You’re the Lawn’s Doctor
An over-fertilized lawn grows really fast. You have to mow and water it more often, and it’s more attractive to pests. But did you know that an over-fertilized lawn can actually harm the environment? Once your fertilizer saturates the ground with its nutrients, the remainder can’t be absorbed, so up to half of that costly fertilizer is often washed away. Once fertilizers get into our lakes and streams, they lead to algae blooms that harm wildlife, decrease property values, increase water treatment costs and impact tourism and commercial fishing industries each year. But you can be part of the solution. If you conduct a soil test first, you’ll know which fertilizers to select and how much your lawn actually needs. So think of yourself as the lawn’s doctor: you just need to make a diagnosis before knowing what to prescribe.
Viewer Tip: By following these steps at home, you’ll diagnose the soil’s ailment, and if you fill the right prescription, you’ll save time, money and the environment!
- Check the Symptoms: In late summer or early fall, dig 10 to 15 samples of soil from different parts of your yard. Remove any pebbles and plant material, dry the soil out and combine the samples into one container. If some samples look and feel different, keep them separate.
- Get the Diagnosis: Send your samples to a processing center, such as your county extension office, for testing. It usually costs a nominal fee, but some universities will test your samples for free. They’ll test your soil for acidity and nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
- Prescribe the Medicine: Use fertilizers with higher concentrations of the nutrients your soils lack. Look for fertilizers with high a percentage of “slow-release” nitrogen.
- Follow the Directions: Pay attention to the fertilizer’s instructions. Set your spreader to the recommended setting and use half as much fertilizer if less than 30 percent of its nitrogen composition is “slow-release.”
(Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Effects: Economy.” Accessed Online May 29, 2012. http://epa.gov/nutrientpollution/effects/effects_economic.html; WPRI Eyewitness News. “URI Offers Free Soil Testing.” March 20, 2012. Accessed Online May 29, 2012. http://www.wpri.com/dpp/news/local_news/south_county/ap-south-kingstown-uri-offers-free-soil-testing-jmq; Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “Alabama Smart Yards.” Accessed Online May 29, 2012. http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1359/ANR-1359.pdf)