Monday, April 25, 2016

Gardening— A Guide to Fertilizer

Plants need organic matter as well as water, and a fertilization schedule can be helpful to plants growing in our tough North Texas climate.

Unfortunately, many homeowners apply the wrong fertilizer, too often, and at the wrong times. This leads to not only an expensive cycle of fertilizer application and mowing for turfgrass, but also creates pollution issues in our creeks and streams. To maximize your benefit from a chemical application, consider the following few suggestions.

Use the right chemicals

When looking at fertilizer products, keep in mind that the first number on the bag is always nitrogen (N), the second number on the bag is phosphorus (P), and the third number is potassium (K). Our North Texas clay soils are frequently nitrogen-deficient, but usually contain sufficient amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Each yard may have varying deficiencies in available nutrients, as well as potential deficiencies in other micronutrients, such as sulfur. To determine what your landscape needs, soil test kits are available at most home and garden stores.

Use the right amounts

It’s tempting to follow the “more is better” mantra, but it’s important to apply the correct amount of fertilizer for your lawn size. Measure the square footage of your landscape prior to purchasing chemicals to ensure you purchase only the amount that you need. Fertilizer labels generally contain specific and detailed instructions for application by square footage and plant type. Read the labels before applying any chemicals!

Apply at the right time

Many homeowners make the mistake of applying fertilizer before predicted rainfall, thinking that the rain will help wash the fertilizer into the soil. In fact, there couldn’t be a worse time to apply chemicals to your lawn! Most fertilizers are water soluble, and will wash out of your lawn during a heavy rain event and pollute local creeks and streams. It’s better to apply fertilizers when fair weather days are in the forecast. Spritz plant leaves using a hand-held hose to prevent them from burning after applying fertilizer. To ensure your fertilizer stays in your soil (where you want it), consider organic alternatives. Organic options such as compost are less water soluble than most synthetic fertilizers, and tend to be able to resist heavy rain events more effectively.

While fertilizer can be an important part of lawn maintenance and health, there is a potential for “too much of a good thing.” Also, plants that are already adapted to our region will require fewer fertilizers, as they are accustomed to our natural soil chemistry – saving you time and money in the long run.

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