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As the time to tend your lawn comes around, it is not unusual to have lots of questions about the application of starter fertilizer.
Applying starter fertilizer is one of the steps taken in preparation to refresh the lawn if you have recently planted more grass or just to replenish depleted soil nutrients.
In this article, we will be providing answers to 9 Frequently Asked Questions about applying starter fertilizer to your lawn and we aim at shedding as much light as possible on the subject.
Let’s get right into it.
1. What Is Starter Fertilizer?
A lawn starter is a small amount of nutrient fertilizer that is applied near the seed at the time of planting. Starter fertilizer has many benefits attached to its use.
It helps new grass get established faster, giving the lawn a full and lush appearance within a short time, and can be used to stimulate grass growth on bare patches. It also enriches the soil with enough nutrients to feed all the grass.
Lawn Starter Fertilizer Vs Regular Fertilizer
Starter fertilizer is different from regular fertilizer although they both serve the same purpose of boosting the nutrient contents of the soil. All fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium but lawn starter fertilizer and the regular kind contain them in different ratios.
Nitrogen allows grass to produce chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis to occur. Nitrogen is responsible for giving your lawn that healthy, deep green color. It is also an essential nutrient for vigorous grass growth.
Phosphorus helps with grass growth and development. Phosphorus is needed for cultivating new tissue and cell division.
It is especially important for good root development and is exactly what your new grass needs to be well grounded.
Potassium increases the ability of the grass to resist diseases, and cold and for the general stability of the grass. This is the nutrient that is probably the least needed in the early growth phases of your yard.
In composition, most starter fertilizers have 10-20% of nitrogen, 20% of phosphorus, and only 4-6% of potassium and should be used for recently planted grass. Regular fertilizers should only be used for mature grass and have a different nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio than starter fertilizers.
You will find that established grass requires much higher levels of potassium for disease and insect resistance than newly planted grass. They also need less phosphorus.
Since phosphorus is more important for grass growth and strong roots, established grass needs a smaller amount of it. Lawn starter fertilizer has a higher phosphorus content than regular fertilizer.
When it comes to starter fertilizer for lawns, you can choose between slow and fast-release types, with the latter delivering a quick dose of nitrogen. The quick-release starter fertilizer is the best choice.
A slow-release fertilizer will stay in the soil for many weeks. Over time, the fertilizer will work to keep the lawn healthy and green as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are released into the root system.
The fast-release starter fertilizer can be applied to brand-new lawns or to help bare patches recover from winter destruction or other forms of damage.
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2. What Is A Good Starter Fertilizer For Grass Seed And Sod?
The best nutrient mix for your lawn will depend on the type of grass that you have, how long it has been there, and its current condition.
Lawn starter fertilizers are available in different compositions of the main nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash) or the three numbers given on the package (NPK ratio). The numbers indicate the percentage of each nutrient present in the lawn-starter fertilizer.
For example, an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 contains 10 % nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium equally. The specific roles each element plays in nourishing your lawn have already been mentioned.
Examples of good sod starter fertilizers are 10-10-10, 20-10-10, and 16-8-8. In addition, it has been discovered that 15-10-10 or 10-6-4 are also acceptable as lawn starter fertilizers as they also promote good early growth and lawn development.
The best starter fertilizer brands on the market are:
1. Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass
2. GreenView 2131254 Starter Fertilizer
3. Jonathan Green Green Up Seeding & Sodding Lawn Fertilizer
4. Lesco Professional Starter Fertilizer, 18-24-12
Go to your local garden center for advice on which one will best match the type of grass on your turf.
- Read Also: What Fertilizer to Use After Overseeding
3. Can You Apply A Starter Fertilizer To Grass Seed And Sod?
You can apply a starter fertilizer to both grass seed and sod. The freshly planted seeds produce new tissue quickly and therefore have higher energy and nutrient requirements.
For sod, even though it is mostly composed of mature grass, some of the roots may have been damaged in the process of removal. Applying starter fertilizer which contains mostly nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil before laying it down again should help repair the roots and accelerate the growth of new ones.
4. Is It Best To Get A Soil Test First To See Phosphorus Levels?
The key to proper fertilizing is to do a soil test first and make sure you are using the correct fertilizer ratio. Fertilizing your lawn without knowing what is needed and what is not creates problems that can cause your new lawn to burn or cause too much stress to the grass.
