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Phosphorus Matters for a Healthy Lawn

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Lush green grass gently swaying in a light breeze on a warm summer day. Birds are singing, kids are laughing in the distance, and passersby are doing a double-take every time they pass by your yard. That's the picture of perfection for any homeowner concerned with having the healthiest, most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood. But, how do you get to that result if, after a long, hard winter, your yard is looking more like a desolate wasteland?

It's simple. By doing your research in those winter months, coordinating a lawn care plan, and executing it once the last frost is a distant memory, you too can have a healthy lawn that will make others jealous!

Here at Simple Lawn Solutions, we have everything you need to reinvigorate your lawn and keep up with a healthy lawn care regimen for years to come.

 

What’s Your Grass Type?

In the United States, there are two temperature categories as far as growing grass is concerned: cool-season and the warm-season region. Let’s take a look at each region and what types of grasses you might find there.

 

Cool-Season Grass

Cool-season grasses are in the northern part of the United States, where temperatures only reach the mid-to-high 70s. These grasses are less hardy when temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s, so they are best grown in regions where spring and summer temperatures are moderate, not scorching. An easy way to decide if you have a cool-season grass? If your grass tends to do well in the winter but suffers significantly in the heat, that's a sure sign you have cool-season grass! A few examples of cool-season grasses are:

 

  •   Creeping bentgrass
  •   Fescue (fine and tall)
  •   Kentucky bluegrass
  •   Ryegrass (perennial and annual)

Warm-Season Grass

Warm-season grasses are grass species that reach their optimum growth in hotter than average temperatures, anywhere from 80-95°F. This means that these grasses tend to go dormant during the cold winter months but seem to flourish during the dog days of summer. That’s a good thing for those of you living in the South, where these grasses thrive! A few examples of warm-season grasses are:

 

  •   Bahiagrass
  •   Bermudagrass
  •   Carpetgrass
  •   St. Augustine
  •   Zoysiagrass

 

But what happens if you get a mix of both warm and cold weather?


Healthy Lawn 101: Living in the Transition Zone

Because temperatures are often too cold in the winter months to keep warm-season grasses alive and it's too hot in the summer months to keep cool-season grasses alive, it can be a frustrating balance. It is often hard to find the right lawn care regimen to maintain a healthy lawn in the transition zone. However, it’s not impossible!

Utilizing tools like soil tests, calculating your lawn's sun exposure throughout the day, and talking to neighbors and other lawn care professionals in your area can prove to be essential steps in choosing the right grass. For the most part, those in the transition zone that strive for a healthy lawn tend to choose cool-season grasses, as they believe it’s more manageable to provide extra maintenance and treatments through the summer months.

Now that you know what kind of grass you have, it’s time to dig into how to care for your lawn, starting with the three most essential macronutrients every healthy lawn needs.

 

The Three Key Macronutrients to a Healthy Lawn

No matter what you take away from this post, remember this: three main ingredients come together to grow a lush, healthy lawn. The macronutrients that every lawn needs are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In fact, on any fertilizer bottle you pick up, these macronutrients are in order as a fertilizer rating, N-P-K, so you know how much of each nutrient you're getting. But first, what do each of these nutrients do? Let’s take a closer look.

 

1. Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is what gives your grass that beautiful green color, while also promoting the vigorous growth of your healthy lawn. Did you know that one small way to recycle nitrogen is by leaving your grass clippings on your yard once you finish mowing? This likely won't be the only nitrogen your yard needs, but it's an easy way to help out!

 

2. Phosphorus (P)

The proper level of phosphorus in your grass is essential for root health and early plant development. Similar to potassium, phosphorus also helps your grass fight off diseases. Sometimes referred to as “phosphate,” phosphorus keeps your yard looking lush and thick, thanks to healthy grass roots that better absorb nutrients from the soil. This means your grass will grow faster and more efficiently. However, it is possible to have too much or too little phosphorus in your soil.

 

3. Potassium (K)

Potassium’s main job is to help your grass stay healthy, fighting off any potential diseases. Did you know that potassium helps grass build thicker cell walls, making it strong enough to survive winter’s cold, summer’s heat and droughts?

 

Taking a Closer Look at Phosphorus

There are many sources of phosphates in the world, both organic and human-made. Mined phosphates are for the phosphorus that is used widely in agriculture to fertilize the soil, build stronger plants, make grass grow faster, and are essential for seed production. Because of this, the introduction of phosphorus is critical at the beginning of your grass' lifecycle. However, an adequate amount of phosphorus at all times ensures that you have a healthy lawn, full of lush green grass.

Did you know that a good, organic way to add phosphorus to your garden is by using compost or manure? Both are excellent and natural ways to increase phosphorus content in areas where it is lacking.

Your lawn, however, may be better suited with a fertilizer with higher phosphorus content, as a little goes a long way.

 

Too Much Phosphorus Can Be a Bad Thing

While not enough phosphorus in the soil is a detriment to your grass's ability to grow and fight off disease, too much of a good thing can be harmful as well.  You must test your soil before treating it because you could end up introducing too much phosphorus into the ground. While that may not seem like a big deal, it can have a grave impact on the environment around you. 

