- Too Much Fertilizer On Plants: Managing Fertilizer Burn In Gardens
- Can Over Fertilized Garden Be Saved?
- What to Do if You Over Fertilize the Lawn
- Top Fertilizing Mistakes Gardeners Make
- Fertilizer Toxicity vs. Nutrient Deficiency: Spotting the Difference in Your Plants
- 1. Unnaturally Quick Growth Can Lead to More Maintenance & Future Turf Trouble
- 2. Soluble Salts Linger Behind & Can Cause “Root Burn”
- 3. Excessive Organic Matter Often Leads to Poor Drainage & Rot or Disease
- 4. Excessive Nutrients Can Throw Off the PH Balance of Your Soil
- Already Guilty of Over-Fertilizing? How to Recover
- How to Avoid Garden and Lawn Fertilizer Burn
- Choosing and Using Fertilizers Properly
- Problems with Over-Fertilization
- Reasons Why Your Grass Turns Brown
- The Usual Symptoms of Over-fertilizing
- How to Fix Over-Fertilized Lawn
- Can you over fertilise your lawn?
Too Much Fertilizer On Plants: Managing Fertilizer Burn In Gardens
We gardeners love our plants — we spend huge parts of our summers watering, plucking weeds, pruning and picking bugs off of every denizen of the garden, but when it comes to fertilizing, we often fall into bad habits. Over fertilization in the garden, caused by well-intended but automatic feeding, often results in fertilizer burn of plants. Too much fertilizer on plants is a serious problem, more damaging than too little fertilizer in many cases.
Can Over Fertilized Garden Be Saved?
Gardens that are over fertilized can sometimes be saved, depending on the amount of fertilizer you applied and how quickly you act. Managing fertilizer burn in the garden depends on your speed at recognizing the signs in your plants. Lightly damaged plants may simply wilt or look generally unwell, but plants that are seriously burned may appear to have actually burned — their leaves will brown and collapse from the edges inward. This is due to the accumulation of fertilizer salts in tissues and a lack of water to flush them out due to root damage.
When you realize you’ve over fertilized, either because of plant symptoms or due to a white, salty crust that forms on the soil’s surface, immediately begin flooding the garden. A long, deep watering can move many types of fertilizer from the soil near the surface into deeper layers, where roots aren’t currently penetrating.
Much like flushing a potted plant that’s had too much fertilizer, you’re going to need to flood your garden with a volume of water equivalent to the cubic area of the fertilized area. Flushing the garden will take time and a careful eye to ensure that you’re not creating standing puddles of water that will drown your already burned plants.
What to Do if You Over Fertilize the Lawn
Lawns need the same kind of fertilizer leaching that gardens do, but it can be much harder to deliver even water to the many grass plants in your yard. If a small area is damaged, but the rest seems okay, focus your efforts on those plants first. Flood the area with a soaker hose or sprinkler, but make sure to remove it before the ground gets boggy.
Repeat every few days, until the plants appear to be recovering. There’s always a risk of killing plants when you over fertilize; even the most intense leaching efforts could be too little, too late.
You can prevent future problems with over fertilization by soil testing before applying fertilizer, using a broadcast spreader to more evenly distribute fertilizer over large areas and always watering thoroughly immediately after applying an appropriate amount of fertilizer for your plants. Watering helps move fertilizers throughout the soil instead of keeping them close to the surface where delicate plant crowns and tender roots can be damaged.
Top Fertilizing Mistakes Gardeners Make
Fertilizer is good nutrition for lawns and gardens, but just like human food, fertilizer diets must be sensibly controlled. Gardeners often use too much or too little fertilizer or simply the wrong product, with potentially disastrous results. Here are the effects of the top fertilizing mistakes gardeners make.
Too much fertilizer
The most common mistake is overfeeding the lawn or garden. Excess fertilizer is bad for plants and the environment. Too much fertilizer may burn a plant’s roots and make the plant more vulnerable to insects and diseases.
