Fertilizing and water smart formula

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

If you’ve been watching any TV lately you’ve probably seen the new Scotts fertilizer ad that discusses Scotts® Water Smart Formula. The first time this ad rolled past my somewhat disengaged eyes during a break from the weekend sporting broadcasts, I didn’t really catch what was being promoted. Overall, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of innovation in lawn care product ads over the years. Each year, we see the typical RoundUp ready to use “quick draw” ads which look as though if you use this weed killer you won’t kill all the grass just the weeds. There are a wide variety of fertilizer ads with stereotypical families discussing the greenness of their lawn and how much they love having picnics on their green lawn early in the spring.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I viewed the most recent Scotts ad that talks about how Water Smart Formula will make your turf healthier and shows the animation of the turf throwing back water like a sprinkler system. The Water Smart Formula is not a new fertilizer product; instead the message is that fertilizing is part of the formula for a healthier turf. A well fertilized, healthy turf will actually result in water savings. If you think about this concept it makes sense.

Turfgrass management practices, including fertilizing, that result in a deeper, more extensive root system allow the turf to “gather” water from a larger soil volume. So when the weather dries out this summer, as it almost always does, if the turf has a more extensive root system you may even notice that if you’re not irrigating, the turf may hang-on to some of its green color longer into the drought and probably recover more quickly once the rainfall resumes.

Here are some simple tips to consider when applying fertilizer

  1. Keep the fertilizer on the lawn and off paved surfaces.
  2. Follow the directions on the bag.
  3. Use a product designed for lawns not the “triple” products (i.e. 12-12-12)
  4. Create an application buffer near any water body to minimize the risk of fertilizer particles moving or being directly applied to the water.
  5. When it comes to phosphorus, don’t apply it if you don’t need it. Take a soil test to check the level of phosphorus in your soil.

Dr. Frank’s work is funded in part by MSU‘s AgBioResearch.

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