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 smaller quantities.

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 time.

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 lawn feeds.

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.