Question of the Week: March 24, 2016
I’m hearing this one in my dreams:
“Neil, can I fertilize my lawn yet? What fertilizer would be best?”
And the envelope please. The answer is…
“Yes!” At least for all of Texas except the Panhandle and the Davis Mountains. There you’ll want to wait a week or two longer.
Almost all Texas A&M Soil Testing Laboratory results show that Texas soils have enough phosphorus already. The middle number of the fertilizer analysis, phosphorus gets caught up in the clay particles, and since it isn’t especially soluble, it accumulates. So unless a recent soil test shows to the contrary, apply an all-nitrogen fertilizer.
That does not mean 33-0-0 or 21-0-0! Those are both totally fast-release, meaning they are instantly soluble the moment you water the lawn. The grass starts growing faster than a New York cab (remember cabs?), and then equally fast, that growth spurt stops a couple of weeks later. That might be OK if you’re having a garden wedding and need a quick green-up, but it is very damaging to the long-term health and vigor of your lawn.
You’ll probably have to look at the back of the bag, where words like “coated” or “encapsulated” will be your clues that you have a better fertilizer product. The ideal plant food will have half or so of the nitrogen in slow-release form.
There are many brands that fit those descriptions. Most have minor elements built into them as an added bonus. The result: one fertilizer should be sufficient for every type of plant that you’re growing. Again, let the soil test be your guide.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, you can apply the same all-N material to groundcovers, shrubs, vines, perennials and annuals.
Always water fertilizers into the soil thoroughly right after you apply them, but do not try to time the application just because rain is forecast. Use the hose to water them in – it’s far more predictable.
There are dozens of brands of fertilizer available in Texas nurseries right now that match the descriptions I’ve given. Your local retail garden center will have a couple of brands, and their staff can explain how all of this works if I’ve confused you.
A special note of thanks to all of you who bought and used ‘Neil Sperry’s Texas Best’ fertilizers. Unfortunately, due to problems getting sufficient distribution across Texas, I opted to discontinue its production and sale two years ago. I appreciate your many notes of support.