Have you ever looked enviously at your neighbour’s perfectly manicured, thick, lush, green lawn and wondered how they got the grass to look so flawless? We’ve probably all suffered from “lawn envy” at some time or another – but there’s no need to despair. Having an amazing lawn is quite achievable for the amateur gardener – and without spending a great deal of money or time either.
The single most important thing you can do to make your lawn look fantastic is to feed it well. It’s the number one technique for achieving a thick, lush and bright green lawn, and is the simplest and surest way to upgrade your lawn from drab to fab.
But there are a few pitfalls to avoid when you fertilise your lawn. Don’t make these common lawn fertilisation mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Using the wrong type of fertiliser for your grass
It’s essential to choose the right type of fertiliser for your specific:
- Variety of grass;
- Soil type; and
- Climatic conditions.
Not all lawn fertilisers are created equal, and there’s a wide variety of them around. It can be confusing to know which one is going to work best for your lawn. However, if you want the best out of your grass, it’s essential to choose a fertiliser with a nutritional balance that will help your lawn reach its peak. Don’t just go for the cheapest one, or the first one you come across, or the one your mum who lives five hours away swears by. They may not be the best fertiliser for your lawn.
Ask your neighbours who are growing the same variety of grass (particularly those with great-looking lawns) which fertiliser they use, as that’s a great indication that it will work well on your lawn. Do some quick research online, or better yet, consult your local turf supplier or lawn professional for advice. But make sure you choose the right type of fertiliser for your lawn to give it the best chance of growing well.
Mistake #2 – Fertilising your lawn at the wrong time
To get the best results for your grass, you’re better off fertilising it at a time that’s suitable for your lawn, rather than whenever it’s convenient. Optimum results are achieved when your lawn fertilisation schedule involves three applications per year:
- Early spring, using a nitrogen-based fertiliser to stimulate your lawn to come out of winter hibernation. Don’t fertilise right at the start of spring however, as lingering frosts and chilly mornings can damage the grass.
- Mid- summer, to help your lawn become more resilient and able to survive through summer’s damaging heat.
- Mid- autumn, using a potassium-based fertiliser to strengthen the grass in preparation for the harsh winter conditions.
Your lawn doesn’t need fertiliser during winter, as the grass enters a semi-dormant state as the weather cools off. Fertilising in winter will stimulate growth too early.
And the very best time to fertilise your lawn? Before it even exists. Use a starter fertiliser when installing a new lawn to give your grass the best chance of establishing quickly and well.
For more on how to get your new lawn turf to establish fast, click here.
Mistake #3 – Over-fertilising your lawn
More is not necessarily better in this case. If fertiliser is applied too heavily or too often, it can actually damage your lawn. Over-fertilising can cause browning grass tips and yellowing of the lower grass blade, weakened roots, limited root growth, a salt-like crust forming on the surface of the soil, and fertiliser burn. Over-zealous fertilising can be one of the quickest ways to kill your lawn, so make sure you apply the right amount.
You’ll need to know the size of your lawn to be able to correctly calculate how much fertiliser you’ll need to apply. Measure your lawn in square metres (you can do this approximately by using one large stride to equate to one metre). Read the directions on the bag of fertiliser to see how much per square metre to apply, then add that quantity to your fertiliser spreader.
Mistake #4 – Inadequate preparation for fertilising
Lawn fertilisation doesn’t really involve too much time-consuming preparation, but there are a few things you really should do before applying fertiliser. These include:
- Mowing the lawn two days before applying fertiliser
- Raking the lawn to provide a smooth, even surface
- Removing all leaves and other debris from the lawn
Failing to complete these tasks will prevent the application of fertiliser from being as effective as it could be.
Mistake #5 – Neglecting to water the fertiliser in
Likewise, your fertiliser application will be much more effective if you follow the correct aftercare procedure. The most important thing you need to do after applying fertiliser is to water it in thoroughly. Watering prevents the fertiliser from just sitting unabsorbed on the grass blades, and will activate the fertiliser and enable it to do its job effectively. If you can’t time your fertiliser application to just before rain is forecast, then make sure you thoroughly water it in.
Mistake #6 – Mowing too soon after fertilising
It’s best to give the fertiliser enough time to properly absorb into the soil, and mowing too soon after fertilising can prevent this from happening. Wait at least a week after applying fertiliser to mow your lawn, to give the soil a chance to absorb and use the fertiliser. When you do mow, leave the catcher off too, so you don’t just end up collecting all the fertiliser.
For more on how to get the most out of your lawnmowing, click here.
Mistake #7 – Not fertilising your lawn at all
Perhaps the biggest fertilisation mistake you can make however, is failing to fertilise your lawn at all. This is a very common mistake – only one in four people actually bother to fertiliser their lawn (and you can tell which ones these people are from their amazing-looking lawns!). Often people don’t know where to start and put lawn fertilisation into the too-hard basket. It might seem too time-consuming or expensive or difficult, and busy people are prone to putting it off to a later date. Whatever the reason, it never gets done, and you’re missing out on:
- Thicker, greener and more attractive grass
- Heathier grass and soil
- Stronger and more resilient grass roots
- A reduction in weeds
- Grass that can repair itself better after being damaged
- A higher value for your property
And it’s not as time-consuming, expensive or complicated as you might think. If you don’t fertilise your lawn, the consequences might be unnoticeable at first – but they’ll appear sooner or later. A slight yellowing of the grass, and patchiness here and there will quickly lead to a sad and sorry-looking lawn if left untreated for a length of time. And once it’s reached that stage, it’s much harder to return it to a happy and healthy state. It’s easier and more cost-effective to maintain a regular lawn fertilisation schedule that will ensure its continued health.
Read about other common lawn care mistakes you might be making and how to avoid them here.