Fertilizing Your Lawn and Watering a Lawn
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Another of the essential requirements for growing healthy grass is plant food. Lawn grass, perhaps more than other plants, requires nutrients to keep it vigorous and green because its top growth is being constantly removed. If this is done to any other plant, it usually dies completely sooner or later, but grass is remarkably tough and will stand up to this kind of treatment. However, that is all it will do, unless fed properly, so fertilizing your lawn is vital to its health.
There are three very important foods that plants must have in fairly large quantities: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and each assists them in different ways. Nitrogen helps to keep the plant green and encourages the top growth to grow well; phosphorus is good for the roots, particularly of young plants, and potassium plays a part in helping to keep the plant ‘hard’, rather than very sappy, and also assists in the production of good colour in flowers and fruit. From this it can be seen that for grass, nitrogen is particularly important – without it the grass is likely to be thin, and yellowish, and lack of it is one of the main reasons for pale, patchy.
Other plant foods are required, but only in small quantities. These are known as ‘trace elements’ and in the average , there are sufficient present for a lawn’s needs. It is usually only on intensively grown commercial crops that a deficiency of one of these is likely to arise, or on a soil which has an extreme defect; for instance, it may be very acid or very chalky, or consist mostly of sand.
Time for Fertilizing Your Lawn
On the whole, more satisfactory results are obtained for fertilizing your lawn if the three main plant foods are applied together, since each interacts with the other and affects the uptake of them all, and a good balance in plant growth is obtained where all are given at the same time. There are plenty of proprietary compound lawn fertilisers available, and the best time to put them on is during the spring. I like to treat my grass with a balanced fertiliser in late February to early March, and such feeding should at latest be started by early April. This can be repeated at the end of June, and if the weather is hot and dry at that time of the year, water the fertiliser in well. This will keep the grass a good colour for the rest of the summer.
In early autumn, say the middle to the end of September, a dressing of another balanced fertiliser can be given. This will strengthen the root growth and make the grass itself tougher, and so better able to stand up to the winter cold. It is best to avoid applying very nitrogenous fertilisers at this time of the year, since they will make the grass ‘soft’ and lush, when it can easily be damaged by extreme cold, and be badly affected by a fungus disease.
Fertilizing Your Lawn – Method of Application
When fertilizing your lawn and applying these foods, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. For instance, applying too much lawn fertiliser will result in scorching of the top growth so immediately producing a brown patch, and it can also do damage below ground by burning the roots.
If lawn fertiliser is to be put on by hand, a good way of practising evenness of application is to scatter the required quantity over a square metre of paper (a square metre is the area normally specified on the manufacturer’s directions) so that you can see how thinly – or thickly – the fertiliser covers the ground. Putting half on in one direction and the rest on in the opposite direction will help as well; likewise, dividing the area up into square metres with marking string or canes. For larger areas, fertiliser distributors are available, these having rollers calibrated to allow certain quantities of fertiliser to be released as required. Before using one of these it is a good idea to check it first by running it over a measured area of ground with a known quantity of lawn fertiliser in it, to make sure it is putting the material down at the required rate.
Such distributors can be bought for quite reasonable prices, and they can also be hired from many garden shops and garden centres.
On some soils, ie, sandy ones, it may be necessary to feed throughout the season, by putting on small quantities from about halfway through May, at four or five-weekly intervals until about the beginning of August. The quantity applied and its frequency will depend on the soil, however, and can only be learnt by experience, or by having a full soil analysis carried out.
Watering a Lawn
A lawn is practically never watered at the time when it begins to need it. It is only when the grass begins to look tired and flabby, after about ten days without any rain, and of scorching hot sun, that it gets watered; even then it is usually only a sprinkling, and not the large quantity necessary to supply the needs of the grass. Then, because the soil has become so dry, it is difficult for it to absorb the water, and much of it runs off or evaporates. Another reason for watering a lawn before a drought has really set in is that, when the soil becomes really dry, it almost always cracks, and this tears the grassroots and leaves them dangling in mid-air, unable to obtain food or water.
The first sign grass gives of a shortage of water is its lack of ‘bounce’. When this is noticed, water should be given at the rate of about 1 gallon per square metre per hour and an average quantity at any one time should be about 4 to 5 gallons per square metre, but this depends very much on the type of soil, and the period of time without rain. If you remember that the minimum depth of soil required for a healthy lawn is 4 inches, and that most grasses go deeper than this, then you should apply sufficient water to moisten the soil to this depth, provided it has dried out to this extent. It will mean watering a lawn once a week at least, and, in very hot weather, twice. Do not apply water in small quantities at frequent intervals. As with pot plants this does more harm than good, and will compact the surface, so encouraging the appearance of moss and flat, rosette-type.
Watering a Lawn – Methods of Application
There are various methods of applying water to your lawn. The worst is turning the hose on and simply leaving it to flood the lawn. This wastes the water as it simply runs off the sides when the soil is dry, or pours down the cracks without soaking in first, and where it does become absorbed it tends to waterlog the top inch or so. It is much better to use a sprinkler so that water is applied as a spray which approximates as nearly as possible to natural rainfall.
A perforated plastic hose laid straight across the grass is one of the best methods of watering a lawn; it gives a fine spray which is quickly absorbed without flooding. The hose is pierced so that the spray comes out at different angles, thus enabling the whole of an area to be covered evenly on either side of the hose.
Pulsating sprinklers which water a complete circle or segments of a circle are very popular for watering a lawn in this way.
There are also oscillating sprinklers which have a fixed central point, but which turn from side to side, fanning out the water over a rectangular area from a short tube in the centre supported on a metal stand. A more elaborate type for large lawns is the sprinkler which moves itself along the hose, and can be left on for several hours without constant attention.
Before watering a lawn in very dry periods, make sure that this is allowed by your local council. Restrictions on the use of water in gardens are often made in times of drought, even if you have a water meter.