Using too much fertilizer is literally money down the drain! Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are essential for plant growth. However, most soils in the Lincoln area already contain more than enough of these nutrients to support a healthy lawn. When it rains, excess nutrients can wash off your lawn and pollute local waterways. Not only is it bad for the environment, it may be doing nothing to help your lawn.

Eutrophication(JPG, 56KB) Phosphorus within the water system causes dangerous, excessive aquatic growth and a decrease in dissolved oxygen availability for aquatic life

Excess nutrients in waterways can cause dangerous algae blooms, 1(JPG, 68KB)2(JPG, 106KB)3(JPG, 83KB)4(JPG, 91KB)5(JPG, 95KB)) excessive aquatic growth, and decreased dissolved oxygen available for aquatic life. This process is called eutrophication. Algae, and the water quality problems that occur as they decompose, can kill fish and other aquatic organisms. They can also create toxic lake conditions, limiting human use and enjoyment in recreational areas.

Take the guesswork out of caring for your lawn. If your lawn seems unhealthy, get your soil tested to determine what your lawn needs. In many cases, the problem is not a lack of nutrients within the soil. Knowing the organic matter content and pH is the best place to start for proper soil preparation and lawn maintenance.

If your soil test results do indicate a nutrient deficiency, look for natural ways of adding nutrients back to the soil. For example, grass clippings left on the lawn return nitrogen to the soil as they decompose. If you must apply fertilizer, consider organic options before turning to synthetic formulas. Organic fertilizers are less concentrated, but have longer lasting benefits.

Use phosphorus-free fertilizer

Of the three nutrients mentioned above, phosphorus is the most damaging to local lakes and waterways. Since most soils in the Lincoln area are naturally high in phosphorus, any excess will quickly wash off your lawn when it rains.

Look for phosphorus-free fertilizer at your local hardware, garden, or farm supply store. Or ask your lawn care service to only use phosphorus-free fertilizer on your lawn. If you suspect a phosphorus deficiency, have your soil tested first to determine what your lawn needs.

How do I read the bag?

Select an appropriate fertilizer based on your soil test results. All fertilizers are labeled with a string of three numbers indicating the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium by weight. For example:

24 – 0 – 11

This fertilizer contains 24 percent nitrogen, 0 percent phosphorus, and 11 percent potassium by weight. Therefore, a 15 lb bag would contain 3.6 lbs of nitrogen, 0 lbs of phosphorus, and 1.65 lbs of potassium.

When selecting a fertilizer (synthetic or organic), always look at the phosphorus content first. Phosphorus should only be applied if your soil test results indicated a deficiency. Then use the nitrogen content to determine the amount of fertilizer you will need.

Always look for slow-release fertilizer. This type releases small amounts of nutrients over time to ensure that all are absorbed properly and utilized by plants. Slow-release fertilizers can generally be applied only once during a growing season, which will save you time and money.

Remember to sweep it

Fertilizer left on the pavement quickly washes into storm drains, lakes, and streams. Do it yourself, or ask your lawn care service, to sweep fertilizer overspray onto your lawn.

If your property is directly adjacent to a lake or waterway, always leave a three foot buffer area to ensure the fertilizer does not come into direct contact with the water.

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