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How Much Fertilizer is Enough?
June 21, 2007  --  Issue 20
  
Better Fields for Better Play
Jim Reiner

Fertilizer is a part of a good turf maintenance program.  But a question you should ask is, "how much fertilizer is enough and how often?"

To start answering those questions, let's start with another question.  What exactly does fertilizer do to grass? 

Other an making it green or burning it, just what is happening when you fertilize?

Think about it like this.  Fertilizer is to grass like food is to us people. 

How should we eat in the winter to stay healthy? How should we eat in the morning compared to the evening?  Is a midnight snack OK?  And how about this... how should we eat when we are sick?  What kinds of food make up a well rounded meal? 

Should we pig-out or space out our eating?  What happens if I gorge myself several times during the holidays? 

You get the picture.  What and how we eat does matter.  What and how we fertilize matters too.

OK.  Back to the grass.  Grass has roots and blades.  The blades need sun.  The roots need water and nutrients. 

Most soils need a boost.  The nutrients are not balanced or are missing. 

For example, in the western US many soils are lacking in iron.  So, fertilizers with iron help "green" up the grass in the western US. Many soils in arid climates lack sulfur. So, you find fertilizers with sulfur added for those areas.

Fertilizer is labeled using three numbers.  A good example is 16-8-8.  The first number indicates nitrogen for green turf.  The second number is the phosphate for healthy blades.  And the third number is the potash for the roots. 

Fertilizer is like vitamins or food.  More is not necessarily better.

A lighter application more frequently is better.  Growth is more even during the growing period. Consistent growth means consistent play also. 

Large doses actually push the grass hard and can make it more susceptible to fungus and bugs. Even the recommended dosage during late fall when it is much cooler can push the grass to hard.

You want firm, solid blades of grass.  Pushing it too fast grows blades that are tender and not as resistant.

The bottom line: the answer to the question, "how much fertilizer is enough?" is this: "generally follow the dosage suggestions, but you are better off to lightly fertilize your turf frequently (monthly).  Especially during the cooler early spring and late fall. 

Consider how us humans work. We are better off with a good, hot breakfast with complex carbohydrates.  This gives us energy for the day. By evening we are better off with a meal with lots of protein to help rebuild the muscles while we sleep. 

Grass is like that too.  Here's the recommended TurfGro fertilizer program:

Cool  Season 21-4-7      Oct-Feb
Landscaper    16-8-8      Mar-Sept

Prostarter        6-20-20   Feb-Nov (new seed or sod)
Pro Prills         12-8-16   Oct-Nov (repair tore up turf)

This link will give you guidance about how to spread fertilizer for best results on your baseball field turf once you know how much fertilizer is enough.

Yours for better play more often,

J. Reiner

Jim Reiner
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
The Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide



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