When it comes to lawn care, having the right amount of nitrogen is crucial to any recipe for success. When used correctly, nitrogen will help grass grow healthier, thicker and even greener. However, nitrogen is a powerful macronutrient that poses some risk: apply too much and it can damage the root system beneath grass, and in extreme cases it can burn and even kill grass. But if used correctly, your lawn will start to transform for the better within days.
Nitrogen and Your Lawn
Nitrogen is needed in robust quantities to stimulate shoot and root growth in the spring, which will help a lawn continue to thrive and remain vigorous during those hot and stressful summer months. Nitrogen is also key because of its role in the production of chlorophyll, giving grass its green color.
Not sure if you need a dose of nitrogen in your lawn? Signs that indicate your yard isn’t getting enough of the macronutrient include:
- Exponential weed growth
- Yellow and thinning patches
- Lack of growth during usual growing seasons
How Much is Too Much Nitrogen for Your Lawn
Nitrogen can come from organic, inorganic and synthetic sources, with organic fertilizers popular, in part, because they pose less risk to burning grass or causing plant death due to applying too much, too fast. This is because organic fertilizers typically release nitrogen more slowly and over longer periods of time than inorganic or synthetic sources.
Inorganic and synthetic fertilizers are often water-soluble, so the nitrogen found in this type of fertilizer may go to work as soon as it receives water. These fertilizer types are capable of contaminating groundwater, making it important to apply moderately to avoid runoff and so that soil doesn’t become oversaturated near ponds, lakes or rivers. Some inorganic and synthetic fertilizers have controlled-release, making them safer and easier to use.
Inorganic and synthetic fertilizers feature a blend of macronutrients, headlined by nitrogen, and these products come with a label on the bag indicating how much of each nutrient is contained within.
Applying Nitrogen for Growth and Greener Grass
Whether looking into organic, inorganic or synthetic options, applying nitrogen in any yard is easy with a hand or rotary spreader. Just be mindful not to do too much, or to do it too fast. Make sure whatever fertilizer you pick is suitable for your yard’s unique situation and that you apply it during the right time of year. In most cases you’ll need to fertilize more than once too — often two or even three times a year. This is because healthy, lush lawns consume nutrients faster than they can be replaced naturally.
For yards with cool-season grasses, you should add nitrogen to your lawn during your growing seasons, which are spring and fall. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, grow during the summer months.
If you aren’t sure which product to get, and the instructions on the bag don’t seem clear, consult with a store associate at your local hardware store. Looking for more helpful lawn care resources? Toro YardCare has articles on just about every topic you can imagine!