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Applying Lawn Fertilizer Safely

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

The problem in over-fertilizing or burning lawns is basic: nitrogen lawn fertilizers traditionally have a high salt content. Therefore, applying too much fertilizer can draw moisture from the grass roots and brown out your lawn. The usual remedy for excessive drying out by salts is the application of water. That's why it's best to "water-in" any fertilizer you apply to your lawn. Wet down your lawn thoroughly a day or two ahead of time to ensure the soil is moist, and then apply the fertilizer once your grass has dried.

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You can use a number of techniques for applying fertilizer. Drop spreaders, walk-behind broadcasters, hand-held broadcasters, and hose-end sprayers all work well. Hose-end sprayers and hand-held broadcasters are perhaps the best for spot fertilizing, but are inefficient if you're trying to cover a full lawn area. Plus, hose-end sprayers are only good for applying liquid fertilizers.

Tips for Distributing Lawn Fertilizer

Drop spreaders are considered the more efficient, most precise tools for applying fertilizer directly and evenly onto a lawn. However, use granular fertilizer. Walk the perimeter of the lawn first, setting up a discernable border. When you work the edges first, you'll have more room to spin the spreader around in the border area and overlap the tracks.

You'll want to overlap each pass to avoid missing sections and causing a striped pattern as the lawn grows out, but be sure to turn off the flow on the spreader when you reach the border area to avoid over-fertilizing the perimeter. If you're using a rotary spreader, you may have coverage problems. If that's the case, reduce the flow and cut the width of your swaths.

A treatment for over-fertilization is the same as one for removing pet urine spots. Water consistently (but not so as to drown the lawn) and the nitrogen and salts should eventually flush out.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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