A soil test will show if you are using too much fertilizer. Short of that, you can see the signs of excessive fertilizer in vegetable plants with yellow leaves, spindly stems or plenty of green leaves but no fruit. Even organic fertilizers, such as compost, can be overdone. The soil lab at Colorado State University recommends no more than 5 percent organic matter, but this can be easily exceeded with regular and substantial additions of compost.
It is best to focus on fertilizing before planting for the season. If you use liquid fertilizer, take care not to pour too much on or near the leaves as the leaves can burn.
In the bigger picture, excess fertilizer will wash into the groundwater, potentially contaminating water supplies or spilling into rivers and eventually creating algal blooms and dead zones such as the oxygen-deprived spread at the mouth of the Mississippi, largely the result of fertilizer and agricultural waste runoff.
Moreover, wasted fertilizer is also wasted fossil fuel. A Cornell University study estimated that a single ton of nitrogen for fertilizer requires burning about 33,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
Too little fertilizer
Not using enough fertilizer is also a mistake. Though external environmental damage from using too little fertilizer is unlikely, your garden cannot thrive without the right soil mix.
It is particularly a mistake to under-fertilize before planting. This could lead to an over-reliance later on liquid fertilizer, which is less effective and, as noted above, can burn leaves.
In the lawn, a lack of specific nutrients or organic matter can attract weeds. Help crowd out crabgrass by adding compost to the lawn, since crabgrass is an indicator of bacterial deficiencies in the soil. Citrus trees with yellow leaves are another sign of too little fertilizer.
The wrong fertilizers
Of course, it’s not all about volume. Different fertilizers add different nutrients to the soil at different rates, and the wrong fertilizer is bad for plants. Though nitrogen is one of the primary additives for vegetable gardens, too much nitrogen can result in large, healthy vines and no tomatoes or potatoes.
Similarly, slow-release fertilizers and manure can push fruit production late into the season for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
In lawns, the wrong fertilizer mix can actually encourage some weeds and diseases even while helping healthy grass crowd out other invasives. For example, purslane and Japanese clover will attack a lawn deficient in calcium and nitrogen, but a high-nitrogen fertilizer is not always the answer. Excessive nitrogen invites fungal diseases such as brown patch.
Poorly timed fertilizers
Finally, fertilizers must be timed correctly for optimal growth. Nitrogen is most effective for about three weeks after applying, so it may be wasted if applied long before planting, or it may delay fruit if applied too late.
Fertilizing a lawn too early can encourage new growth before temperatures remain warm enough for the new grass to survive. Wait until the lawn comes out of hibernation and starts to grow on its own in the spring. Similarly, late fall lawn fertilization can encourage new blade growth rather than letting the grass start to go dormant and focus its energy on root growth and storage.
For best results: An expert soil test
There are plenty of ways to go wrong with fertilizer, but one simple way to fertilize correctly: follow a professional soil report. Contact your local cooperative extension office for detailed sampling instructions. Get a separate test for each area of the garden and lawn. Start early to allow a couple of weeks to get your results back, then allow time to amend the soil before spring planting.
Even if you have used basic home soil tests before, you may be surprised by the information in the professional soil test, which goes far beyond measuring pH. For example, I had planned to mix in my annual dose of compost to my vegetable garden, but my test for my veggie bed showed 9.3 percent organic matter (OM), and a recommendation against more compost: “You don’t need to build up the OM content of this soil beyond existing levels, but rather focus on protecting and replenishing the OM content, e.g. by using organic mulch.”
Instead, I needed to increase nitrogen and add perlite to improve the drainage in my heavy clay soil.
For expert help with your lawn and garden, consult a landscaping professional.
Updated December 28, 2017.
Fertilizer Toxicity vs. Nutrient Deficiency: Spotting the Difference in Your Plants
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You may have good intentions when fertilizing your lawn, but not laying down the proper amount can cause your grass a lot of stress.
Here are four ways over-fertilizing can harm your turf:
1. Unnaturally Quick Growth Can Lead to More Maintenance & Future Turf Trouble
In humans, overeating has both short-term and long-term effects: a sudden burst of energy followed by fatigue, bloating, a desire to maintain eating larger-sized meals, eventual weight-gain, etc. Similarly, your grass will react negatively to excessive fertilization.
