Proper fertilization is crucial in a quality lawn. Too much fertilizer can create a spongy, or “thatchy” lawn, making watering and weed, disease or insect controls difficult. The most effective fertilizers are balanced, slow release, full nutrient blends containing the macro, micro and trace nutrients that Florida lawns require.
Fertilize lawns, trees and plants only to maintain health. Over fertilizing lawns aggravates pest problems and stimulates excessive growth. Under-fertilizing lawns may lead to thin grass or weeds. When excessive fertilizer is applied, it can leach past the root zone and into the groundwater, the source of our drinking water. Excessive fertilizer application also contributes to pollution in Florida’s springs, rivers, streams, lakes and bays.
While the soil generally provides most of the nutrients needed for optimum plant growth, there are times when fertilizers are needed. Fertilizers contain one or more essential plant nutrients and can be applied to landscapes to improve plant growth and quality or to correct a nutrient deficiency. There are many fertilizers available to consumers at local lawn and garden centers. With so many choices, it’s easy to get confused. It is important to get information about fertilizers and associated fertilizer terminology to help you make educated decisions when purchasing fertilizers and using them in the home landscape or garden.
Fertilizers available to consumers for use in the landscape will also have variable properties depending on brand and formulation. Many fertilizer materials are inorganic or synthetic. Examples of inorganic nutrient sources that may be used in blends include ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, and potassium chloride. Other fertilizer materials are organic, including animal manures, composted materials, and plant or animal residues.
In Florida, phosphorus has been removed from most fertilizers due to a controversial theory that using it in plant fertilization promotes algae bloom – “red tide” – a natural phenomenon in the Gulf of Mexico. The EPA has now targeted phosphates, one of Florida’s largest industries due to our natural phosphate deposits. In many states, phosphates have been banned from dishwashing detergents.
Fertilizers encourage plants to grow faster and greener or develop more blooms and fruit. Fertilizing can be done by applying composted organic material, packaged fertilizer or a specific mineral, such as iron. Commercial landscapers are most familiar with the plants, greenery and soil in your area. They are usually therefore your best bet when it comes to fertilizing and your other landscaping needs.