If you want a beautiful emerald lawn, you’re going to need to fertilize it. A schedule for fertilizing your lawn is found in Daily Watering and Yearly Treatment Table . However, there are many factors that go into choosing and using fertilizers.
Fertilizer Bag Numbers
When looking at fertilizers, the ﬁrst thing you should check is the string of numbers on the front. Usually just 3 numbers long, they represent the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer blend. They will always be in this order.
Occasionally you will have 4 numbers on a bag. This fourth number stands for the element sulfur.
Nitrogen is the chemical element that makes your yard that beautiful green color.
Phosphorus encourages root development and lawn maturation.
Brands We Recommend
We recommend either IFA’s 4 step program or Star Nursery’s excellent fertilizers. Each brand comes with their own recommended cycle for application and we encourage you to follow the directions on the bag of the fertilizer mixture you choose.
Be sure to test your soil to know what your lawn needs when it comes to fertilizers. The soil check can be done either at home by yourself or sent out to have your soil professionally analyzed. We recommend:
- Soil Tester 3 in 1 – This product will test your soil moisture, the pH of your soil, and the amount of sunlight your lawn is receiving.
- Utah State University Extension – After ﬁlling out the appropriate form and paying the fee, USU will professionally analyze your soil in their lab
Useful Lawn Treatments
As grubs reach maturity feeding on your turf grass roots, they can be a considerable hazard to the health of your lawn; but, it is normal to have a small amount of grubs. They can even be good little aerators for your grass. But if you notice tunneling in your grass, then you deﬁnitely have too many. Start checking for grubs in the early spring. By catching any infestation early, you can prevent serious damage to your lawn.
For the application of grub control chemicals, you will want to either use grub control spray or grub control granular formula in early April to kill them while they are still eggs. A second application of grub pesticide in the ﬁrst week of July will kill the grubs the ﬁrst application may have missed. It takes persistence and often two to three years to get rid of grubs so expect to do these treatments multiple times. To learn more about lawn pests, read the section about “Common Potential Lawn Problems.”
Brands we recommend are:
- Bayer Advanced 24-Hour Grub Killer Plus
- Scotts GrubEx
There are many types of fungi that can attack your lawn. As the diseases hide in the soil and are rarely visible, they can be difficult to treat. Prevention is key here, so keep your yard free of decomposing plant matter (leaves, thatch, branches) and there will be little for the fungi to live on. You should also keep your grass between 1 ½ – 2” so that it can ventilate at night and cool down. For an extra measure of safety, you can apply fungicide in July when the lawn is most susceptible to growing fungi.
Along with pulling out weeds by hand and cleaning your yard equipment so you don’t spread weed spores, there are two types of herbicides (weed control chemicals) you can use to keep your lawn weed-free. Pre-emergent herbicide is for before the weeds show up, and post-emergent herbicide is used to treat visible weeds. With either product, be sure to follow the directions on the packaging carefully to ensure safety and proper usage.
Reseeding / Overseeding
As seen on the lawn care schedule we’ve provided, there is a time listed for reseeding your lawn each year. If you simply want to reseed it with a fescue blend that would be ﬁne. This will help your lawn to regrow seasonally each spring.
To create a “winter lawn”, you will overseed your existing fescue lawn with a blend of annual ryegrass and fescue. The ryegrass will grow during the cold months, keeping your lawn attractive over the winter. It dies off in the spring, allowing your fescue blend to take its place during the warm months.
Fescue grass is more tolerant of acidic soil and soil in St George is alkaline. We use the fescue seed because this grass does very well in our desert heat. So, to grow a healthy lawn, you’ll have to adjust your soil’s pH, aiming for neutral (7). This is how you should do it:
Before you fertilize for the ﬁrst time
Be sure to check your soil’s pH level before fertilizing. St. George’s soil is usually alkaline and sulfur will bring the pH level to neutral.
Do not mix a sulfur treatment with fertilizer
There is already sulfur in fertilizer (a smaller amount) and the combination of fertilizer and sulfur treatment will chemically burn your lawn. After you apply a sulfur treatment to your lawn to neutralize the pH, wait one month before fertilizing.
|Soil Test Result||How to Neutralize Your Soil|
|Acidic 0-6.9||Neutralize acidic levels in your soil by adding lime (ground limestone rock). The amount will vary based on your needs. You should not use more than 10 lbs of lime per 1,000 sq ft of lawn. Follow speciﬁc instructions for application on the product you purchase. Do not use hydrated or burned lime as these will damage your lawn; however, your lawn is most likely not acidic since Saint George soil is typically alkaline.|
|Neutral 7||Your lawn will likely never produce a neutral test result. But if you’re able to keep the soil within 6.5- 7.5, this will be great for your lawn.|
|Alkaline 7.1-14||To move your lawn away from alkalinity, add sulfur to your lawn. This can be done with elemental sulfur, or with fertilizers that speciﬁcally include increased amounts of sulfur. Some companies offer liquid sulfur, but this can be difficult to apply evenly. Remember to follow instructions listed on the product you purchase.|
Should your lawn be struggling with water penetration because of our native clay soil, you may want to condition your lawn with gypsum. Beneﬁts of gypsum:
- Removes the saline from the clay soil
- Loosens soil and allows better water penetration
- Adds calcium to the soil
The treatment should last for several months. Some areas in Saint George have natural gypsum deposits. This can be discovered by having a professional soil test performed. This test is relatively inexpensive for homeowners and can be a beneﬁcial add-on when you’ve already invested so much into your landscaping.
There are three basic types of fertilizer spreaders. Within these types there is some variation, so see which one best suits your yard’s needs.
- Rotary spreader – Best for covering large areas, a rotary spreader spreads its contents in wide arcs. Some spreaders have adjustable spreading patterns. The outer edges will not get as much product as the main part of the pass, so be sure to overlap your fertilizing arcs. Rotary spreaders come in both handheld, pull and push applicators.
- Drop spreader – Best for tight spaces as it doesn’t spray its contents, the drop spreader applies fertilizer in straight lines. You can use a push applicator or a pulling one that can be attached to the back of a riding lawn mower.
- Liquid spreader – This type of fertilizer requires water to aid its distribution. There are a couple of methods for distribution: product attached to garden hose and sprayed on lawn or powder mixed with water and distributed in a liquid fertilizer caster. It isn’t the most accurate method, but can be a quick ﬁx.
Keep your leftover fertilizer in a dry, secure place. It is highly ﬂammable. Keep it far from a heat source. Fertilizer will not expire so hang onto any remaining product
Common Fertilizing Mistakes
Some of the common mistakes people make when fertilizing their lawns are:
Not maintaining a steady pace – Using a spreader to distribute your fertilizer can be helpful when used correctly. However, the effectiveness of any spreader is dependant on how steady a pace you can keep, otherwise you may over/under fertilize areas of your lawn. Do your best to keep an even and constant pace as you use your spreader.
Fertilizing a hard packed lawn – If you attempt to treat a lawn with hard packed soil, you’ll likely not see the desired results as the soil prohibits penetration of the chemicals. You can condition the lawn with gypsum prior to fertilization to loosen the soil.
Sporadic fertilization – Your lawn needs regular care, and over-fertilizing can chemically burn your lawn. However, if you wait too long, you can lose parts of your lawn to nutrient deﬁciency and it will go brown and die. Be sure to follow your chosen fertilizer brand’s fertilizing program.