Here you will find various tips on how you can
help maintain a beautiful yard.
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Below is our tip of the month (you can find past
tips by clicking on the "archives" link at the top right)
The Myth of Lawn Burning
A common misperception when it comes to
lawn care is that it is "unsafe" to
apply lawn fertilizer in the summer.
"We hear that a lot from consumers,"
said Jim Larkin, former Director of
Consumer Research at Scotts. "Consumers
won't apply fertilizer in the summer for
fear that doing so will burn the lawn."
Typically people want to know: "Will
applying a fertilizer in the summer burn
According to Ron Boylan, Manager of
Scotts Training Institute, that question
has been around for years. "In the old
days, people used all water-soluble
fertilizers, and spreaders that were
poorly calibrated," said Boylan. "And
water-soluble fertilizers are more
likely to burn the lawn as the
He said that many of the fertilizers
on the market, and especially the
cheaper fertilizers, are basically
The problem with water-soluble lawn
fertilizers is that they provide too
much nitrogen, at one time. For example,
once the grass is given a quick shot of
highly-concentrated nitrogen or
phosphorus, the grass responds by
"giving water back to the soil" because
it senses a problem in the soil balance.
"It is a law of nature called reverse
osmosis, and that is what causes the
burning of the lawn," Boylan said. "The
grass doesn't actually burn, it dries-up
because it is giving-up moisture."
Osmosis is the process by which plant
roots take in moisture, and osmotic
balance is essential to a healthy lawn.
So now we know the origin of that
myth. But is it safe to fertilize in the
summer? "Yes, as long as you use a high
quality slow-release fertilizer, and
follow the label directions," Boylan
"Slow-release fertilizers don't
overload the soil with too much
nitrogen, at too fast of a rate."
However, Boylan cautioned that not
all slow-release fertilizers are created
equal. Fertilizer manufacturers often
accomplish slow-release of nitrogen by
several means, but the most common
method is to add coated urea to the
fertilizer mix in some fashion. These
coatings can vary greatly in
accomplishing the slow release goal.
Urea is a source of nitrogen that is
manufactured for use in agricultural
fertilizers (about 90 percent of all
manufactured urea is used by farms, and
the other 10 percent for lawn
fertilizer). It is also an element
commonly found in mammalian urine (which
explains why dog urine burns the lawn).
To convert the nitrogen in the urea to a
form the grass can use, it needs
moisture. Thus, urea is essentially a
water-soluble nitrogen fertilizer.
"Great for corn, but not for grass,"
Boylan said. "The nitrogen is released
To make it safe for the grass,
manufacturers attempt to slow down the
release of nitrogen by coating it with
non-water soluble materials, such as wax
or sulfur, which is used to coat the
urea. It's similar to the coating on M&M
candies. The problem with that method,
is that the nitrogen release is too
In the case of Scotts® lawn fertilizers,
the urea is remanufactured into a
methylene-urea compound with a much more
controlled release rate. When applied to
the lawn, the bacteria in the soil react
with the methylene urea (instead of just
needing moisture) to break down the
fertilizer particles, thus releasing the
nutrients to the lawn. This process will
last for six to eight weeks.
Keep in mind that before applying any
fertilizer, consumers should always
carefully read the directions on the
bag, and owners of cool-season grass
lawns should never apply fertilizer when
the temperatures are over 90° F, because
the grass is under too much stress.
Remember, any fertilizer can burn a lawn
if it isn't applied properly.
"Grass is no different than any other
living thing, it can only take so much
heat and stress," said Boylan. "Even
walking on the lawn when it is that hot
can be stressful to it. In fact you can
tell when a lawn needs watered if your
foot prints do not spring back as you
A rule of thumb to remember about
fertilizing in the summer: make sure
your lawn is well watered the week
before you apply fertilizer. A lawn
should get about one inch of water every
week—water one inch, about every five
days. Also, it is best to water in the
morning when it is cool and won't
evaporate too quickly.
Which brings us to another "myth" about
lawns: watering in the hot weather will
burn the grass, which is another
question that lawn owners often ask.
"Years ago, fertilizers had to be
watered-in because these all
water-soluble fertilizers could easily
burn the lawn; if a burn occurred people
assumed it was the water that did it,
and that was not the case," said Boylan.
"The tendency is to think, 'The last
thing I did is what caused it, and I
watered the lawn last.'"
A study conducted by Scotts revealed
that consumers are reluctant to water
their lawns when the temperatures reach
high levels. Homeowners think that water
magnifies the sun's intensity, and that
watering the lawn in summer will damage
"The sun's rays are not magnified by
the drops of water. In fact the
evaporation of the water from the grass
actually cools the grass," Boylan said.
Bottom line: use a slow-release
fertilizer, read label directions
carefully, water at least ˝" per week,
and try to keep foot traffic on the lawn
to a minimum during excessively hot
weather. Your grass will thank you for
it in the long run.
Here are some other lawn tips for
- Mow high,( the hotter, the dryer
the higher), mow often( about every
five days). The longer grass blades
will help shade the grass and
protect the roots.
- Avoid foot traffic in times of
high stress, if possible.
- Thoroughly water the area where
your pets urinate.
- Keep your mower blade sharp and
- Fertilize only with a high
quality, slow-release fertilizer.
- Properly apply fertilizer to
your lawn at the recommended rate on
the bag, and check your spreader to
ensure that it is working properly.
- Mow in the evening when the
- Water in the morning, if
possible, and avoid watering at