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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Question Fertilizing conundrum

    I'm putting in a new lawn, and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information about fertilizing. If I recall correctly from TOH shows I've seen, they recommend using a "starter fertilizer". I want to say the one sold by the local store is something like 18-24-6. Ok, fair enough.

    But then I talked to the local greenhouse, and they recommended using a 10-20-20 fertilizer, and lots of it (20 lbs/1000 sq ft). Their explanation was that the numbers "essentially" applied to leaves- flowers-roots, in order, and since the important thing when starting a lawn was to get a strong root system, the larger final number was most important, which makes sense.

    Then, to further complicate things, I talked to a friend of mine who has put in a lawn at his house, and he recommended not fertilizing at all, at least not until after germination, in order to avoid burning out the seeds. He claims that as long as you have decent soil, fertilizing is highly overrated. When I mentioned this to the local greenhouse, they essentially laughed, claiming that none of the soil around here has enough nutrients to get away without fertilizer.

    Now I could see there being a difference between what TOH recommends and what the local greenhouse recommends due to locational differences- I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, much farther north than where TOH typically works, so I could see the soil up here requiring different fertilizers, but even so, I'm now rather confused. So what's the truth of the matter, or is there one?

    Thanks
    Israel

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    6,480

    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    I'm of the belief that you should amend your soil and forget about fertilizer altogether. Amending the soil is very easy if you've got access to compost or manure, if not then fertilizer is probably the better way to go.

    Here's the thing, if your soil is so bad that it won't support life, then you're going to have a tough time getting seed to germinate and take hold, resulting in spotty growth and an extended period of time for the grass to fill in - if it ever does. By amending the soil, you're creating a rich bio-environment for your grass, rather than a chemical placebo that is only feeding the plant, not the soil itself.

    If you go the amending route, layer on 3 to 6 inches of compost and blend it into the top 6 inches of soil well. Plant your seed or preferably lay sod, then all you've got to do is water and you're done. If you go the fertilizer route, I would consult the seed suppliers instructions for the type of fertilizer to use and how to apply it.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    4

    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    All fertilizers use a three number [I]rating[I].The first number representsNitrogen, the second number is Phosphorousand the third number representsPotassium.These numbers are Percentagesof the total ingredients in the bag. So,if you have say a fertilizer that reads 20-20-20,thats 20% of each .For lawn you need alot of nitrogen so first number would be higher.Hope not too confusing
    Being in Fairbanks gives you a small window before the termination dust hits...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    Yes, that makes sense, thanks. The only problem is that it doesn't align with anything else I've heard, so it leaves me still more confused than I was to begin with That is, you are saying the first number (nitrogen) needs to be high for lawns, while the starter fertilizer has the middle number as the highest, while the fertilizer recommended by the local greenhouse has the last two numbers higher, with the nitrogen being lowest. Might this again be an issue with the soil around here, i.e we perhaps tend to have plenty of nitrogen, but less of the other stuff? Just guessing here though.

    With regards to adding compost, I'd actually really prefer to go that route, and the local wastewater plant has it available for $5/cu yard, so it's not even very expensive. The only problem is getting it to my place, as I have no means of delivery myself.

    I guess I'll probably just follow the greenhouse's directions and see what happens. Thanks for the input!

  5. #5
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    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    Since you're into the research, take a look at what each of the nitrogen, phosphorous, and Potassium nutrients do for a plant. I don't remember which is which, though one is for strong roots, one is for healthy plant, one is for growth. Since you're trying to germinate seed, you're looking to feed the plant and root system, not promote growth, which means you want higher levels of the first two but not the last. In all honesty though, a straight 20/20/20 isn't going to hurt anything.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    18

    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    Ah, here we go. from http://www.learn2grow.com/gardeningg...rnumbers.aspx:

    Nitrogen is for promoting "taller growth and darker green color", phosphorus "aids in root development and increases flowering ability and bloom size", while potassium "guards the plant against diseases and aids in drought protection and cold tolerance. It also serves a role in improving root development".

    So the middle number, Phosphorus, is the most important when starting a lawn, due to its role in root development, while nitrogen is less important at this stage- thus the high middle number on the starter fertilizer I looked at. I would think also that the recommendation from the local greenhouse had a higher potassium percentage than the starter fertilizer due primarily to potassiums role in aiding cold tolerance. In general that would be less important when starting out, thus the low percentage in "starter" fertilizer. Given our cold climate, however I would think that would make it more important, and the added role in root development is just an extra bonus.

    So it would appear that the local greenhouse was right on- focus on the middle number for root development, and the last number to survive the winter/cooler summer, while not worrying about the Nitrogen as much until the lawn is well established. Thanks for the feedback!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Fertilizing conundrum

    See? come at it from enough angles and you get it figured out! Good luck with your new lawn.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

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