These are some tips for maximizing your home lawn fertilizer program while minimizing the effects of leaching, runoff and the atmosphere.

  1. Test your soil.  Adding phosphorus, potassium and lime according the results of your soil test allows for more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer.
  2. Determine the type of grasses in your lawn and fertilize accordingly.  Different species of turgrass have different needs.  Kentucky Bluegrass tends to require 3-6 lbs. of nitrogen per 1000 square ft. per year vs. Perennial Ryegrass that tends to require 2-3 lbs. of nitrogen per 1000 square ft. per year.
  3. Space your applications out during the growing season.  Starting in April (in Michigan) and apply fertilizer every 5-6 weeks throughout the growing season.
  4. Mulch your clippings.  This can help reduce usage of fertilizer by up to one third.
  5. Limit your watering.  Too much water can leach nitrogen through the soil before the plant has time to use it.  An inch of water per week is the standard.
  6. Use higher amounts of slow release fertilizers in areas that are prone to leaching.  Soils that are high in sand content leach more than clay soils.  Holland, Grand Haven & Muskegon are all areas with high amounts of sand in the soil.
  7. Keep fertilizer in the lawns and avoid spreading granules on sidewalks and driveways.  Blow or sweep granules back into the grass.
  8. Avoid fertilizer applications when your lawn is dormant in the middle of Summer (brown and not growing) or if the ground is frozen.
  9. Water-in urea or ammonium fertilizers right away after an application.  These fertilizers can actually volitalize into the atmosphere.
  10. Be careful where you fill your spreader.  Find an area where you can easily clean up fertilizer spills.  Use any spilled fertilizer on your lawn.  Don’t throw it away.

These are great tips to follow whether for the weekend warrior or a large commercial lawn care operator.  Making the most out of your fertilizer applications is good for your lawn and good for the environment.