Fertilizing St. Augustine Lawns
St. Augustine is one of those grass types which can be very tricky to fertilize correctly for, it has very different nutrient needs when compared to other lawn types and any general patterns of fertilizing usually used in lawn care.
St. Augustine grass needs a higher level of Nitrogen than many other lawns. When choosing a fertilizer for St. Augustine it is always best to try and find one which contains this higher ratio of Nitrogen.
Determining the Nitrogen content of lawn fertilizers is very easy. When looking at the fertilizer packaging you will notice that every bag has a Ratio displayed prominently on the pack. This ratio is the ratio of the 3 major elements of fertilizers which is Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Potassium, with the first number being the Nitrogen level. A good Nitrogen level for St’ Augustine would be somewhere over 10 – which may equate ratio of something like 10 : 5 : 5, with the 10 being the Nitrogen level.
How Much Fertilizer and How Often To Fertilize
Fertilizing should always be done at manufacturers recommendations – which simply means to read the packaging carefully before use, and to follow the application guidelines. This is important as all fertilizers are produced differently and can require very different application rates.
The Golden Rule of fertilizing is always to fertilize in small amounts and fertilize regularly, this is usually every 6-8 weeks in the growing season. Excessive use of fertilizer can often not be taken up by the lawn and simply washes away into the environment – the excess nutrients the lawn does take up can cause sporadic growth spurts which leaves the lawn open to many diseases and pests. So if in any doubt… always use a little less fertilizer than recommended.
Iron Requirements In St. Augustine Grass
One of the major problems with St. Augustine grass is it’s susceptibility to lack of Iron, which is usually most evident when the lawn turns a lighter color, or even develops a yellow tinge.
If your lawn is developing a yellowing of it’s leaf then lack of Iron could be the culprit. The first and most important step in this determining and adjustment the Iron levels in the soil is to do a simple pH test. A pH test can be bought for a few dollars at a local garden store, and only takes a few minutes to complete.
St. Augustine has a pH requirement of 5.5 – 7.2. If testing falls outside these levels then soil adjustments will be necessary. This is most usually done with an application of garden Sulfur which can also be purchased at the local lawn care or garden center. But please… before doing this, check with and ask the advice of a qualified person at the garden center first.
Liquid Lawn Fertilizers
Liquid Lawn Fertilizers are a lawn fertilizer product which is in a liquid form, most of these products are sold in a container which can be easily attached to a garden hose, The water from the hose then mixes with the concentrated liquid lawn fertilizer, dilutes it and the spray is released from the exit point on the container, and directed onto the lawn by the person applying the product.
Liquid lawn fertilizer is a very quick and easy method of applying fertilizer to a lawn, it’s effects are almost immediate due to the way the fertilizer is taken up by the lawn. Once applied, the liquid fertilizer is left to sit on the leaf of the lawn and is then absorbed very quickly through the leaf, with an equally quick effect on promoting the lawn’s health.
Many of these spray on fertilizers also contain a weeding product which can help in controlling weeds. It is important to remember that the herbicide being used in these products will be very weak and have limited impact on controlling weeds on a long term or efficient basis. These products which contain the herbicide are often not suitable for use on Saint Augustine lawns, so always check the product label before purchase and before use.
This method of lawn fertilizing may seem like a very good idea, and in many cases it can be, but there are some downsides to this method.
Usually the fertilizer being used is weaker than what would be found when using a granular fertilizer, this weakening of the fertilizer is done on purpose in order to make it a safer product for the homeowner to use. This is because if a high level of Nitrogen were left to sit on the leaf of the lawn for a long period of time, and on a hot day, the the Nitrogen would burn the lawn leaf and possibly cause great damage or death to the lawn.
Also, due to the weak nutrient makeup of liquid lawn fertilizers, and combined with the use of the product which is supposed to sit on the lawn leaf, a problem can occur if it rains. The end result is that the ferilizer you’ve just paid for gets washed away, the lawn gets no nutrients, and the nutrients which were washed away by the rain now end up in our drains and our water ways adding to the damage which continues to harm our environment.
Fertilizing Cool Season Grasses
Fertilizing Cool Season Lawns requires a slightly different routine than fertilizing Warm Season Grasses, this is mainly due to the fact that the Cool Season Grasses are often subject to extremes of cold, snow and possibly ice during their Winter period. So fertilizing these lawns must be done at the optimum time when the lawn can best use the nutrients to gain the greatest benefit for their long term health, survival and most importantly, to use these nutrients in order to flourish and makes our lawns look their best.
