Lawn fertilisers are essential to good lawn health, they contain supplements of all the foods needed by our lawns in order that they can flourish. These foods come in the form of nutrients and minerals, and without the regular use of fertilisers - we will always be left with envy when looking at that beautiful lawn next door or down the road.
However, the environmental problems associated with fertiliser use has lead many people to become concerned with their use.
There is absolutely no need for our lawn fertiliser usage to ever add to the damage caused by fertilisers on the environment. We can use them responsibly to create a beautiful lawn and garden, and home, as well as creating benefits to the environment as a whole, instead of damage.
To understand why fertilisers damage the environment, please see our accompanying article Do Lawn Fertilisers Damage The Environment.
For the purpose of this article, we're simply going to cover ways to improve our use of fertilisers to gain their greatest benefit, while aiding the environment.
These are a collection of principles to consider, they are not a program as such. Mix them up, or take what will work best for your own particular property, region and lifestyle.
Only ever apply the correct amount of fertiliser as recommended by the manufacturer on the fertiliser packaging. Excess amounts of fertiliser will not be taken up and used by the lawn to get a better outcome, it will simply wash away into the environment.
Regular lawn fertilising may seem like it goes against what we are trying to achieve, but in fact - the opposite is true. Regular application of lawn fertiliser keeps a lawn healthier, which provides greater benefits to the environment with air purification and cooling homes. At minimum, apply fertilisers every two months throughout the year, and follow application amounts as recommended by the manufacturer.
At best, apply fertilisers every month. This is better because it provides the lawn with a regular supply of nutrients at all times, instead of a fluctuating nutrient supply.
Fertilising monthly also reduces the amount of fertiliser we use. When we fertilise lawns monthly we must reduce the recommended amount of fertiliser to half of what would normally be used - as recommended by the manufacturer.
Even better - we can reduce this amount again - and still get the same benefits.
For example; if the recommended application rate was 50 grams per square metre every two months, then these amounts would reduce like this for monthly application:
25 grams per square metre at maximum rates.
15 grams per square metre at reduced rates - so we're using less fertiliser but still gaining great results.
Phosphate is the nutrient responsible for the algal blooms in waterways, despite this, it is an essential major nutrient for root development in all plants, including lawns, so it cannot be removed completely, but it's use can be reduced.
Replace your regular fertiliser with a phosphate-free lawn fertiliser for a quarter of the year - or just for the winter - or at every second or third application. Every little bit helps, and reducing these amounts will have no adverse affects on a lawn.
Organic fertilisers are those which are based on products such as Seaweed or Manures, including Seasol and Dynamic Lifter Lawn Fertiliser. These products cannot replace regular lawn fertilisers completely, but they can replace one or two fertiliser applications per year.
Soluble Fertilisers can be applied at any time of the year, but pellet fertilisers are probably best applied in the Winter. This allows the pellets a longer period of time to decompose between lawn mowing services, otherwise they can be removed in the mowing process.
One brand of lawn fertiliser is imported from the USA, it is sold as premium lawn fertiliser in a condensed packet. People may believe they are using less fertiliser by buying these products, but this is totally false. The reason the fertiliser can be more condensed is because these products use less "filler" material. Filler material is added to fertiliser as a safety measure - so it becomes difficult for people to damage their lawns when too much fertiliser is applied.
In respect to this particular fertiliser brand, it is actually much higher in nutrients than normal quality fertilisers, on top of this, they need to be transported across the world by ships, transported to and from ship-yards, and go through many quarantine procedures. Not exactly environmentally friendly is it?
Buy a locally made fertiliser, preferably one which is made in your own State, and which has been formulated for your State's soil conditions. Buy a quality brand and stay assured that the quality is equal to or greater than the imported brands, and cause far less environmental impact.
It may be possible to safely fertilise lawns prior to light rains and gain the benefit of not having to use our reticulation to water the fertiliser into the lawn. If only light rain is expected, then the homeowner should evaluate and act accordingly, but it's generally not a good practice to fertilise prior to rain.
If the lawn was fertilised prior to rain, and the rain becomes quite heavy, or lasts for a long period of time, then there is a very high possibility that much of the lawn fertiliser will not be watered into the lawn soil, but will instead be washed away into streets, storm-water drain, and waterways, or even be watered so deeply into the soil that it washes straight past the lawns root zone. This wastes our money, provides no benefit, and damages the environment, so always use best judgement.