Many homeowners mow their lawn once a week and don't give it another thought until the next mowing. Other homeowners view their lawn as a work of art and tend it like a newborn. They water and fertilize regularly and declare war on every weed. If you're one of the latter, you'll want to use the correct fertilizer for your lawn. The type of fertilizer you use will depend on the type of soil in your yard.
Test the soil first. Give your state department of agriculture a call and ask if they do free soil tests. Most states do provide this service. A soil test will reveal what nutrients your soil is missing. Choose a fertilizer that will add those nutrients. There's a set of three numbers on most packages. They tell you the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the fertilizer. The nutrients in your soil will determine the type of fertilizer you purchase.
Complete and Incomplete
A complete fertilizer contains all three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in that order. On the package of fertilizer you will see three numbers representing these nutrients. It might look like this: 5-15-5. The numbers stand for nutrient percentages. An incomplete fertilizer will contain just one or two of these nutrients. If the fertilizer is lacking in one of the nutrients, a zero will be in its place, such as 15-0-0. This type of fertilizer would be used when only one or two nutrients are lacking in the soil.
A general-purpose fertilizer contains all three nutrients and meets the basic needs of many plants and grasses.
Special-purpose fertilizers have specific duties. They may be blended to encourage lush, green growth in lawns, or they may be formulated for specific plants like tomatoes or rhododendrons.
Solid (dry) fertilizers are worked into the soil and release the nutrients when water is applied. Some solid fertilizers are slow-release and fertilize over a period of months.
Liquid fertilizers come in granular form or concentrated liquid form. Each needs to be diluted with water. These fertilizers need to be applied throughout the growing season. They work on all plants as well as lawns.
Organic fertilizers come from once living organisms: bone meal, fish emulsion, chicken or worm manure. Organic fertilizers are earth friendly and not only deliver nutrients to plants and lawns, but also enrich the soil. The nutrients are added to the host as the organic fertilizers break down.
Synthetic fertilizers immediately release nutrients through water as they break down, but they can damage plants and lawns if they are used in excess.
Some fertilizers come in the form of sticks, stakes and pellets. Think of them as vitamins. They are inserted into the soil next to the plants and get the nutrients to the plants quickly.