We’ve all been there: you fertilize your lawn, and shortly after, the turf starts to discolor, and it gets scorch. The brown discoloration is not the natural one that results from excess sunlight, water, or fungi but rather it results from chemical burns from fertilizers known as “fertilizer burn.”
Overfertilizing can result in a real disaster on your lawn. Imagine waking up to patches of dead grass or brown spots on your lush green turf! It’s probably the most frustrating thing to face. Will the grass recover? Will new blades sprout?
Lawns that suffer fertilizer burn can recover or fail to recover. It’s crucial to avoid chemically burning your lawn when fertilizing. You’re in the right place! This article has everything you need to know about fertilizer burn and how to prevent it.
What is Fertilizer Burn in Lawns?
It’s a condition that leads to scorching of lawns. Fertilizer burn is simply dehydration of the plant foliage and roots, resulting in brown or yellow grass patches, and if fatal, it results in the death of the entire lawn.
Most of the chemical fertilizers sprayed on lawns contain mineral salts.
Applying excess fertilizer, especially on wet foliage, stimulates the hygroscopic action where the fertilizer salts withdraw water from the lawn resulting in dehydration.
Apart from fertilizer burn resulting from over fertilizing, other conditions like humidity and the grass’s overall health affect the rate at which a lawn processes the applied fertilizer.
The burn appears within days or weeks, depending on whether the fertilizer you use is a fast-release or slow-release type.
Although a lawn with chemical burns from fertilizers can recover, it’s better to avoid such a condition.
Nevertheless, you’ll have to treat the burn as fast as possible to increase survival chances.
Symptoms of Fertilizer Burn on A Lawn
- Yellow foliage
- Brown grass patches or the entire lawn
- White or brown streaks
How to Avoid Chemically Burning the Lawn When Fertilizing
It’s a fact that lawns need nutrients to thrive well, and since grass depletes those nutrients faster, you’ll need to fertilize the lawn to replenish soil nutrients regularly.
Adopting the following practices will help you avoid fertilizer burns on your lawn.
1. Adopt Using Organic Fertilizers Rather Than Chemical Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are natural and will help keep off chemicals from your lawn. Besides, soil microbes help in breaking down these fertilizers naturally.
2. Follow the Fertilizer Instructions Given
Ignoring the package instructions is a common mistake made by most lawn owners. Get your fingers right during lawn fertilizer application by avoiding the following errors:
A. Applying Higher Amounts than Recommended
Just because your lawn is weak does not mean over-fertilizing will make it stronger. The specified amount for the application provides the ideal conditions for lawn growth.
You should follow the package instructions when applying the lawn fertilizer. Furthermore, fertilizers have different components, and they also vary in strength.
B. Applying Inaccurate Quantities
Like all lawn products, fertilizers also have their measuring cups. Take time to measure the precise amount of fertilizer to apply to your lawn.
Putting more than the measuring mark puts your lawn at the risk of a chemical burn, especially if you are spraying the fertilizer directly to the lawn without diluting.
C. Overcalculating the lawn size
When calculating the area’s size to apply fertilizer, always remember to exclude sections not covered by grass. For instance, exclude the total space your house covers and all the driveways in your home.
D. Unnecessary Opening of The Spreader Hopper
Whether you are refilling, stopping, or turning, always keep the spreader hopper closed. When left open, excess fertilizer spills out to your lawn, increasing the chances of burn.
3. Avoid Lawn Stress
If your lawn grass is weak, apply small amounts of fertilizer to match the slow absorption rate; Over Fertilizing such a lawn results in fertilizer burn.
Furthermore, if your lawn is yet to recover from drought, diseases, excess heat, and processes like dethatching and aeration, over fertilizing may lead to chemical burns on the lawn since such a lawn has a lower ability to process the fertilizer.
You should delay fertilizing for a stressed lawn until the lawn is in a better condition to process the fertilizer.
4. Use Appropriate Fertilizer Products
Consider using an all-purpose fertilizer that works well on almost all lawns instead of using specialty fertilizers. Furthermore, slow-release fertilizers are considerably safe than fast-release fertilizers, which increase the chances of a chemical burn to your lawn.
Most lawn fertilizers are composed of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
A. Slow-Release Variety
The slow-release fertilizers help reduce the risk of lawn burn. Go for fertilizers with slow-release nitrogen, which stimulates growth. Besides, with the slow-release variety, you’ll not need to fertilize your lawn more often.
The slow-release nitrogen fertilizers provide the turf with nitrogen at an amount ideal for lawn processing. This fertilizer variety encourages consistent turf growth while preventing chemical burns on lawns.
The drawback of this fertilizer variety is that you’ll have to be patient before noticing any feedback since it releases ingredients slowly, thus taking longer to be effective. Additionally, slow-release fertilizers are more expensive.
B. Quick-Release Variety
Unlike the slow-release fertilizers, this variety provides turf with nitrogen at a higher rate. Watering the lawn after applying this fertilizer helps dissolve nutrients to the root and enhances absorption.
The quick-release fertilizers benefit your lawn by providing immediate feedback; within days after application, the lawn grows at a faster rate, becomes teeming, healthier, and more attractive.
Even though they are fast in action, the quick-release fertilizers also have their share of flaws; their salt index is high, resulting in fatal burns on the lawn.
Chemical burns that result from this variety are most evident in lawns that are in extremely hot regions. With the salts and the high temperatures, burns are almost inevitable.
Watering the lawn thoroughly after fertilizing helps wash off the ingredients from the foliage and dissolve into the soil, helping reduce the risk of chemical burns on the lawn.
- Avoid fertilizing lawns when grass blades are wet; this will increase the chances of chemical burn.
- Never apply fertilizer on your lawn during a dry season. The soil will fail to absorb the fertilizer leading to burns on your lawn.
- If you apply fertilizer pellets, water the lawn thoroughly to reduce the risk of burns
- Using compost to fertilize your lawn is a pro tip to reducing chemical burns.
What If You Accidentally Over-Fertilize a Lawn?
Let’s face it! No matter how careful you are, sometimes you make a mistake; for instance, you can accidentally leave the spreader hopper open when refilling, and before you realize it, a section of your lawn is flooding with the fertilizer.
Don’t panic. There are some tricks you can apply to prevent fertilizer burn. It would be best if you tried scooping the excess fertilizer granules. If the fertilizer is a liquid, flush your lawn thoroughly with water. Ensure that all the water penetrates the soil rather than running off.
The runoff is toxic and can result in chemical burns in neighboring lawns or cause serious health problems if it runs to drinking water sources.