Fertilization and Pollution

Posted Apr 16, 2013, in ,

With concerns about ground water pollution, Florida and other states are implementing restrictions against the use of phosphorous in fertilizers and restricting the amount of nitrogen in a fertilizer.  What can you do to protect the ground water but still keep your lawn healthy and green? Organic lawn care can help reduce fertilizer runoff and protect ground water. Here are a few tips you can use to keep your lawn lush and green.

Out With Phosphorus

The only time you really need a fertilizer with phosphorus is if you are seeding a new lawn. An established lawn rarely need phosphorus to grow. While it is an essential nutrient, lack of phosphorous does not limit lawn growth. Phosphorous is usually replenished naturally, especially if you leave lawn clippings to decompose after mowing.  Homemade organic compost is really the only thing a lawn needs to grow well although major synthetic fertilizer-makers are now, manufacturing phosphorus-free products.

Test Soil Before You Fertilize

You can test your soil for nutrient content, pH and organic matter composition ant time the ground is not frozen. To provide a good sample, mix soil from four or five different areas of the lawn by digging a few inches down to where the roots feed and collect a total sample equivalent to about a pint. For the best test results, take the sample to your local cooperative extension for testing.  A soil test helps identify the elements your lawn truly needs. Don’t add extra nutrients unless your soil test indicates its necessary.

Avoid High Nitrogen Fertilizers and Apply at the Right Time
For South Florida, fertilize in advance of the rainy season.  Tests show that two-thirds of high-nitrogen products run off or vaporize without affecting the grass, which is a waste of money in addition to being an environmental hazard. It is also easy to burn your lawn with high-nitrogen fertilizers. If a soil test indicates the need for nitrogen use a fertilizer that contains reasonable levels of nitrogen but avoid high nitrogen fertilizers.

Fertilization with the Weather
Both fertilizer and water are necessary for photosynthesis to occur, so without rain, fertilizers won’t work properly.   Fertilize your lawn just before the forecast calls for a steady light rain. Avoid fertilizing if the forecast calls for a strong thunderstorm or rain, since your fertilizer will just run off into a local lake, river or bay. Not only will you be washing your money down the stream, you will also be contributing to ground water pollution.

Use Natural Compost

Compost is really all most lawns need to grow well. Compost can be applied at any time unlike commercial or organic fertilizers.

Mow Properly to Optimize Fertilization Benefits

Watch the weather. If there isn’t rain in the short-term forecast, put your lawnmower away. If it becomes absolutely necessary to mow during dry times, only trim the smallest amount possible off of the top.

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