This burst of nutrients will cause your grass to (initially) grow very quickly. If you give your turf too much of a boost, you risk allowing the structure of your grass blades to grow much faster than its root system below. This can create problems hydrating and supplying more nutrients to the grass, as a plant can only suck up as much water and minerals as its roots allow.
Plus, it also means you have to mow more! What a time suck. Excessive mowing comes with its own problems too, but mostly it means your lawn is more likely to accumulate thatch, or dead grass, that can’t break down before the next trim. These excess shavings can make your property look messy, become a hideaway for pests and breed fungal diseases.
2. Soluble Salts Linger Behind & Can Cause “Root Burn”
Over-fertilizing can cause detrimental damage to your turf’s root structure as well. Some fertilizers contain high levels of nitrogen, which if absorbed in large amounts can become harmful.
What mainly causes the dreaded “burn,” however, is an abundant accumulation of soluble salts. Other nutrients found in fertilizers may get absorbed, but this left behind salt buildup can gather to toxic levels. Just like wintertime de-icer’s can sap your grass and soil of moisture and cause yellow patches around your sidewalk edges, these salts can make it harder for your plants to retain or take in moisture and can lead to withering or death of your grass and plants.
These high concentrations of sodium can also harm or kill the microorganisms naturally found in your soil, which help to maintain a balanced ecosystem for your turf.
3. Excessive Organic Matter Often Leads to Poor Drainage & Rot or Disease
Organic fertilizers contain natural organic matter, which breaks down with the help of water and provides your soil with rich nutrients to promote healthy growth. But just like anything in life, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing— and piling your lawn with too much of the stuff can have negative effects.
This matter can only break down so quickly, and if concentrations are overwhelming, they can essentially suffocate your grass, making it hard for water to get to its roots— or perhaps even worse, soaking up too much moisture and making it hard for your lawn to naturally drain. Oversaturation can drown out your grass, or the long-lasting wetness can welcome mold or fungal disease.
4. Excessive Nutrients Can Throw Off the PH Balance of Your Soil
Too much fertilizer can mess with the PH balance of your soil, which is a measure of its acidity or alkalinity. If your soil’s PH is greater than 7.3, AKA too alkaline, nitrogen and phosphorus cannot dissolve— which are two crucially important macronutrients needed for healthy grass growth. If it’s too acidic, at say at 4.5 PH, excessive nutrients like aluminum, iron and manganese can become toxic and kill your grass.
A formal soil test can help you to determine what nutrients your turf is lacking and which it has enough of so you can choose the best mix for nourishing your unique property. Ask a fertilization expert to sample your soil and offer recommendations for the best fertilizer, and for suggested application ratios.
Already Guilty of Over-Fertilizing? How to Recover
Unfortunately, if you’ve already over-fertilized your lawn, there’s not much you can do except wait. Soil levels will eventually rebalance over time, but to speed things up, you ask a lawn care expert for help.
With a proper soil test, a fertilization team can help you determine the best way to recover, and how to properly fertilize next time around— making recommendations based on actual data, without guessing games.
For more insights on nourishing your turf, . It offers tips for choosing the right fertilizer, how to apply it correctly and other best practices to foster a green, lively lawn.
How to Avoid Garden and Lawn Fertilizer Burn
Untended fertilizer spills turn into dead lawn spots.
Choosing and Using Fertilizers Properly
Fertilizers come in many different forms, from concentrated liquids to dry granules. Each type calls for different application methods, rates and conditions — all outlined on the product label. Products such as Ironite Liquid Lawn & Garden Spray 7-0-1 are sprayed directly on plant leaves and soil, but other fertilizers may burn if left on leaves. Never assume what works with one fertilizer works for another; you’ll put your lawn or garden at risk of fertilizer damage.
Fertilizer burn can happen with both organic and synthetic fertilizers, but it’s less likely with slow-release fertilizers than with fast-release — both of which can be organic or man-made. The best fertilizers for your lawn and garden provide an ideal blend of nutrients in forms that harmonize with plant needs and minimize the potential for mistakes or fertilizer burn.
