Effects of Over Fertilizing
The decision to install Arizona sod is a no-brainer for many Phoenicians. It’s one of the easiest and quickest methods by which to enjoy a beautiful green lawn. Maintaining the sod, however, often tells a different story. It requires patience, dedication, and a keen understanding of lawn chemistry. Don’t have a degree in the sciences? Not all hope is lost. Learn how to properly care for your Arizona sod to prevent one of the most common mistakes—over fertilization.
How to Properly Fertilize Arizona Sod
Lucky for you, this topic has already been covered on our Arizona Sod Nutrition page. Key summary points are as follows:
- Fertilizers follow a nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium formula (displayed by percentages in that order).
- New sod installation should either be 6-20-20 or 15-15-15 (the latter indicating 15% nitrogen, 15% phosphorus, and 15% potassium). Apply either before or immediately after installation.
- Fertilize two weeks later with the same 15-15-15 analysis to replenish the soil after nutrients have settled and migrated past the roots.
- Once established, the sod will thrive on a monthly diet of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. For example, 16-8-4 or 21-7-14.
- If your lawn grows faster than expected, scale back the fertilizing schedule to an 8 week program with slow release nutrients. Popular analyses are 28-3-10 and 32-4-7. This will prevent over fertilization.
Causes of Over Fertilization
Over fertilization of Arizona sod manifests as an unsightly brown or grey lawn from what’s known as fertilizer burn. SF Gate provides a few tips for prevention.
- Nitrogen: Whether it’s too much or the wrong type, nitrogen is usually to blame for destroying your once-beautiful sod. Avoid fast-release nitrogen blends and opt for controlled-release instead.
- Salts: Although it aids plant growth, salt can be problematic and cause root damage. Be cautious of your watering schedule as less water results in higher salt concentration.
- Fertilizer Type: With so many fertilizers on the market, it’s easy to choose the wrong one. Organic fertilizers—albeit slower acting—present a lower risk of burned blades. Always follow the instructions on the bag and apply when grass is dry and the temperatures are lower. Since heat is obviously an issue in Arizona, this may take practice.
How to Repair an Over Fertilized Lawn
So, your lawn is a mess and you now know why. How do you remedy the situation? Spoiler alert: it might not be fixable and certainly won’t be fun.
With chemical-resistant gloves, clean up as much loose fertilizer as you can. To extract excess fertilizer from the soil, water all brown patches 2-3 hours per day for at least 7 days. If the lawn gods are looking kindly upon you, this may be enough to fix the problem. If not, you will need to reseed or install a new patch of sod. If the cycle continues, it’s time to start from the beginning by treating the soil. Dig at least two inches past the surface and replace with fresh topsoil. It goes without saying you should also test the soil’s pH level and make sure you are using the right Arizona sod for your region.
Tip: Avoid using lawn patch products that combine grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch. You don’t want more fertilizer on your already over-fertilized Arizona sod.
Over fertilization is easy to spot, but make sure it’s the root cause of your dead grass before fixing it. Grass that may appear to be over-fertilized might actually be damaged by urine, insufficient watering, or an insect infestation. If DIY methods have you feeling confused or overwhelmed, call Evergreen Turf for a professional recommendation.