Updated Jan 13, 2023
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One of the first things you will learn about appropriate lawn care is that grass needs fertilizer. Fertilizer burn can show up in the grass that has been over-fertilized, but it is not always a reason to panic. In our guide, we will provide:
Fertilizer burn is easily recognizable as brown patches or yellow patches in your turf. Fertilizer burn can look very much like dead grass, and it could cover the entire area where you fertilized. Some homeowners have a hard time determining if they have fertilizer burn or if something else caused an issue in the turf.
If you have fertilized recently and noticed the coloring of your turf changed after the fertilization, chances are it is fertilizer burn.
Fertilizer burn can show as quickly as the next day or two if you are using a quick-release fertilizer. For a slow release fertilizer, expect that it could take a few weeks before the affected areas start to turn brown.
Remember that there are other reasons that lawns can get brown spots, so it’s essential to think about all of the reasons why this could happen.
Most lawn fertilizer burns can be avoided by following the proper fertilization procedures. Unfortunately, there is a bit more to fertilization than simply running to the store and dumping a granular mixture on your grass.
Lawn fertilizer burn can be caused by not using enough water after you have fertilized your lawn. However, you must be careful not to overwater. The perfect amount of water is necessary to keep the turf moist in the morning hours but not flood it out. We wish it were as simple to say water like crazy after fertilization, but it isn’t. Pay close attention to the weather, and look at your turf often to monitor any issues.
Always make sure to use a spreader that has an adjustable setting. When you apply fertilizer, check carefully what the application rate should be and ensure you don’t put too much fertilizer down. In addition, when you walk back and forth across your yard, don’t overlap your steps. Use a marking system or a fertilizer dye to be able to clearly see where you have fertilized.
Cool season and warm season grasses have ideal fertilization windows, typically about a month before the grass starts growing in the spring and a month or so before the first frosts in the fall. If you don’t fertilize at the right time, it could cause burning, and it is also a waste of money. Fertilizer is not cheap; apply it when you will get the most benefit from it.
The type of fertilizer you use is critical. Take time to learn the difference between the slow release fertilizer and quick release so you can assess which is best for your turf. A local lawn care professional can help you determine which fertilizer is best.
Choosing the proper type of fertilizer for your turf can undoubtedly help prevent burn. In addition to brand names, there are also slow and fast-release fertilizers to choose from. If you don’t feel comfortable selecting a fertilizer, make sure you talk to a professional.
The most common type of granular fertilizer known to cause fertilizer burn is the quick release fertilizer. The quick release organic fertilizer will hit your turf and quickly apply all of the necessary nutrients.
Quick release fertilizers can help a lawn that needs help with nutrients and minerals, but if not applied correctly and with improper water levels, they can burn grass blades and grassroots quite quickly.
Most homeowners choose to use a slow release fertilizer that will help prevent discoloration and burn. The slow release fertilizers take several weeks to work, and you will be able to water your grass and watch its health as the nutrients are released.
The only thing to be careful of here is to ensure that your slow release fertilizer is applied correctly. If you can’t remember if you hit certain areas with the fertilizer or you didn’t use a high-quality fertilizer, you will have to wait some time before reapplication.
Fertilizer burnt grass can grow back if untreated, but this is not likely the case. Most of the time, you will have to apply some extra water to the turf to ensure the burn goes away. Rain can help, but there is typically a bit of effort required on your part to get the grass back and encourage that new growth to happen.
If your grass is just fertilizer burnt and it is not dead, it can be fixed. The salt buildup in the turf will need to be washed out so your grass can recover.
The best way to start treating fertilizer burn is to water your grass. Most homeowners find that about an inch of water each day for a solid week should help the root system clear itself of any over-fertilization issues you have created in your turf.
When you give your turf this extra water, make sure you don’t water the entire lawn. Overwatering a healthy lawn can cause discoloration and fungus.
Try to water your turf in the early part of the day, as this will help prevent issues with lawn pests and fungus. The last thing you want is to expose your lawn to other issues after the fertilizer burn happens.
If you are having a hard time getting your brown grass to turn into a luscious green lawn, it may be time to bring in the help of professionals. TruGreen is the best professional solution to fix fertilizer burnt grass. With TruGreen having the capability to do everything from aeration to sprinkler settings to planting new grass, the company is well prepared to handle any issues that you may have with your property. The lawn care tips and professional services from TruGreen can change your entire landscape.
We highly recommend trying to fix your lawn before simply replacing it. However, if the fertilizer damage was severe, you may have no choice. Turf replacement is expensive, and after a fertilizer burn, you must be careful how you handle this process.
The first thing to do is remove all the turf in the area where too much fertilizer was distributed. Take this soil and turn it over and aerate it. Test the ground to ensure that the fertilizer has worked itself out and will not kill your new grass. A simple soil sample will do the trick.
Treat the soil with any amendments necessary, and then plant grass seed or lay sod to get your new grass started.
Dead grass and dormant grass can often look the same. Many homeowners get ready to replace their turf only to find out it is not entirely dead. There are a few critical differences between dead grass and brown grass.
Most of the time, dead grass is hard, crunchy, and brittle. Brown grass will often still be soft; there could also be new shoots of green grass coming up sometimes between the brown and yellow grass, letting you know that it is trying to recover.
If you really can’t tell, you can dig up a small section and examine the roots. If the roots look strong, there is a chance the grass will still recover. Dead grassroots will be short and shriveled up.
Fertilizer can burn your turf not necessarily because of the potassium, nitrogen, or phosphorus but the mineral salts in the product. Salt will settle into your soil and dry out your grass blades. These salts do exist in all fertilizers, but if you are trying to prevent fertilizer burn in lawns, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure this happens.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to deal with fertilizer burn and to ensure that your next fertilizer application does not result in brown or dead grass. Don’t let the risk of fertilizer burn keep you from properly treating your turf. If you don’t fertilize, you will have other issues with your turf. Simply know how to fertilize a lawn, and the chance of burn will be considerably lower.
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