Nitrogen is one of the most important major nutrients for lawns, and many an avid gardener is aware of this. Nitrogen is the nutrient responsible for greening the leaf of the grass, and when we apply a nutrient rich fertilizer to our lawns we can be well pleased with the greener lawn we see as a result.
This instant greening effect can become a both a habit and a problem, for when the lawn starts receiving too much Nitrogen too often, the lawn and the soil which supports it can become sick.
Problems Caused By Too Much Nitrogen
The main issue with applying excessive amounts of Nitrogen to lawns is the fact that we are not providing a balanced diet to the lawn. Lawns and plants in general still need the other two main nutrients of Potassium and Phosphorous, as well as all the minor nutrients often referred to as Trace Elements.
When a Nitrogen rich fertilizer is constantly applied to turf we are doing nothing to aid in it's long term health whatsoever. Eventually the lawn will suffer very badly because of this neglect and lack of other vital nutrients.
Another cause of concern is that an abundance of Nitrogen will burn the lawn. In the same way that a dog's urine burns spots in the lawn due to condensed Nitrogen being applied. Over a few applications or even a single heavy application of Nitrogen rich fertilizer - the entire lawn can become literally burnt.
The final problem is that when all this excess Nitrogen is applied it can have devastating impacts on beneficial soil organisms, microbial soil life, worms and many other friendly insects and bugs which live in the soil. The soil supports our lawn, without it - we have no lawn, so we need to look after it as a first priority.
Choosing A Fertilizer
Ferilizers should always be as balanced as possible. The N:P:K rating - those number on the front of the fertilizer bag indicate the major nutrient in the fertilizer. The first number is Nitrogen, the second is Phosphorous and the last number is Potassium.
When choosing a lawn fertilizer, we want to keep these close to being even. It's OK for the Nitrogen to be a little higher than Phosphorous and Potassium but we don't want huge disparities. An NPK like 40 : 2 : 10 would be very bad - whereas something more balanced like 10 : 5 : 5 is excellent - or even 20 : 10 : 10, you get the idea!
When Is A Good Time To Use Nitrogen Rich Fertilizer
The answer would be never, or hardly ever.
If there's a big wedding reception at your place and the lawn isn't looking quite as sharp and dark green as you would like, then this would be a good time to achieve a quick green-up. But other than special occasions, we're always better off sticking to a well balanced diet.
If we're unsure and don't want to risk damage to your lawn, then there are plenty of slow release ferilizers available now. The best things about these products is their ability to keep enriching the soil with nutrients over a longer period of time, with little or no chance of over-feeding occurring.