 

When significant rains sweep through your area, they cause run-offs, which is when your soil drains into drainage ditches and sewers, eventually taking the dirt and high levels of phosphorus to nearby lakes, streams, and other bodies of water. Once there, the phosphorus can cause rampant growth of algae and weeds and cause the death of fish and other wildlife.

Along with the negative implications on surrounding wildlife, too much phosphorus can turn your healthy lawn into a yard full of weeds. Because of this, you must test your soil for phosphorus content every three to four years to make sure you don’t overdo it.

 

Soil Testing 101

A soil test is a pretty easy thing to do, but the results are significant in determining what nutrients your soil contains and what, if anything, your soil is lacking. If you’re serious about cultivating a healthy lawn, doing a soil test every few years should be a top priority for you. Luckily, home improvement stores have made this very easy in recent years. By following this step-by-step guide, you'll be a soil testing expert in no time!

 

  1.     When soil is dry, take a few soil samples from different areas of your lawn or garden. Note: These samples need to be from holes about six to eight inches deep to get an accurate reading.
  1.     Make sure that no weeds, rocks, or roots are in your sample. But, ensure that you do not touch the soil with your bare hands, as skin oils can alter the pH reading.
  1.     Ensure that you have at least two cups of soil to send in for your soil test. Spread out and allow the soil to dry for up to 24 hours before sending in for testing.
  1.     At this point, you have two options: you can either send off the soil for an expert opinion or you can test your soil yourself, thanks to soil testing kits available at your local home improvement stores.

Once you have determined your soil’s pH and what nutrients you may lack or have too much of in your soil, you can begin to fix it immediately, and then you'll be on your way to a healthy lawn in no time!

 

When (and When Not) to Fertilize

Depending on the temperature category your grass falls into, you’ll need to fertilize your lawn accordingly.

For cool-season grasses, it's essential that you fertilize in the early fall,  in the early spring and once again in late spring to grow a healthy lawn. Because different grass types need different care, you’ll need to research your specific grass to make sure you fertilize it properly. For example, if you have perennial ryegrass, you’ll want to use a 3-18-18 fertilizer formula to protect your healthy lawn from disease and stress. 

For warm-season grasses, you'll want to fertilize three times before the grass goes dormant in the winter months: in the early spring, early summer, and once more in the late summer. If you have a lawn full of bermudagrass, you’ll want to focus on green growth and tolerating stress, so a 16-4-8 Balanced Liquid Lawn Formula will work wonders at giving you a healthy lawn.

 

Mistakes That’ll Cost You A Lush, Healthy Lawn

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lawn, there are a few things that can derail your progress and cause you to take one step forward and two steps back, in the end, frustrating you, harming your grass, and likely wasting your money. Here are a few quick mistakes that you can avoid this year, ensuring that your lawn is thriving and the envy of the neighborhood!

-   Overfertilization

Not only can over-applying fertilizers wreak havoc on the environment, but it can also ruin a healthy lawn. Things like root burn, diseases, or fungus on your grass and diminished health of grass as a whole are a few things that applying fertilizer with a heavy hand can cause. Making sure you check the weather before you fertilize also saves you frustration and money. If you fertilize before a big rainstorm, all that all the time you spent applying the fertilizer was a waste, and you'll just have to repeat the process on a dry day.

 

- Too Much Phosphorus in Soil

Like we mentioned earlier, before introducing phosphorus into your soil, a soil test is essential to make sure you're not over-applying it. Remember how too much phosphorus can run off into rivers and streams, killing wildlife? You definitely don't want that! Plus, it's a waste of money, since it'll likely cause problems with your yard that you'll have to fix later anyway. 

 

- Fertilizing Dormant Grass

It's pretty easy to know when the best time to start fertilizing warm-season grass is, typically once it starts going from brown to green. That means it's coming out of dormancy, and any nitrogen you're adding to it will translate into green grass blades. However, in cool-season grass, it's a little trickier. The best rule of thumb is to wait until the ground thaws, and you begin to see shrubs blooming in your area. That's when you know any fertilizer you're using is guaranteed to soak into the soil.

 

- Buying a Cheap Fertilizer

Remember what they say—you get what you pay for in life. That goes for good-quality lawn fertilizers and other nutrients, too! By doing your research and buying quality products, you’re doing yourself and your lawn a favor! Creating the healthy lawn of your dreams is well within reach as long as you use the tools at your disposal to ensure you're correctly treating your soil and grass.

 

Whatever your lawn needs to become the healthy lawn you've been dreaming of, the tools and products are right at your fingertips! Visit our online store to identify the right products for you and your lawn, whether it’s warm-season or cool-season or anything in between. We’ll get you growing a beautiful yard that the entire neighborhood is envious of in no time!



2 Responses

Simple Lawn Solutions
Simple Lawn Solutions

April 20, 2020

Hello Perry, to sign-up for our email newsletter, scroll to the bottom of any page of our website and enter your email address at the bottom footer. Then click the green button “sign up” : )

Perry
Perry

April 20, 2020

I would like to receive your blogs/newsletters about information concerning lawns (especially warm season-zoysia) so I can know when to purchase your products. I enjoy the information I read from your company. I would like to get it in my email inbox.

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