A healthy lawn will not remain that way indefinitely. The nature of plant life in general strips nutrients from the soil and over time breaks it down, which in turn leads to the deterioration of the plant. Grass is no different. Fertilizers and lime applications may be needed occasionally. Understanding some basic facts about fertilizers and lime applications can help you maintain a healthy lawn.
In its most simple definition, fertilizer is food for plants. Most soil becomes depleted of various nutrients over time, depending upon the type of plant growing in it. Even different types of grasses can strip soil of a few different nutrients. Soil color is not the best determinant of soil condition. Testing the soil is recommended before deciding to add any particular fertilizer. Fertilizers can be organic (coming from plant or animal sources); or inorganic (meaning chemical-based). Animal manures, compost, fish and bone meals fit into the organic category and take longer to break down than their chemical counterparts.
When to Fertilize
The right time to fertilize depends on the type of lawn, soil condition and the watering schedule being employed. Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda and Zoysia are those that grow the most in the late spring and early summer and benefit greatly from an early spring application of fertilizer. Additional applications throughout the growing season are recommended. Fall and cold weather applications should be avoided, as they can cause the grass to become susceptible to damage from the cold weather. Cool season grasses like ryegrass, bluegrass and fescue prefer one or two light fall feedings. This stimulates root growth but not growth on top. Another application can be made in mid-spring, but none should be made during late spring or fall.
Why Add Lime?
Lime is used to increase the pH of the soil. After receiving the results of the soil test, a pH reading of below 6.0 is regarded as "low" for turf grasses, according to the Ohio State University Extension
Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. A pH above 7.0 is considered acidic and may be too high. They recommend between 6.0 and 7.0. Local extension offices will advise the proper levels in their geographic regions. Simply knowing the pH is too low does not indicate how much lime to add. This information also comes from the soil test report. Soil pH of 8.0 or higher can be harmful to lawns by making nutrients in the soil unavailable to the grass.
How to Apply Lime
It is essential that lime be evenly distributed across the area being treated. Too much or too little lime in some areas will defeat the purpose of the treatment, and the lawn will reflect this in its appearance. A spinner or drop-type spreader is best for this application. The way to ensure an even application is to spread half of the lime in the direction across the area being treated, and the other half perpendicular to the first half.
When To Apply Lime
Fall is the optimal time to apply lime, as it has the entire winter to break down and prepare the soil for the spring growing season. However, lime can be added any time and should be added immediately if a soil test reveals it is needed. When enough lime has been added to bring the pH to 6.5, it should endure for four to six years. The addition of some fertilizers will cause the pH to fluctuate; test the soil regularly to determine how often to repeat the lime application.