By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
With the beginning of April, spring is in full swing. The residents of Wakulla County are heading out of doors to engage in the wide array of available activities.
One universal activity is seasonal lawn and landscape maintenance. While some consider it a chore, many view it as a means to enhancing their personal environment.
The list of tasks are, for the most part, standard with few surprises. Raking leaves and pine straw, replacing shrubs which did not make it through the winter, and fertilizing the lawn and landscape.
While a routine undertaking, applying fertilizer requires thought and consideration to be effective without negative consequences. It should be a deliberate and well planned accomplishment which is science based.
The proper selection of a fertilizer should be based on a soil test. Every UF/IFAS Extension Office has supplies for pulling and submitting a soil sample for evaluation.
The results, which can come via mail or email, will tell the homeowner what nutritional deficiencies exist in their lawn and landscape. Based on the type of grass or shrubs, the report will deliver the information on the fertilizer analysis needed for optimum plant performance.
With this information in hand, the homeowner can visit a local retailer who can provide the product which meets the needs of the landscape without wasting excess nutrients. Excess soil nutrients can easily be relocated to bodies of water when storm water washes it downstream.
Homeowners have several types of fertilize from which to choose for use on their lawn. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Dry blend fertilizer is usually the least expensive and is easy to find in the market place. It is a mixture of minerals and compounds which are combined to produce a particular analysis, such as 10-10-10.
This analysis is ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium with the remaining 70 percent being micronutrients and inert carrier. Applied correctly, it can be effective at delivering the needed nutrients.
It is most effective when applied several times throughout the growing season. The grass and shrubs will then have a continuous supply of the needed nutrients over time.
One potential problem with dry blend fertilizer is the particle size of the different nutrients. If irregular, they can separate during transportation to the retailer.
This can be easily corrected by the homeowner. Just pour the contents of the bag into a container and mix using a can or shovel.
Dry slow-release fertilizers are gaining popularity, but they are more expensive. They have a sulfur or polymer coating on the particles which allows for the slow release of the nutrients.
A single application can last for up to six months which frees the homeowner to pursue other activities. The most common use of this product is with shrubs and potted plants.
Liquid fertilizer concentrates are available, but the convenience comes at a high cost. It is easily diluted for use, but uniform application over a large area can be challenging.
No matter which form is used, proper application will grow good results. A healthy and well maintained lawn and landscape leave more time for other springtime pursuits.