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Lawn Care

The Dangers of Lawn Chemicals
Grass Types in Your Lawn
Watering Your Lawn.
Grass Mowing Done Correctly
Lawn Fertilizing
Perennial Weeds in Your Lawn
Broad Leaf Weeds in Lawns
Annual Weeds such as Crabgrass
Other Problems With Lawns
A New Lawn

When, What and How To Feed

The best time to fertilize lawns in the North is autumn; additional feeding can be done in spring and early summer. In the South, feed regularly, beginning in spring and continuing through autumn. The best fertilizers for lawns are "complete" ones with lots of nitrogen in them. The percentage of nitrogen should be about double that of the other two main ingredients - phosphorus and potassium. Fortunately you do not have to hunt for fertilizers With such formulas, because various manufacturers prepare and package them especially for use on lawns. Their brand names indicate they are for grass. These are sold wherever garden supplies are handled, and will be prominently displayed at the time of year you should be applying them.

Each sack has instructions for applying the material, and specifies the area of lawn over which it should be spread. The label also tells the percentage of nitrogen and other major elements in the fertilizer. This sometimes affects the price, and the rate at which the material is spread. A fertilizer having 5 to 10% nitrogen is on the weak side, while one with 15 to 20% nitrogen is on the strong side and worth proportionally more in price. Some straight nitrogen plant foods have 20 to 45% nitrogen and are used at correspondingly lighter rates. (You can learn more about the make-up of fertilizers in the chapter on soils and plant foods—including an explanation of the numerals and percentages.)

It does not make much difference what kind of fertilizer you use. Some are safer because they are "non-burning." But for this convenience you may pay a bit more. As long as the fertilizer is not dusty, and is not used more heavily than about 1 pound of actual nitrogen (10 lb. of a fertilizer containing 10% nitrogen) per 1000 sq. ft., there should be no danger of injuring the grass.

Some kinds of grass need more fertilizer than others. Give heavy feeders such as bermudas, Merion bluegrass and bentgrasses a total of 8 lb. or more of actual nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. per year. (That is, for each 1000 sq. ft. of lawn you would give an annual total feeding of 80 lb. of a complete fertilizer having a 10-6-4 analysis, or 40 lb. of one with a 20-10-5 analysis.) Bluegrass lawns, except Merion, get by well with about 4 lb. of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per year (that is, a total of 40 lb. of 10-6-4, or 20 lb. of 20-10-5). Fine fescues can get along on 3 lb. or less (30 lb. of 10-6-4 or 15 lb. of 20-10-5), and this rate is usually adequate also for centipede and Bahia, though these latter two may look better if fertilized more generously.

The handiest and best way to apply fertilizer is with a mechanical spreader. Often you can rent one at the store where you buy your fertilizer—or at a general rental supply store. When pushing the spreader up and down over your lawn, be sure to overlap the runs slightly so that there are no missed spots. These would show up as conspicuous streaks later—the fertilized grass would be dark green and the missed strips yellowish.

If you suspect you may have overdosed, or if the fertilizer seems dusty, it is a good idea to rinse it off the grass leaves and into the ground. However, most modern fertilizers are pelleted and thus roll off grass foliage easily, at least with erect grasses such as bluegrass. With tight bentgrasses and bermudas, watering-in may be needed more.

NEXT: Practical Pointers on Mowing