High-quality Pennington UltraGreen lawn fertilizers such as Pennington Ultragreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4 are guaranteed not to burn when used as directed. Half of the nitrogen in this premium fertilizer line* is stabilized to prevent leaching into the environment, so grass can use more of the nitrogen you apply. The other half of the nitrogen is slowly released to continue feeding your lawn for up to three months. Ironite Mineral Supplement 1-0-1, used as a supplement to your regular fertilizer program, greens lawns quickly without any risk of fertilizer burn.
Whatever form of fertilizer you choose, read the label, follow instructions and always practice good fertilizer safety to protect your family and pets as well as your lawn and garden. If you spill fertilizer or realize you over-applied, remove as much excess fertilizer as possible from the soil surface; then water the area heavily. This helps rinse any remaining excess from grass or plant leaves and flushes salts through the soil and away from plants.
With the help of superior Pennington products, you can feed your lawn and garden the nutrients they need for vigorous, beautiful, productive growth and avoid damage from fertilizer burn. Pennington has been cultivating the trust of homeowners and grass professionals for more than three generations. You can count on Pennington for results.
*Excluding Pennington UltraGreen Starter Fertilizer
Pennington with design is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
UltraGreen and Ironite are registered trademarks of Central Garden & Pet Company.
Problems with Over-Fertilization
All people wish to have beautiful lawns, but proper lawn care is a long term commitment. It’s not unusual for home owners to wish to achieve quick results. Some of them use too much fertilizer in hopes of achieving that lush, green lawn. However, using too much fertilizer to achieve fast results may not be the best tactic. It can bring more harm than good in the long run.
You need to understand that improper application of fertilizer and using too much fertilizer can completely ruin a lawn and bring the opposite result of the desired one. Sometimes, lawn companies and “professionals” are those ruining your lawns with too much fertilizer.
To avoid these problems, you need to understand that lawn care is a long-term commitment. It requires time and you can’t achieve good results overnight. You need a carefully made annual programme for fertilization, as well as weed control treatment, moss-control and cultural treatment (such as scarification and cultural treatment).
How to Apply a Fertilizer?
Proper fertilization is one of the keys for a healthy, green lawn. It’s therefore important to know how much fertilizer to apply and when. As a general rule, you should apply fertilizer often, but in small amounts. If you feed your lawn regularly but with a small amount of fertilizer, it will easily become green and healthy. However, to get this lush, beautiful lawn, takes months, even a year and more, so don’t expect instant results.
Many home owners don’t have this patience so they require instant results. This lack of knowledge and a rush for fast and easy fix can lead to many problems. Remember, lawn care product industry and professional lawn care companies both want your money so they will go for this easy fix without worrying about consequences. You don’t have this luxury, so you need to worry about your lawn.
One bad way to get this quick fix is to use large amounts of fertilizer high in nitrogen. This treatment will actually result in a green lawn after only a week. It may lead you to believe that said product or lawn care company is doing wonders for your lawn. They aren’t.
This approach can bring only short-term results. Such quick results and rapid greening up of the lawn require a fast-acting fertilizer. These type of fertilizers don’t last long in the soil. In just a few short weeks your lawn will return back to its previous condition. This may tempt you to re-apply the nitrogen fertilizer to get the green lawn again. If you do it, you will get results in about a week, but the lawn will quickly go back to its original state. So you will apply the fertilizer again. This cycle continues over and over again, and it’s very bad for your lawn.
Dangers of Over-Fertilizing
Over-fertilizing is not just costly and, in the long run, ineffective: it can also permanently harm your lawn and bring many bad effects. The main problem with over-fertilizing cycles is that repeated use of high-nitrogen fertilizers are like giving your lawn a drug. Like many drugs, your lawn will become addicted.
When your lawn is addicted to this type of fertilizer, it will need more and more amounts of the nitrogen feed for results to show. Such high amounts of fertilizer will eventually ruin and completely damage your lawn.
Lots of nitrogen will encourage grass to produce lots of leaf growth, which will make the lawn green up. However, this same leaf growth is bad in excessive amounts because it will pose a problem. You will need to cut it more, several times per week. After about a year of this, you will notice your lawn becoming spongy and attracting fungal diseases. This happens because all that leaf growth has decayed into the lawn, creating a thick layer of thatch. Natural organic decomposition process simply can’t cope with that. It means it will build up more and more.
