With the arrival of the growing season, it’s a good time to ensure your landscape is receiving the right amount of nutrition and hydration to keep it flourishing. At the same time, it’s important to make certain you (or your commercial grounds care service providers) are employing responsible fertilization and irrigation practices.
At U.S. Lawns, our customers rely on our full-service landscape management expertise, but they also know they can depend on our commitment to our environment–from doing our part to conserve precious resources, to protecting the quality of air and ground water, we are on a continuous mission to improve lives and communities all throughout the nation–and after you read on a little more, you’ll likely be very glad you have access to our landscape management services.
Identify What Your Landscape Requires
The only real way to make sure you’re being responsible with the use of both water and fertilizer is to identify precisely what your landscape requires. In fact, according to University of Georgia Extension’s Best Management Practices in the Landscape, healthy landscapes use water more efficiently, so it makes sense to start with the very foundation of the landscape: the soil.
Perform a soil test – this is crucial for irrigation and fertilization purposes, because:
Different soil types absorb water at different rates; sandy soil will drain faster whereas clay tends to retain water, so water management requirements will differ substantially.
Every region’s soil has unique mineral and microbial content, which means the need for supplementary nutrients also varies. Additionally, a soil test is the only way to know if lime should be incorporated to adjust the pH balance of the soil, which matters because if the pH balance is incorrect, the plants will be unable to use fertilizer properly, resulting in waste, possible injury to the plants, and potential environmental risks.
Assess your plants – it goes without saying that plants, as living beings, are going to be at their most healthy, beautiful and long-lived when they’re being properly fed and watered. So, since they all have differing requirements, another large part of identifying what your landscape needs is knowing what types of plants are growing on your grounds and the specific needs of every different planting.
For instance, did you know that herbaceous perennials should be planted and fed during the fall? This is because the crown of the plant goes dormant for the winter, so the water and nutrients can be better utilized by the roots, resulting in a much stronger root system.
Another example would be seasonal color beds filled with annual flowers, which tend to have a higher demand for water, well-amended soil and regular maintenance. This requires a planting bed that is properly prepared and has a solid water management and fertilization plan to accommodate its needs.
Understand The Uses Of Different Soil Amendments
If it’s necessary to improve the physical properties of your soil, you’ll need to identify what changes will benefit the plants:
- Does the soil have poor water retention capabilities?
- What is its capacity for holding nutrients, and how efficient is it with oxygen infiltration?
These are all items to address with organic amendments–which come from living organisms and include biosolids, manure, compost, and peat moss.
However, if you need to improve drainage and soil structure, you’ll need to use inorganic amendments like pea gravel, sand and vermiculite. Just make sure you’re using the right amendment for your soil type, otherwise you could end up with poorer quality soil than you started with–case in point? Sand + clay soil = concrete–which is great for parking lots, but not for plants.
There are also hydrogels, made of either starch-based organic compounds or synthetic polyacrylamide, which improve the soil’s water retention capabilities as well as soil aeration. This makes them a valuable addition for seasonal color beds as well as container plants.
Once you’ve amended the soil, then it’s time for proper fertilization.
Fertilize At The Right Time With The Right Product
Proper nutrition is essential to plant growth as well as increased resistance to pests, disease and environmental stressors. The key here is to make certain that, if fertilizer is necessary, you’re using the right product and applying it the right way. And although fertilizer has come a long way in recent years, it can still be damaging to the environment as well as the softscape if used improperly.
In fact, since fertilizers are salts, too much fertilizer will dehydrate plants by drawing water out of the root system.
Over-fertilizing can also adversely affect water quality by leaching into the groundwater supply and excess fertilizer will also enter waterways by entering storm drains via runoff.
All of this to say, you need to be fully informed before you fertilize, and it can get complicated. You must understand that frequency, timing, plant varieties and levels of nitrogen vs. phosphorus needed with your particular soil’s pH balance, are all vital details to get right when it comes to making sure you’re fertilizing responsibly.
Fortunately, there are slow-release fertilizers available that are designed to release nutrients gradually, making it a little easier to get the equation right, especially if you’ve had your soil tested and know what levels of nutrients it needs.
The benefits of using a slow-release fertilizer are multiple:
- Since slow-release fertilizers have a protective coating which causes them to provide nutrients a little bit at a time, the risk of overfertilization and the harm it can cause is lessened greatly.
- With slow-release fertilizer, plants are able to grow at a more consistent rate as opposed to going through growth bursts that can compromise plant health, strength and longevity.
- Plants that regularly receives the nutrients offered by slow-release fertilizer will establish healthy root systems that are more water efficient, giving them the ability to better withstand drought conditions.
- As opposed to traditional soluble fertilizers (which still have their important uses, but should be applied using special care), slow-release fertilizers are a more budget conscious option, since one application provides nutrition for an extended time period.
Make Sure Your Irrigation System Is Harmonizing
While we’ve given you a lot to think about regarding keeping your grass, trees, and other plantings well fed, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you of the major role your lawn irrigation system plays.
On top of meeting your greenery’s hydration requirements, water helps activate and distribute fertilizer deeply where it will most effectively feed the roots, and water also aids in protecting plants from being “burned” by direct contact with the fertilizer.
With the wellbeing of your landscape at the forefront, you’ll want to include regular irrigation maintenance in your yearly landscape management plan, so you can ensure your irrigation system is operating at peak performance.
Trust Your Irrigation Maintenance & Fertilization To The Professionals
There are so many complexities to properly fertilizing and hydrating your landscape, we’ve just barely scratched the surface here. So, if it seems overwhelming, don’t let it stress you out, just bring in your local landscape management experts of U.S. Lawns.
Our full-service landscaping professionals are available to keep your irrigation system delivering, make sure the lawn, trees, shrubs and flowerbeds are being well fed and tended regularly, and we can also perform all types of landscape improvements, making us the only landscape management partner you’ll ever need. Contact us now so we can tell you more!