As mentioned in other lawn care articles, Cool Season Grasses include lawn types such as Kentucky Blue Grass, Tall Fescues, Fine Fescues, Rye Grass, Titan and Thermal.
Lawn fertilizers for Cool Season Grasses really aren’t that specialized when compared to other lawn fertilizers, however to make things easier, you will find that the gardening stores in your local area will stock fertilizers which are best suited for use on lawn types in their given area, and this makes the choice of lawn fertilizers so much easier for us.
The best times to fertilize Cool Season Grasses is during their periods of active growth and optimum health which is in the Spring and Fall seasons. Fertilizing should begin at the beginning of both of these seasons. Applications of fertilizers should be on the minimum side of manufacturers recommendations and applied either two months apart when using recommended dosages, or one month apart if using a lower dosage such as half manufacturers recommended levels.
The other great advantage to using this system is that we are preparing the lawn to be in optimum health for both the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter, giving the lawn the greatest chance of survival for both seasons, and allows the lawn to be in it’s best level of health possible to fend off weed infestations during the Summer.
Fertilizing Cool Season Turfgrasses in the Summer is not necessary, and is most often detrimental to lawns during the heat. This is because most Cool Season lawns will be under a high amount of stress as the weather heats up because they are just not suited to withstanding hot weather. Any application of fertilizers during this time will have no effect, or may even damage the turfgrass by applying an excess of nutrient which the lawn cannot use, so it is often left sitting in the thatch layer or in the topsoil which can possibly allow the Nitrogen to burn the leaves and roots of the lawn in the heat.
If your region doesn’t put your Cool Season lawn into heat stress in the Summer, and the lawn continues to prosper in a milder region, then fertilizing lawns can be continued throughout the Summer as well. In this case simply spread the fertilizer applications evenly throughout the seasons of Spring to Summer to Fall, ensuring a good application prior to the onset of cold which can boost the resistance of the lawn to the coming Winter.
Fertilizing Warm Season Grasses
Fertilizing Warm Season Grasses can be continued throughout the year and through all seasons in many areas of the United States. This allows us to more easily manage the nutrients which go onto our lawns to achieve the greatest results for our lawns in all seasons of the year.
Warm Season Grasses include lawn types such as Bermuda Grass, Centipede Grass, Zoysia Grass and Saint Augustine, all these grasses are most easily recognizable by the runners (stolons) which intertwine with each other to form the lawn and allow it to re-grow, repair itself and spread.
A good fertilizing regime for Warm Season Turfgrasses should begin at the beginning of Spring using a high quality granular lawn fertilizer, from that first application, further applications of lawn fertilizer should be applied every two months throughout the growing seasons of Spring, Summer and Fall.
The last application of Lawn Fertilizer which is due in the Fall should be a Winter style of fertilizer which will enable the lawn to best prepare itself for the colder weather of Winter. This same Winter style fertilizer can continue to be applied throughout the Winter months if Winters are mild in your area. We simply apply it like regular fertilizer, still following the same two monthly application routine. A Winter style lawn fertilizer is much the same as regular lawn fertilizers, with a slightly different nutrient make-up, and the addition of the most important nutrient for Winter Lawn Care which is Iron.
If applying a Winter Fertilizer which contains Iron, it is highly important to wash down any pathways surrounding the lawn which may have had some stray fertilizer granules land on it. If not washed off, the Iron content can break down on the pathways and permanently stain them with rust.
The application which is due in the middle of Summer can often be considered optional, the rule of thumb of fertilizing a Warm Season Lawn for the Summer application is if the lawn is already flourishing and doing very well at this time, then there is often no need to fertilize, so this application can be ignored. However, if the lawn is not doing so well or is lacking health or vitality at this time, and enough water is being applied for the lawn to be actively coping with the heat, then by all means… put an application of fertilizer down at this time, and being careful not to apply fertilizer on days of extreme heat over 100 degrees F, Also ensure that the lawn can be watered immediately after this application so the fertilizer can be dissolved into the soil as quickly as possible.
Any fertilizer residue left on the leaves of the lawn in temperatures of extreme heat can burn, damage or even kill areas of turf. The Nitrogen in fertilizer is responsible for this which is the reason for the importance of watering the fertilzer into the soil as fast as possible after application.
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