Over time, it will create a big mess on your lawn. The only way to fix it is to resort to drastic lawn regeneration work. It will cost you a lot of money and time. All of this can be avoided with a proper fertilization routine.
That’s why it’s important to know how to fertilize, when and how much. In some cases, a high-nitrogen fertilizer can be beneficial, but it should not be applied freely and at all times. This will only lead to more problems, not to mention you will waste a lot of money. It’s best to use balanced, year-round fertilization programme for your lawn to achieve the best and safest results.
Photo credit: ecstaticist via photopin cc
Have you ever faced burnt grass in your yard after you did everything right? You recalled all the actions – you took immaculate care of the lawn, watered it as required and added fertilizer regularly, and so on.
And now, ugly, brown, dead grass is all around, and you have no clue what has gone wrong. Let me help you solve the mystery and find a solution.
Reasons Why Your Grass Turns Brown
Reasons for the sad condition of your grass can be numerous. For example, if you overwater your lawn, the roots of the grass won’t be dead immediately, and in most cases, you just need to let the soil dry. However, the real problem appears when the whole areas of grass are burned out after you over-fertilized it.
In that case, my first thought is about my pet’s urine. I have a cat who pees in pots whenever is angry with me. The result is dead flowers and ruined soil I need to throw into the trash. The same situation is with your grass. If you have a dog, and your lawn has started to die, maybe it is a reason. Since urine is rich in nitrogen, it always causes grass browning.
On the other hand, if you notice damage grass over large areas of your yard, you should check the amount of lawn fertilizer you put the last time you applied it.
When you use fertilizer as required, it will encourage healthy, lush, and vigorous growth of your grass. Otherwise, every improper applying, including accidentally spilling, uneven spreading, or over-fertilizing will result in ‘fertilizer burn’ followed by patches of brown and withered grass.
You should check the level of fertilization necessary for the growth and progress of the particular grass you grow, and always keep in mind that any exaggeration is the quickest way to ruin your lawn. Let’s see what to do to fix this.
The Usual Symptoms of Over-fertilizing
The first sign that you have added too much fertilizer over your yard is forming the crust of it on the surface of the ground. However, there are a few additional symptoms you need to consider:
- The occurrence of yellow or brown grass blades
- Black grassroots
- The slow growth of grass after fertilization
The reason why you see these changing is an increased amount of salt in the top of the ground which doesn’t allow your grass to absorb enough water. When you add too much quick-release fertilizer at once, you will actually stop healthy growth of the roots.
How to Fix Over-Fertilized Lawn
I will explain to you how to fix this problem. In some cases, you will need to follow all the steps I will describe here, but if your lawn is not damaged too harshly, it will be enough to take only a few of listed tips.
Step 1. Check your grassroots
This step is essential because you need to define if the damage of the grass is only superficial or the root system is also affected. If you notice the issue while only leaves are burned out and the roots are still healthy, the only thing you should do is to water your yard. Don’t forget to check grassroots from a few areas to have a real picture about the wide-spreading the damage.
Step 2. Watering
The primary care when noticing the problem is to start watering your lawn. No matter how substantial the damage is, water is definitely the best solution. Use garden hose reel, expandable hose, or smart sprinklers controller to water the affected areas evenly, but try to apply water to unaffected parts of the lawn too to allow leaching fertilizer throughout the whole yard.
By making a less concentrated solution of minerals on the surface of the soil, water will help with fast flushing primarily nitrogen, but also other nutrients from fertilizer deep into the ground. To secure that you have done a job well, just add approximately an inch (2.5 cm) of water a day for at least the next five to seven days.
If you have noticed the burnt grass early enough, this procedure will be enough to diminish the damage. You can expect your grass grows healthy and lush again soon after.
Step 3. Reassess the roots
In most cases, watering is the only cure your over-fertilized yard will need. You will probably see new grass growth after watering. If it is not a case, you need to check the roots once more.
