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How Long Can Fertilizer Sit on a Yard Without Water?

By Meg DesCamp ; Updated September 21, 2017
Fertilizer + water = green.

Fertilizer can give your lawn a quick boost in both color and vitality -- or it can leave burn spots on your grass. Proper application techniques, including knowing when to water and how much, can help you grow a healthy, attractive lawn.

Green Grass Rules

American homeowners love green grass. In fact, homeowners dump more than 70 tons of fertilizer on their lawns each year, according to BuildingGreen.com, an online resource for the building and facilities management industries. With that much fertilizer in use, understanding its proper usage is key to a healthy lawn.

Water Activates Fertilizer

Dry fertilizers are usually produced in pellet form. Fertilizer bags are convenient to transport and easy to store, and dry fertilizer is relatively simple to apply using a hand-held or push-type spreader. However, fertilizer's active ingredients remain inactive until water dissolves the pellets. At that point, nutrients are carried into the soil and absorbed by plant roots.

Water It in Immediately

Fertilizer can sit on your lawn without burning the grass for about a day, unless the air temperature is above 85 degrees. However, most experts recommend watering immediately after spreading fertilizer. Water thoroughly but lightly, applying a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water. Heavy watering will wash most of the fertilizer off your lawn and down your storm drains. For the same reason, don't fertilize if rainstorms are in the immediate forecast. Not sure how much water your sprinklers provide? Place an empty tuna can in the sprinkler's watering zone. When the can is half-full, your lawn has received 1/2 inch of water.

Use Caution Around Kids and Pets

Dry fertilizer can burn more than grass.

Most lawns are used, rather than just gazed upon admiringly. Children and pets playing on your lawn can get dry fertilizer on their skin and hair and in their eyes. If this happens, rinse them off immediately -- and go water your lawn.

 

About the Author

 

Meg DesCamp is the author of "Slug Tossing and Other Adventures of a Reluctant Gardener," published by Sasquatch Books, and is currently a Master Gardener Trainee. She has written professionally since 1983, and has been published in "Fine Gardening," "The Oregonian" and "The Portland Business Journal."