Fertilizer is a tricky subject. Many variables, types of fertilizer, recommendations from experts, and traditions abound. We have seen practices that once worked, stop working. We have witnessed practice that works on one yard, not work on another. As you can see, the subject can get sticky quickly. What I will try to address in this article is some middle ground; something more in-depth than just IFA’s step 4 fertilizer, and less in-depth than multiple lab samples and spoon-feeding fertilizer daily.
If you don’t care that much, use the IFA method, and apply it liberally as the “treats up to” statement is exaggerated. If you care more, keep reading, and hopefully, you’ll find some additional insight and application ideas or practices.
One item to keep in mind is that fertilizer is only part of the lawn care equation. Watering, mowing, and other items cannot be excluded from the discussion as they are all intertwined. See some of my other blog posts for more information on each subject.
How often should I fertilize my lawn in Utah?
At a minimum, 4 times per year. Here is a suggested fertilization schedule for Utah lawns. (This is a minimum!)
- Early Spring: Apply a slow-release fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content to promote green growth and recovery from winter dormancy. This is typically done in March or April when the soil temperature reaches around 55-60°F.
- Late Spring: Apply a balanced fertilizer with a moderate amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This helps with root development and overall health. Late spring fertilization is usually done in May or early June.
- Summer: Apply a slow-release fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content to maintain color and provide essential nutrients during the stressful summer months. This is typically done in July or August.
- Fall: Apply fertilizer with a higher phosphorus and potassium content to promote root growth and prepare the lawn for winter. Fall fertilization is usually done in September or October. Nitrogen is not bad in this application and will aid in greener grass in the fall as well as quicker green-up in the spring.
If you have ambition and yard goals, 6 or 7 applications will be required. If you want to become a yard care fanatic, 8-12 applications will be required.
What are the differences between granular and liquid fertilizer applications?
While there are pros and cons of each, each has its place in a yard care plan.
Granules are super easy to buy and apply. They are found at almost any box store and can be applied in a few minutes with a simple push spreader with little to no cleanup. It is hard to burn a lawn (outside of spills) because bags are very “watered down” with actual product as most bags contain more than 50% filler. As long as they are kept dry granules will keep for years. Unless you plan to buy a couple of thousand pounds or more, what you see at the store is the option. Companies such as Scotts or even IFA take a common mix, throw it in a bag, and ship it across the state or country. While it will most likely not harm your lawn, it might not meet your lawn’s specific needs.
Liquids can be messy and harder to apply, but there are all sorts of options for customization under the sun available. You want nitrogen, you’ve got options. You want phosphorus in with it, or micronutrients, or minerals, or herbicides, or insecticides, or lawn paint, or fungicides, or you name it, there’s an option. Liquids are fasting acting, and don’t have a “slow release” ability like a granular so liquid applications are needed more frequently. Liquids require measurements and if you aren’t careful damage could be done if a product is applied too heavily.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. In summary, here’s a list:
- Application method: Granular fertilizers are applied by spreading them evenly over the lawn using a spreader. Liquid fertilizers are typically applied with a sprayer or spreader that can distribute the liquid evenly.
- Nutrient release: Granular fertilizers release nutrients slowly over time. They are often formulated as slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers, which means the nutrients are released gradually as the granules break down. Liquid fertilizers, on the other hand, are immediately available for plant uptake once applied to the leaf and/or soil.
- Coverage and absorption: Granular fertilizers are spread over the lawn, covering a wider area with each application. They require rainfall or irrigation to dissolve the granules and allow the nutrients to reach the plant roots. Liquid fertilizers, being in liquid form, are readily absorbed by the plant roots upon contact with the soil.
- Customization: Liquid fertilizers offer more flexibility in terms of customizing the nutrient composition. It is easier to adjust the nutrient ratios and concentrations in liquid fertilizers to meet specific plant requirements or address soil deficiencies. Granular fertilizers typically come in pre-formulated ratios, and their nutrient composition is not as easily customizable.
- Convenience: Granular fertilizers often require less frequent applications compared to liquid fertilizers due to their slow-release nature. However, liquid fertilizers can be quicker to apply and may be easier to handle, especially for smaller lawn areas or spot treatments.
When it comes to fertilizers, smaller more frequent applications is the answer. A soil test to create a gameplan is highly advised. With time and a little trial and error anyone can become a lawn care fanatic and have the grass that is the envy of the neighborhood.
The grass is greener when it has smaller, more frequent liquid and granular fertilizer applications.