The Q&A Archives: Fertilizer

Question: I'm a virgin to any outside gardening and I just purchased a home in Florida. I have absolutely no grass growing in the front lawn, so my first question is how to or what kind of fertilizer is best to help it grow and how to maintain it? Also, I have some seeds that I would like to plant soon (like a garden with veggies, fruit, etc.) and I would like to know what type of soil I should use and what doesn't attract bugs.

Answer: Lennise,

I apologize for this delayed reply to your gardening question and hope it is still helpful to you. First let me say congratulations on your new home!

Good lawn care can be summarized in three cultural practices: mowing, watering and fertilizing. If you will do these three properly, your lawn will be the best on the block!

Frequent mowing is better than infrequent mowing. Mow on a 5-7 day schedule, removing no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade with each mowing. For example, a St. Augustine turf should be mowed to 2 1/2" when it reaches 3", while a semi-dwarf bermuda or zoysia would be mowed to 1 1/2 or 2" when it reached 2 or 2 1/2".
While many homeowners like to water 15 minutes a day, your turf will benefit from a good soaking applied less often. Apply 1/2 to 1 inch of water once or twice a week. A coffee can makes a good rain gauge to test out how long it will need to be run to apply an inch. Frequent wetting promotes disease problems and a shallow rooted turf. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings and the grass will develop a deep root system and do much better.

Fertilize with no more than 1/2 to 1 pound of nitrogen in spring after you have mowed the grass twice, and again in fall (around late October). Apply a product with a 3-1-2 ratio of nutrients as this is roughly the ratio of nutrients grass takes in. So, for example, if you purchased a 15-5-10 fertilizer (15% nitrogen), you would apply about 7 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .15 = about 7). If you purchased a 21-7-14 fertilizer (21 % nitrogen), you would apply about 5 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .21 = about 5).

Healthy turf will choke out most of its weed problems. When the turf is thin and soil is exposed to the sunlight, weeds will sprout and you have a battle on your hands. So first concentrate on the above 3 cultural practices and you will be amazed at the results.

For your garden the ideal soil is loam but if you have sand, clay or any other type you can improve it a lot by mixing in a couple of inches of compost prior to planting.

Thanks for the question. Best wishes for a wonderful gardening season. Please stop in again soon!

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