Feeding the lawn
After all your hard work of preparing the soil, sowing seed or
laying turf there are vital lawn maintenance jobs that are necessary
to keep your lawn in a healthy attractive state. Feeding the lawn
is one of the key lawn care jobs as grass needs a continuing supply
of nutrients in the right balances to enable growth and development.
In fact a lawns needs can be directly compared to our own nourishment
requirements in the fact that both humans and grass need a ‘well
balanced diet’ that provide the essentials required to sustain
a healthy life form that not only stays in good shape but is also
resistant to disease and other forms of stress. So how do go about
feeding a lawn? To answer that we must first determine what nutrients
are required for a healthy lawn.
Lawn feed requirements
There are three main minerals required for lawn growth: Nitrogen,
Phosphorus and Potassium. Other minerals are also required but in
Nitrogen is required for leaf growth and thus is an essential aspect
of feeding the lawn. The lawn will be a healthy looking deep green
colour when there is sufficient Nitrogen. Nitrogen should be applied
when the grass is producing new growth, i.e. spring and and summer
Phosphorus is required for root development. A lawn with a poor
root system is far more susceptible to stressful conditions such
as drought, disease and pests. Because of this Phosphorus is an
essential ingredient when feeding your lawn. Phosphorus should be
applied in early spring or autumn.
Potassium aids the lawn as it helps build resistance against drought
and disease and should be applied in spring or autumn.
Lawn feeding ethics
Now we are aware of what a lawn requires for healthy growth we
must now decide whether we wish to take an organic approach or non-organic
chemical approach to feeding the lawn. Many would agree that a better
lawn can be achieved through the use of chemical lawn fertilisers
whereas other may prefer applying organic lawn fertilisers to complement
their organic gardening methods found elsewhere in the garden.
Organic lawn feeds that supply Nitrogen include organic compost
and lawn clippings. An organic source of Phosphorus is bonemeal
while well rotted compost can be used as an organic source of Potassium.
For more information on organic lawn feeds see applying organic
Chemical lawn feeds are available in different ‘flavours’
which have different balances of the three important minerals listed
above. The balance of the minerals in the lawn feed should be clearly
visible on the packaging. The mineral balance is normally represented
by using the minerals chemical symbol (N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorus
and K for Potassium). A Spring / Summer chemical feed has a higher
nitrogen / lower phosphorus balance and should only be applied during
the growing season. An autumn lawn feed is low in Nitrogen and higher
in Phosphorus and Potassium. For more information on chemical lawn
feeds see applying chemical lawn feeds.
Foliar lawn feeds
The majority of lawn feeds will be taken up through the grasses
root system but under certain soil conditions better results may
be achieved through a foliar lawn feed. If your soil is chalky,
heavy clay or very sandy then applying a foliar feed to the lawn
may help as the feed is utilised by the grass by taking the feed
in through the leaves of the plant rather than the roots.
Fast and slow release lawn feeds
Chemical lawn feeds are available in both water soluble (fast release)
and non-water soluble (slow release) forms. With a fast release
fertiliser the nutrients are available to the plant very quickly,
you can see results within about 4-5 days but the growth spurt achieved
may be more than required. Slow release fertilisers can sometimes
mean that healthy growth is achieved to a lesser extent when there
are favourable climatic growing conditions. Because of this some
gardeners prefer to use a combination of both fast and slow release
feeds so that the lawn is suitably nourished throughout an extended
period. Indeed some lawn fertilisers will contain both water soluble
and non-soluble forms of Nitrogen to achieve this very aim. Check
on the chemical feed packaging for an indicator of the release aims
of the feed.
How much and how often?
See applying chemical lawn feeds and applying organic lawn feeds.