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Fertilizing

Fertilizing facts in Hampton Roads

Get the facts about fertilizing in Hampton Roads!

Stop and think before you fertilize. You will save yourself time and money all the while saving our local waterways.

  • Fertilizer contains three nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. While these nutrients are needed by plants to grow and survive, too much is ending up in our local waterways via stormwater runoff. When there is too much nitrogen and phosphorous in a waterway, it fuels the growth of algal blooms. Algal blooms are dense clusters of algae that block sunlight from other organisms. When an alga from the bloom dies, the decay process consumes dissolved oxygen in the water, which is needed by fish, blue crabs and other organisms for survival. It also smells bad and looks terrible.
  • Test Your Soil
    A soil test provides a list of recommendations for soil amendments to help you make the right decisions for your lawn.

    Fertilizers are described by 3 numbers, such as 12-4-8 or 46-0-0. These 3 numbers indicate, respectively, the percent by weight of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) in the fertilizer. The test also indicates the acidity (pH) of your soil and whether lime is needed. A basic soil test does not actually measure the nitrogen present in your soil, it merely provides you with a nitrogen recommendation. You can often use much less than is recommended to get successful results and may not need to use any if you are mulching your grass clippings back onto your lawn. In Hampton Roads, our soil is naturally rich in phosphorus so, with the exception of new plantings, adding phosphorus is often not necessary. Visit the soil testing page for more information.
  • Know Your Grass
    If your soil test indicates you need to fertilize, make sure you fertilize at the right time of year for your grass.

    Cool Season Grasses
    Ex: Tall fescue (mow to 2-3"), Fine fescue (mow to 2-3"), Ryegrass (mow to 1 ½ - 2 ½”)
    • Ideal for areas that get light shade
    • Seed in late summer
    • If needed, fertilize in fall
    • Mow at higher heights during summer months

    Warm Season Grasses
    Ex: Zoysiagrass (¾ to 1”), Centipedegrass (mow to 1 ½”), Bermuda grass (mow to ½ - 1”)
    • Ideal for areas that get full sun
    • Seed in early spring
    • If needed, fertilize in spring
  • Choose Slow-Release Fertilizers
    Coated & water insoluble slow-release fertilizers help roots develop and wash away less easily. Do not apply slow- or time-released nitrogen at rates above one pound per 1,000 square feet. Apply only as much as it says.
  • Check the Weather
    Make sure rain isn't in the forecast for the next 2 days at least. Otherwise, all your work and money will quickly get washed down the storm drain and into our local waterways.
  • Sweep it Up
    Sweep or blow any fertilizer from hard surfaces into the lawn, not into the street.
  • Mow Properly
    Proper mowing is important for a well-kept lawn. Newly-seeded lawns should be mowed early and often, leaving 1.5 to 2.0 inches of grass height. Once your lawn is established, set the mower blade at the highest setting, leaving 2 to 3.5 inches of grass. Tall grass encourages deep roots and shades out some weeds. If mowed too closely, root growth is slowed. This reduces the lawn’s tolerance to heat and drought. It is best not to remove more than 1/3 of the grass at one mowing. Keep your mower blade sharp.
  • Leave Grass Clippings on the Lawn
    After mowing, leave grass clippings on your lawn. As they break down, the grass clippings return nitrogen to the soil, satisfying your lawn’s needs.
  • More Good to Do Lawn Care Tips:

    Skip the Grass, add More Plants - Has all this talk about fertilizer got your head spinning? Save yourself the headache by planting trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. Enhancing your yard with more plants and trees will slow down erosion and keep pollutants from stormwater runoff out of the storm drain. This colorful guide will get you well on your way, or visit Plant More Plants for a list of nurseries that carry native plants in your area.

    Mulch, Mulch & Mulch - Mulch helps to control erosion, retain moisture and stabilize soil temperature. A two-inch layer of mulch material, such as fir bark, pine needles or wood chips, will reduce water loss and maintain uniform soil moisture around roots. Mulch also can reduce or eliminate weeds that compete with landscape plants for moisture, nutrients and sunlight.

    Water Wisely - Watering when the sun is low, winds are calm and temperatures are cooler minimizes evaporation by as much as 30 percent. The best time to water is during early morning hours. Set sprinklers to water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or buildings. Installing a rain barrel to collect rain water to water your lawn and garden is another easy way to conserve water.

    Seed Bare Spots - If you have bare areas, something must be wrong, and it is preventing the establishment of a turf. This is a problem because you can continually lose your soil. First test your soil testing to see if it needs any soil amendments and then look into different ground covers to stabilize the soil.
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