When spotting brown and shriveled roots after a week of regular watering, you can conclude that they are severely damaged. The only solution you have in such a case is to start replacing grass on affected areas.
The important thing you need to remember is that you have to water your yard during at least a week even if you have immediately concluded that you can’t save the lawn. It is a necessary procedure to rinse the remaining minerals from the soil before planting the new grass anyway.
Step 4. Rake and till the affected area
To provide an excellent substrate for establishing your new grass, you should start with raking up all the brown, withered, and dead grass, and continue with tilling the affected parts of the yard.
- Raking – It is the easiest way for you to pull up damaged grass and to allow better access to healthy roots while watering.
- Tilling – It will provide better moisture access to the grass.
This step is crucial since dead grass left on the ground would inhibit new roots from reaching deeply into the soil.
Step 5. Start with re-sodding or re-seeding
Whether you decide on re-sodding or re-seeding depends primarily on the size of the affected area and your budget. If it is about smaller patches, you can re-seed them, but if you need to cure more significant parts of the yard, you will probably need to re-sod them.
Step 6. Keep watering and maintaining the new grass
Regardless of whether you re-seed or re-sod the new grass, you need to water your lawn adequately to get a desirable result. Do it daily during at least a week, until the roots establish well.
Keep in mind that new grass will spread more quickly if the soil is well-watered. Also, don’t cut the new lawn before reaching three inches (7.6 cm) high. By watering your grass adequately and mowing it high, you will allow proper growth of its roots.
One more thing! Don’t worry about rotting because all water immediately added after fertilizing won’t stay on the surface of the ground. It will quickly go into the deeper layers of the soil and help with diluting and rearranging the surplus minerals.
Can you over fertilise your lawn?
There are some out there who wouldn’t dream of fertilising their lawn very often or even at all, because it could lead to more mowing! But can you over fertilise your lawn?
For others there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, right? Well when it comes to our lawns some of us can get a bit carried away with ‘more is more’ and it can come at the detriment of your lawn’s health.
Fertilising your lawn is an important part of lawn care though and shouldn’t be avoided.
Why should you fertilise your lawns?
We need to fertilise our lawns because there is usually a lack of the required nutrients it needs within the soil. We need to supplement the existing nutrient levels, so we can achieve a balance of all the nutrients your lawn needs to stay in top shape.
What happens when you over fertilise your lawn?
Over fertilising your lawn will cause sudden plant growth, particularly leaf growth and thatch. The problem with this is that the roots won’t experience the same amount of rapid growth and will then be unable to supply the amount of water and nutrient that your grass needs. As fertiliser is primarily made up of mineral salts, excessive fertilising will cause salts to build up in the soil making it difficult for water to be absorbed, which dries out your grass causing discolouration and possibly even plant death if bad enough.
Signs you may have over fertilised your lawn
- Fertiliser burn on the grass leaf
- Browning leaftips and yellowing of lower leaves
- Darkened and weakened roots
- Salt like crust of fertiliser on the soil surface
How to fix an over fertilised lawn
If the damage has been done during the growing months your lawn should recover quite quickly on its own. To help it on its way regular watering will be the best method to leach the excessive salts from the soil. You can also aerate and lightly top dress your lawn to improve the composition of your soil which will also aid in your lawn’s recovery.
How to not over fertilise your lawn
- When applying fertiliser read the label for rates, but generally 20 grams per square metre is recommended in most cases, so two kilograms will do an average 100 square metre lawn.
- You must water in your fertiliser after applying, otherwise you risk burning the leaf of the grass. If you don’t have a pop-up irrigation system, it’s a good idea to apply your fertiliser before heavy rain to save water. You can also set up a sprinkler or water it in well by hand with a hose.
- If you have a pH imbalance, fertilising won’t be as effective. Test your soil’s pH level to ensure your lawn is able to absorb the nutrients it requires, instead of applying additional fertiliser, as this could be potentially harmful.
- Only fertilise your lawn a few times a year. Additional light applications of particular nutrients can be applied if you are trying to rectify a lawn issue or if your lawn has experienced difficult growing conditions and requires a quick boost of nutrient for recovery.