You Are What You Eat – and So Is Your Lawn
You are what you eat … and so is your lawn
All living things require food, water and air for survival. That being said, there are choices to be made. Many human beings have the access and ability to make healthy nutritional selections, yet opt for the instant gratification of foods stripped of their nutritional value, and high in sugars, additives, preservatives and unhealthy fats. Many people purchase these items unknowingly under the guise of “healthy.” Others are taking time to read labels and educate themselves about good nutrition, and the content and resources of the foods they eat, and seek a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats. In most cases, better nutritional choices ultimately result in healthier human beings with stronger immune systems. The same can be said for lawn and turf care. Plants need to eat too. Healthy choices that yield the ultimate results are possible and available at affordable prices. Good nutrition can provide healthier turf with a stronger immune system, which is naturally more resistant to disease, weeds and insects. Choosing the correct fertilizer or “lawn food,” and applying it at the right time and at the right rate is vital to the health of your lawn.
There are many different varieties of fertilizers available from literally thousands of different resources. Native Americans taught the original foreign settlers of this country how to fertilize crops using fish and manure. These days, fertilizer has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Similar to choices of food for human consumption, the realm of lawn fertilizers is vast with great variances of quality. It can be confusing and time consuming to make an educated selection.
Three main nutrients found in a bag of fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium; however, phosphorous is banned in Wisconsin fertilizers with the exception of starter blends used when seeding. These products can be combined with organic matter as well. When choosing a fertilizer blend, consider slow-release products. The main attribute of nitrogen is it promotes the green color we all love. Nitrogen that releases quickly can be similar to a “sugar high,” giving immediate results but then dropping “low” with need for quicker replenishment, which means more product at more overall cost long term for you and your lawn. Organic-based products such as 100% controlled-release nitrogen or 100% protected (stabilized) nitrogen, give the lawn opportunity to extend and utilize energy over long periods of time and benefit the earth with reduced carbon footprint and waste. Turf receives nutrients when and where needed allowing for full absorption; helping prevent waste from the process of air volatilization (loss to the atmosphere) or leaching through the soil to run off into lakes and ground waters. The other main nutrient found in a bag of fertilizer is potassium. The role of potassium is to promote root density and root growth. The bigger and deeper the roots, the healthier the lawn will be. Healthier lawns also reduce the amount of chemical used as weed and disease management. Healthy turf itself produces better air quality and reduces pollutants and debris.
Even experts tend to differ on the proper number of feedings. In the Midwest climate, a good rule to follow is to nourish your lawn seasonally, so four times per year. For years agronomists have stressed that early spring was perhaps the best time to feed your lawn; but today we find that possibly the most important feeding, often referred to as “winterizer,” takes place in late fall. Just as our animal friends are in a frenzy to store nutrition before hibernation, turf needs nutrition to stay alive while it sleeps. As turf transitions to winter dormancy, late fall feedings are extremely important as a source of food and energy. Lawns absorb and store nutrients in the root mass as winter approaches, and use them for survival and for an initial brilliant color response the following spring. Early spring feedings are important to rejuvenate as turf wakes up. Early summer feedings are important to restore energy used from spring regrowth, and early fall feedings carry the turf through after the harsh summer temperatures and conditions.
Lawn maintenance decisions don’t have to be difficult with a little basic information. Choosing products, services and companies that work towards good nutrition is the first step towards healthier turf grasses and surrounding environments.
Patti Beres is the owner of Be Green Lawn Care, LLC, specializing in earth-friendly lawn care solutions. Holistic practices and organic-based products provide the foundation for nutrition-conscious yard care, keeping lawns green and weed free in a “greener” way. Be Green Lawn Care is family owned and operated with over 25 years of expertise and quality service. Contact Patti today to schedule your next seasonal application! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 262-361-4034. Photo by Heather Gergen Photography.