As with any living thing, grass needs nutrients to thrive. Bermudagrass, one of the most widely used lawn grasses in North Carolina, needs a regular program of fertilization to maintain its lush, green appearance, thickness and overall health. Nitrogen is essential for all grasses. Bermudagrass gets nitrogen as nitrate or ammonium. Fertilizers formulated for Bermudagrass provide the best way to provide nitrogen and other essential nutrients.
Fertilizers are labeled with numbers representing the percentage by weight of nitrogen (N), the first number; phosphorous (P), the second number; and potassium (K), the third number. All fertilizers show these numbers in the same order. A fertilizer labeled 10-6-4, for example, is 10 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphate and 4 percent potassium. Potassium is sometimes labeled potash.
Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer Compounds
Wait a few weeks after the lawn turns green in spring before applying the first round of fertilizer. Apply nitrogen at the rate of 1 lb. per 1,000 square feet of lawn, using a complete, commercial turf-grade fertilizer compound such as 12-4-8 or 16-4-8. Notice that the first number, nitrogen, is three to four times as high as the middle number, phosphorous, and the last number, potassium, is only twice as high as the middle number. Whatever brand of fertilizer you choose, keep the ratio at or close to this for best results.
Figuring Fertilizer Amounts
If the fertilizer label does not list how much fertilizer to use so that 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is attained, North Carolina State University has a simple formula. Divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer label. For a fertilizer with the first number of 24, divide 100 by 24 to get 4.16. You will need about 4 lbs. of this fertilizer to provide the proper amount of nitrogen to your lawn. If the lawn is 2,000 square feet, you will need 8 lbs. of this fertilizer.
In August, apply a fertilizer that produces 1 lb. of potassium per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The rest of the time, apply your regular fertilizer formula once a month in May, June and July in the central Piedmont area. In Western North Carolina, fertilize two weeks earlier, in late April, May and June. Eastern North Carolina residents should fertilize two weeks later than Piedmont area schedule -- in late May, late June and late July.
A soil test is the best way to determine how much nitrogen and other nutrients your grass needs. Improper fertilization can cause dead spot from too much nitrogen and dollar spot from too little nitrogen.
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