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The Top Three Fertilizer Blunders

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Applying fertilizer is one of the best things you can do for your lawn-- give your grass some nutrients and just watch how it grows! But that doesn't mean it's a lawn maintenance task without its possible pitfalls. Make a major fertilizer blunder and your lawn may wither and die. Here are the top three fertilizer blunders and tips to help you avoid them.
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Blunder #1--One spreader for fertilizer and herbicide

You may not want to turn your garage into "Lawn Maintenance Headquarters" with tools and tonics everywhere, so you skimp and use one spreader for both fertilizer and herbicide. If there's herbicide lingering in the spreader, which can easily happen, you may run into serious trouble, especially if you're fertilizing a new lawn. Instead of lush growth you'll have dead seedlings. To avoid this blunder, keep separate spreaders, clearly labeled, or very vigorously wash your one spreader after every use.

Blunder #2--Fertilizer overload

Whether you spill fertilizer as you're applying it, or make the mistake of thinking that more is better, apply too much fertilizer and you'll fry your lawn. If the burns caused by the excess nitrogen you've applied in your lawn maintenance-gone-wrong are extensive enough, the lawn may not recover, and you'll have to replant. Avoid this blunder by following the directions explicitly erring on the side of less fertilizer rather than more. And if a spill occurs--accidents do happen--immediately flush the area with lots of water.

Blunder #3--Forgetting there are nutrients besides nitrogen

Nitrogen--the first number in the three number series on every bag of fertilizer--is key to healthy lawn maintenance. It spurs growth and keeps your lawn green. But phosphorous and potassium (the other two numbers), and a slew of other lesser vitamins and minerals make a difference too. Periodically opt for a fertilizer with more-than-average P and K values. Or best yet, get your soil tested to find out exactly what it's missing. Your lawn will thank your for it.  

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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