February 21 2012
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Lawn Fertilizers – Types and Uses

If you are not happy with your lawn—maybe you have bare patches—your grass is too thin—or you would like to make it greener – try fertilizing. Using fertilizer can address these issues. So you head off to get some fertilizer and then you realize that there are different types: dry fertilizers that are powdery or granular, synthetic fertilizers, liquid fertilizers, and natural, organic fertilizers.

The process of how fertilizers work is a topic for a future article. But the bottom line is that, for plants and grass to grow and thrive, they need certain nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. These are found in fertilizers. Here we describe the four basic types of fertilizing products.

Dry fertilizers tend to be a bit easier to use—you just use your gloved hands or a spreader to distribute the particles around your lawn. You will find 20 pound bags and sometimes 50 pound bags—read the bag to see how much fertilizer is needed for your size lawn. You may not need to treat the entire lawn if you just want to apply fertilizer to the thinner spots. You will have a choice between time-release fertilizer that slowly gets absorbed or the fast release type that leads to quicker results. The fast release variety needs more watering and more applications per year than the slow release type. Basically fast release is for lawns in dire need of help or when you are quickly wanting improvements – say, for an Open House or real estate sale.

Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured out of chemical compounds and are quick release, quick to take effect. There is a concern that because these products are not natural they provide no nutrients to the soil and possibly could be damaging to the soil. They do work but the result is usually temporary and so more frequent applications are required. Be careful not to over apply as you could actually burn your grass.

Are you that person that loves to stand out on your lawn with a watering hose in your hand? Then you might like applying liquid fertilizers. You attach your hose to the fertilizer jug and so you are spraying your lawn with a mixture of water and concentrated fertilizer. This provides for easy application but be careful to spread the mixture evenly. With liquid fertilizer, your lawn absorbs the nutrients quickly. Another benefit is that it also kills weeds.

More and more, people are choosing natural products. Organic fertilizers are made entirely from once- living elements with no man-made ingredients. You apply them using a spreader or just your hands and a rake. They usually break down slowly. They can be a little harder to apply in an even manner and may have an unpleasant smell. Do some research, ask your landscaper about the differences in these varieties and if you choose organic, your landscaping company can recommend one.

Your landscaper can also tell you which type of fertilizer works best in your geographic area and with your specific type of soil. Certain soils are more absorbent and fertilizer-friendly than others. Technology has definitely improved the quality of fertilizer products and if you enjoy your lawn, it makes sense to feed it and keep it healthy.


Quick tip: Make sure you’re aware of the laws surrounding the spread of fertilizer on your property. There may be limitations for both homeowners and professionals. In the state of NJ this is the case. In fact, professional landscapers must be trained and receive a special certification in order to do so. We’re proud to share that one of our managers has recently become one of the 1st in NJ to receive this Certification. You can go to http://salem.rutgers.edu/nre/ppt/2011-mangiafico-new-jersey-turfgrass-fertilizer-law-scripted.pdf for more information about this recently passed legislation.