typically the crabgrass preventative is sold with the fertilizer and you can’t decrease the rate because you would also decrease the rate of the pre-emergent herbicide to prevent the crabgrass from emerging,” Orick said.
An alternative is to schedule spring and fall applications to meet both weed and fertilizer needs.
“Maybe you do the crabgrass preventative in the spring and a fertilizer application in September and October and get it over with. Or, you reduce the rates in the fall. That way you can save money,” Orick said.
When it comes to do-it-yourself lawn fertilizing, Orick listed some common mistakes homeowners make that can flush silver and nitrogen down the drain — or storm drain.
“Over-fertilizing, not getting the right rate, not understanding what the correct spreader setting is for a particular product, applying incorrectly, and not getting a nice, even spread across the entire lawn. These are common mistakes that I’ve seen just thinking that more is a good thing. Sometimes less is more when it comes to these inputs into the landscape,” he said.
Homeowners may also confuse a need for nutrients with other problems with their lawn.
“Incorrectly diagnosing lawn problems and automatically assuming it just needs more fertilizer is a mistake people can make. You need to make sure that any issues or problems with your lawn are properly diagnosed,” said Orick, who added that the Purdue Plant and Diagnostic Laboratory can offer assistance to owners.
The lab does not provide soil or fabric tests, but owners can send photos of problems for PPDL staff to diagnose.
Homeowners using a professional lawn service should also be prepared for increased costs, Orick said.
“With professional lawn care companies, increases in fuel and fertilizer costs affect every element of what they do, so customers will see potentially higher prices for these services because it costs them more expensive to buy the fertilizer and get it to your house. residence. So if they see an increase in those fees if they hire a professional lawn care company, don’t be surprised,” he said.
Some websites for owners:
• Purdue plant and diagnostic laboratory — ag.purdue.edu/btny/ppdl/Pages/default.aspx.
• Purdue Turf Program — turf.purdue.edu.
• Purdue Consumer Horticulture — www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/yardandgarden.