Are you guilty of getting a little too zealous with your lawn fertilizer? Well, if you add fertilizer to your lawn frequently, you just might be!
Fertilizers are a great way to ensure your lawn stays green, healthy, and luxuriant. However, if applied in excess, they can dry out the soil, causing the grass to turn yellow or brown or killing it completely.
The good news? An over-fertilized lawn can still be saved, but you must act quickly. Read on to find out how to fix your over-fertilized lawn to get your grass growing lush again.
What Causes Lawn Over-Fertilization?
Applying huge amounts of fertilizer at once is the major cause of lawn over-fertilization. But there are other sneakier ways through which this can happen too. For instance, if your soil doesn’t drain properly, the salts in the fertilizer can build up, burning the roots and causing a dying effect.
Pet urine can also be to blame. It contains huge amounts of nitrogen, which in high concentration, can harm your lawn. If you have been noticing patches of discolored grass lately, your four-legged friend could be the culprit.
Stressed grass can easily get over-fertilized too. This is especially true if you have neglected lawn maintenance for a while. Such grass will not properly absorb minerals and nutrients from the fertilizer, causing it more susceptible to salt accumulation.
No matter what causes over-fertilization of your lawn, any excess mineral buildup in the soil will lead to unsightly yellowed or browned withered grass. This is called fertilizer burn.
Fertilizer burn is not always deadly. But it can be difficult to predict whether your grass will recover or not.
Your lawn recovery will mostly depend on the quantity of fertilizer present in the soil, how moist the soil itself is, and how healthy the grass is.
If your grass is just slightly yellowed, it may be saved. Crispy brown grass, on the other hand, may not. All in all, everything boils down to how quickly you act.
How to Fix Your Over-Fertilized Lawn
Step 1. Inspect the Damage
Before anything else, assess the damage. Check the grassroots from different sections of the lawn to have a clear picture of how deep the problem goes.
Usually, if the roots still look healthy in most parts, all you need to do is water your lawn sufficiently and the grass will bounce back. If the roots appear dead and crunchy, however, you may want to consider replanting.
Step 2. Remove Surface Fertilizer
If you used granular fertilizer, check to see whether you still have some of it on the ground. Grab a broom and sweep off as much as you can. You don’t want to start watering without getting rid of the spilled fertilizer first, as this will only add more salts into the soil.
Step 3. Water the Lawn (Generously)
Watering helps dilute and flush the excess salts away from the grassroots. If you notice the burned grass soon enough, watering will be enough to get rid of the problem.
But for how long should you apply water to the damaged grass, you may ask?
The truth? Water the grass until the soil can’t suck in anymore!
And not just on the affected areas; apply water even on parts that look healthy. It will help leach the salts throughout the whole yard.
The first day is crucial and you should ensure the lawn gets a generous amount of water. But for your watering efforts to bear fruits, make sure you are adding about an inch of water daily for the next 7 days. And do it in the morning to minimize the risk of fungal diseases.
Step 4. Inspect Your Roots Again
In most instances, watering will help fix your over-fertilized lawn. You should be able to see new growth after 7 to 14 days of watering. If nothing changes after this period, it’s time to reinspect the roots.
Check to see if there are new grassroots. If there are, then you have successfully solved your problem. If nothing has happened, the damage is beyond repair and the only thing you can do now is planting new grass.
Step 5. Prepare the Ground for New Grass
Rake the burned, dead grass from the affected areas of the yard. This will allow water to penetrate easily to the healthy roots of the new grass.
Water the area again for at least a week and wait for a few days before planting to help get rid of excess mineral salts from the soil. Cleaning the soil this way is paramount, as it helps the new roots to establish faster and reach deeply into the soil.
Step 6. Plant New Grass
Depending on the size of the affected part, you can decide to either lay new sod or reseed your lawn.
If only a small area has been affected, then you can easily fix the problem by reseeding. Larger areas, however, will work well with a sod; it’s a better option if you are already sick of staring at the unattractive brown patches.
But the secret to obtaining the best results from both methods is doing it right. If you are laying a sod, for instance, be certain the sod is pushed down properly so the roots can hold firmly on the soil underneath.
If you are reseeding, cover the seeds with a thin layer of straw to keep critters and other elements at bay.
Step 7. Maintain and Observe Your New Grass
Whether you are re-soding or reseeding your lawn, constantly care for it to help the grass adapt quickly to the new environment.
The first thing you need to do after planting is watering adequately. Do it daily until the roots have been established properly. After that, you can aim at watering twice or thrice a week.
Don’t forget to apply fertilizer, but make sure to do it right this time round to avoid over-fertilizing. The baby grass will need starter fertilizer 2 to 3 weeks after planting.
One more thing! Wait for the grass to reach at least 3 inches high before mowing. Trimming your new grass will help it grow quickly, but doing it before the grass gets to a proper height may easily kill it.
How to Avoid Over-Fertilizing Your Lawn
Over-fertilizing your grass once is already bad enough; doing it again would be an awful experience. Here are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening:
- Use Granular Fertilizers Instead of Liquids
When working with granulated fertilizer, it is much easier to see where you have applied the granules in excess and pick them up before they seep into the soil and damage the lawn. This can be quite difficult to do with liquid fertilizers.
- Go Organic
Whenever possible, use organic fertilizers. These have very little mineral content, meaning, the possibility of salt building up and causing over-fertilization is close to nil.
An excellent example of organic fertilizers is compost. Not only does it contain low salt content but is also way cheaper than its organic counterparts.
- Consider Slow-Release Fertilizers
If you can’t find compost, then consider slow-release fertilizers. Since the minerals are released slowly over time, you are less likely to over-fertilize your lawn.
- Follow Application Instructions
Different fertilizers come with different application guidelines based on their strength. Whether you are using organic or inorganic, always read and follow the instructions on the package. Do not use more than specified.
- Water Your Lawn Regularly
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of watering your grass constantly. Keeping the soil moist at all times will help the chemical nutrients dissolve quickly and promote growth instead of building up and killing the roots.
Here is a short video on how to properly water your lawn.
- Don’t Stress Your Lawn
If your grass is not in a very healthy condition, apply fertilizer very lightly to easily bring it back to life. It’s normal to feel the urge to feed the grass heavily, but this will do it more harm than good. Weak grass is more prone to fertilizer burns.
While at it, don’t fertilize your lawn after severe heat, drought, disease, or pest infestation. The chemical minerals won’t be properly absorbed and will only cause further damage to the grass.
- Talk to a Professional
There is nothing wrong with seeking expert advice when it comes to caring for and maintaining your lawn. A professional will not only offer you useful tips for proper fertilizer application; they will also show you how to keep your lawn looking healthy and vibrant.
While there are several things that can lead to lawn over-fertilization, acting quickly and making sure you are doing your due diligence to prevent such an occurrence can help you maintain a healthy lawn.
Here is what to do if you suspect you have over-fertilized your grass:
- Assess the damage.
- Remove any fertilizer that is spilled on the surface.
- Water the affected parts adequately.
- Plant new grass in the affected areas.
- Care for the new grass by watering, mowing, and fertilizing regularly.
If you have any questions regarding how to fix your over-fertilized lawn, feel free to comment below.