Understanding Fertilizers

Overview of Fertilizers

Here is a basic overview of fertilizers, their forms and how they work.

All fertilizers are not created equal! When it comes to choosing a fertilizer the old adage “you get what you pay for” generally holds true. Fertilizer at its core is simply plant food and just like a person, your lawn or turf needs food to be healthy and look its best. We all try to make sure we have a healthy diet. We endeavor to eat the four basic groups and take vitamins so are bodies receive all the vitamins and minerals necessary to perform at our best. The same can be said for your lawn, turf and plants.

Hearts Pest Management is here to help.

Macronutrients – Micro-nutrients

Fertilizers come in a wide range of formulations. It is important to have a basic understanding of what you are buying. Typically, fertilizers provide in varying proportions:

o Six macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S)

o Seven micronutrients: boron (B), chlorine (CI), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo),and zinc (Zn)

A fertilizer label always has three numbers on the packaging such as 21-7-14 or 15-15-15. These numbers represent the amount of N-P-K contained in the fertilizer.

For example, a 10 lbs bag of 21-7-14 contains 2.1 lbs (N), 0.7 lbs (P), and 1.4 lbs (K).

Each macronutrient serves a different purpose:

o Nitrogen (N) the main component of most turf or lawn fertilizers stimulates leaf production and stimulates chlorophyll production which gives your lawn a deep green color.

o Phosphorus (P) promotes strong root development and helps protect the plant from environmental stress such as heat and cold. It also helps protect the plant from diseases.

o Potassium (K) strengthens the leaf blades, which helps protect the grass from stress such as foot traffic. Potassium also the loss of water through the leaf blade (transpiration), so grass will need less water.

The role of Iron as a Fertilizer

While all the other macronutrients and micronutrients are important, I recommend choosing a fertilizer that contains at least 2% iron (Fe). Iron is an essential element plants need to make chlorophyll. Remember, chlorophyll production is what makes grass a darker green. By using iron you can reduce the amount of nitrogen and still have a deep, dark green while keeping leaf growth at a controllable level.

Fertilizer Ratios

As a general rule a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2 plus 2% iron will give your turf or lawn everything it needs to stay healthy and look great. As a rule of thumb, Nitrogen should be applied at 1 lbs.\1000 sq. ft. regardless of what fertilizer you are using and you should fertilize only 3 to 4 time a year. If your grass begins to lose its´ dark green appearance between fertilizer applications, try using a product that consists purely of Iron such as Ironite.

Fertilizer Formulations

As stated earlier, many different fertilizer formulations exist and they are available in different forms such as inorganic, slow release and organic.

o Inorganic fertilizers are synthetic/man made and composed of chemicals and minerals. They are water soluble, meaning they break down and release all of their nutrients immediately when water is applied.

o Slow release, also known as time release fertilizers are also inorganic. However, slow release fertilizers have an outer coating which allows the nutrients to slowly break down over time. This has several advantages. You don´t get an initial growth spurt. With slow release formulations, the nutrients are used much more efficiently, they last longer and also very important – it greatly reduces the amount of nutrient runoff and damage to the environment. Slow release fertilizers are more expensive but worth every penny.

o Organic are composed of natural material such as manures, worm castings, seaweed, compost, guano, etc. Using organic fertilizers long term can dramatically improve soil biodiversity (soil life). Over time, by using organics the soil itself can supply all the nutrients turf need without using inorganic fertilizer.

Lawn and Turf Inspections and Fertilizer Applications

In addition, there are liquid and granular fertilizers used by professionals like Hearts Pest Management to treat your lawn. (We also work with sports turf managers). By spraying liquid fertilizers onto the leaves of the grass assures 100% of the nutrients will be taken up by the grass. At Hearts Pest Management, we are very focused at reducing or eliminating runoff of nutrients to rivers and oceans.

Are you still confused about how, when, or what fertilizer to use? If so, ask questions. Your local nursery, do-it-yourself store, or Hearts Pest Management can help. Here at Hearts we can customize a fertilizer program just for you. Whether you are concerned about the environment or just want the best lawn in the neighborhood – call Hearts Pest Management today.

We are blessed to have on staff a lead professional, Gary Bley, who graduated with a degree in lawn and turf management, going on to a career overseeing golf course greens. Now at Heearts Pest Management, he is training all our staff who have benefited from his strong expertise in this field.

Hearts Pest Management firmly believes that a healthy lawn or turf and gardens go hand in hand with a property with fewer pest control issues. Keep your landscape looking healthy and keep pests away.

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~ Carri B.
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