Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring Fertilizing....in the Dark

Some Times, the Right Time, is Right Now

An interesting thing happened a few nights ago.  I fertilized my lawn......in the dark.  Anyone else ever do that?  

While I am sure it was slightly funny to anyone driving by, my little adventure is not without reason.  Like many of you, my life is busy.  I was at training's all day, then ran down to Andrews Seed, my favorite local nursery, and picked up all the fertilizers I needed to get the spring started off on a good foot.  There was 3rd grade volleyball to watch, a few more errands to run with the family and pretty soon, we were rolling back into the driveway after sundown.  

This wouldn't have been a huge issue, if it wasn't for the rainy forecast we had looming here.  Getting your fertilizers and soil amendments down ahead of the rain is a great move if you can make it happen....so, 9:30 p.m. head lamp fired up and broadcast spreader set and ready to go, and I fertilized the lawn. That night, the rain rolled through, and my lawn was given its first dose of spring goodness. 

Garden Answers Plan 

I am a fan of Garden Answers. Laura and her husband are great people, and their whole family is just a wealth of knowledge about all things related to having an epic garden.  When I am curious about what I should be doing in my yard, I follow their lead and around this time last year, they did a video on how to fertilize your lawn each year.  Since they live in the same region I do, I find that their suggestions work great here at out place. 

Here is the plan that I adapted from their advice: 

March Feeding

The March feeding consists of three main elements.  Humic Acid, which we only apply during this feeding, Fertilizer, and pelletized gypsum.  

At the nursery, Humic Acid comes labeled as "Soil Activator".  Its is something like 33% humic acid, with the balance being some other stuff that is great for the lawn and garden.  I had a bag of it from last season and it was the first thing I put down a few days head of the rest of this stuff and it alone made a dramatic difference in my yard.  Here we deal with very alkaline soils, and the added acid helps balance our pH, which makes certain nutrients in the soil available to the plants. This is the only feeding of the year where we will use the soil activator. 

For fertilizer I was looking for the Espoma lawn food, however I found out that it was not legal for sale in the state of Oregon for some reason, so instead we opted for Green Maker on the advice I got from Laura, who happened to be at the nursery when I was.  Green Maker is a great lawn fertilizer with a heavy dose of nitrogen to get things growing and greening up.  NPK content on this fertilizer is labeled at 18-0-6.  Which means there is great fuel in this mix for blade growth as well as root growth.  

I did a quick search on gypsum in soil health and have concluded that its main benefit for lawns is to improve soil structure, and supply a bit of calcium and other nutrients. Gypsum is very soluble and will work its way down into the soil beneath your lawn.  It appears to have the capacity to help open the soil profile and allow for increased drainage and/or better water absorption depending upon the nature of your soil.  Be sure that you get pelletized gypsum as it is also available in powdered form commonly in nursery supply stores.  Pelletized gypsum will easily spread through your broadcast spreader where as powdered gypsum is best hand applied in beds and other growing areas using a small container or trowel to spread it around.  

May Feeding 

Sometime around late May we will hit the yard again with another round of fertilizer and gypsum as it takes a consistent application of gypsum to start to see the benefits of its use.  Spring growth here is usually very solid and consistent so giving the lawn a bit more food before it hits the heat of summer will give it a good chance of making it through without too much stress. Fingers crossed.  This will be the last feeding for a number of months as we enter a very hot summer period here in Eastern Oregon.  

Fall Feeding

Finally, I plan on giving the yard one last feeding in the fall.  There are winterizer formula's out there that you can use, which have a bit of a heavier does of potassium, the nutrient most responsible for root growth.  Or you can continue to use your regular fertilizer to fuel the surge of growth that we usually have in the fall as the weather begins to cool.  At this feeding I will again also provide gypsum to continue the soil structure building efforts.  

Application Rates


As a general rule, most fertilizers have application rates listed on the bags so you know how much to put down.  You simply set the dial to match the application rate you want and then starting walking around the yard with it throwing out.  If you want to get really technical, you can calculate square footage of your yard and what your bag will cover at a certain application rate...... or you can be like me, set the dial close to what they recommend and start walking around and around until all that stuff is gone.  As long as you don't massively overdo it, I don't think your lawn will care very much.  Our yard is what I would call a Medium/Large size yard.  Our property is less than an acre, and the yard is less than half of that.  I put down two bags of fertilizer, and two bags of Gypsum which will be my plan going forward as it seemed about right.  Adjust your plans according to the size of your yard. 

If you are into this sort of thing, there is more information over at our website which you can view here. There is loads of information about gardening, a whole section on animals and composting, and even some ideas about home remodeling!  Come check it out.  We'll keep posting here on the blog, and do our best to continue to add more content to the website as well.

Resources: 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCnRk4gLmdY

 https://www.ilsoyadvisor.com/on-farm/ilsoyadvisor/plant-soil-health-how-does-gypsum-benefit-soil

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