Lawn fertilization tips, really!

Will Epsom salt, baby shampoo and beer really help your grass grow?

I still read a newspaper – the real thing, not the ones that you find on your numerous electronic devices that everyone can’t seem to live without these days. This time of year it’s always interesting to read the lawn and garden tips that seem to come out at least weekly to “inform” the readership of what we should really be doing in our lawns and gardens. Last weekend I read an article that started by telling me to “forget fancy fertilizers,” and the best way to fertilize my lawn was with Epsom salt, which the article says is the primary ingredient in most fertilizers. Saturday Night Live used to have a skit where the news anchors would talk about news stories that seemed obviously wrong or stupid and constantly asked the question, “Really?” Every now and then I hear this in my head when I read information such as this and sometimes I’ll even say it out loud, “Really?”

So what about Epsom salt?

The truth about Epsom salt is that as the article states it is a source of magnesium, a nutrient that is part of the structure of chlorophyll – the stuff that makes plants green and helps them make food via photosynthesis. So, I agree that Epsom salt could be a benefit to the lawn as a source of magnesium and also sulfur. I disagree, though, in that it is not the primary ingredient in most lawn fertilizers. The primary nutrient in lawn fertilizers is nitrogen. Epsom salt is more commonly used in small doses for ornamental plantings, not lawns. So, I conclude after reading the Epsom salt recommendation for lawns, “Really?”

Baby shampoo, ammonia, beer

The string of insightful lawn tips continued in my paper just four days later under an article title that indicated we all might be going too far in going green and that going green shouldn’t have to cost a lot of green. They hooked me and I started reading. This time I at least made it through the first recommendation about dishwasher soap. The second recommendation advised me that for my lawn I should mix some baby shampoo, ammonia, beer (unfortunately for the lawn, not for me), and some corn syrup in a 20 gallon hose end sprayer. Really? What are these ingredients all about and how could they possibly work on a lawn?

Baby shampoo could serve as a type of surfactant that could reduce water repellency in the soil – if that’s a problem for your soil. Ammonia is a source of nitrogen. Beer and corn syrup has some sort of natural organic fertilizer or biostimulant. For the beer, I’d buy the cheap stuff – not the microbrews. The final comment about mixing in a 20 gallon hose end sprayer? How many of you have a 20 gallon hose end sprayer, and how many of you could hold a 20 gallon hose end sprayer? OK, go to your favorite store and ask them where the 20 gallon hose end sprayers are, really!

Proven and effective

Here are some simple fertilizer tips for your lawn that are proven and effective. April was soaking wet and with the warm weather now, the turf is generally growing faster than you can mow. If your lawn is still actively pushing upward, I’d actually consider waiting a week or two before putting down a fertilizer application. No need to force any additional top-growth beyond what the plant is already doing.

Select a fertilizer that contains slow release nitrogen sources. Slow release fertilizers include coated ureas, methylene ureas or natural organics. Slow release fertilizers provide sustained feeding of the turf over the summer months. Avoid single, heavy dose applications of water-soluble, fast release fertilizers such as urea or the triple products (fertilizers with N, P, K, analysis such as 10-10-10). Fast release fertilizer will give you instant satisfaction with dark green color and quick growth response, but won’t last long and the top-growth they increase can actually reduce root growth. Really.