Appropriately applying starter fertilizer to a new lawn can help with root growth and grass coloring which are two things that a new lawn struggles with. The stronger the new weed can grow, the less likely the weed will have long-term health and nutritional issues
It is strongly advised that you test the soil content before planting so that you can amend it accordingly. Take a soil sample to your local extension office, then have them check the phosphorus levels.
Knowing your soil’s phosphorus levels will help you choose a variety of lawn starter fertilizers with the appropriate amount of phosphorus for your yard because new grass needs phosphorus to establish healthy roots.
Because phosphorus levels from soil tests do not change much over short periods, you can collect soil samples and send them to a testing lab within a year of planting the lawn to determine phosphorus levels.
Almost all consulting offices offer services to carry out soil tests. You should reach out to your local Cooperative Extension Office for more details on this.
Make sure you wait for the results of the phosphate test and other recommendations which can take 1-3 days or up to two weeks depending on the test. You then need a few more days to buy fertilizer and make any necessary soil adjustments before planting your new lawn.
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5. Is There A Standard Amount Of Starter Fertilizer I Should Use?
If you have not yet done a soil test to determine how much starter fertilizer to use for your lawn, we suggest you apply starter fertilizers at 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Amounts over 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet can burn young grass resulting in poor stabilization.
Quick-release nitrogen accelerates seedling development but should not be a substitute for the phosphate and potassium recommended in your soil test report.
6. Are There Circumstances Where You Shouldn’t Use A Starter Fertilizer?
There are several situations where applying starter fertilizer is not encouraged. For example, you should not use starter fertilizer in areas where you cannot control the flow of water.
Nitrogen and phosphorus from indiscriminate fertilizer use have created so much concern for the environment that about half of the states in the United States have passed laws about the use of fertilizers.
Don’t use starter fertilizer if your soil test shows it’s not needed. Instead, apply a little quantity of organic fertilizer or manure-based compost and work it into the soil before planting your new lawn.
These supplements contain significant amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to give your new lawn a healthy start.
It’s common for homeowners to apply lawn fertilizer in the spring, depending on where they live, but not before the grass is green. Once your healthy lawn has formed, give fertilizer every six to eight weeks.
7. When Should You Apply Starter Fertilizer?
You should use starter fertilizer before planting grass seeds or laying sod, or right after you plant the new grass seeds. You don’t need to use it immediately after spreading newly planted sod because fertilizer burn can arise.
After planting you should wait six to eight weeks before reapplying the starter fertilizer. If you fertilize again before this time, it could result in the roots of the seedlings not being able to absorb the nutrients.
When it involves knowing how much starter fertilizer to use for the grass, you’ll have to order a soil test. The 3 crucial elements required for maximum improvement and fitness of your turfgrass are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which a starter fertilizer contains.
Make sure you apply the fertilizer until it reaches four to six inches into the soil in addition to any extra amendments you’re making. You also can scatter it over the spot as soon as you have planted your new grass seeds.
When applying starter fertilizer, it should not just be left on the top of the soil. Phosphorus and potassium must be carried right down into the soil quickly to prevent them from being washed away before the grass can absorb them.
8. Can I Use A Starter Fertilizer For Grass That Is Established?
You can but that is not the best for your mature grass because the starter fertilizer was specially formulated for new growth. Although you can use a starter fertilizer for an established lawn, it’s best to use a balanced regular fertilizer specifically formulated for established lawns.
The starter fertilizer may not contain all the nutrients needed for continued growth and good health of established grass. It does not harm the lawn but may lack the necessary nutrients found in a balanced fertilizer for proper lawn care.
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9. How Do You Apply Starter Fertilizer?
Now that you have a better idea of what fertilizer can do for your new lawn and whether it’s good or not, it’s time to start looking for the best way of applying starter fertilizer to a new lawn.
For this process, we will start at the beginning as there are two means of fertilization that need to be addressed.
Step 1 – Test The Soil And Prepare The Planting Area
Once you have decided on the area of your lawn where you want to plant new grass, you must first test the soil and prepare the area for planting. This soil test is easy to perform and can be done at a local garden center as previously stated.
Take a look at where your soil is and what changes it may need. Most lawns can use a little dolomitic lime to get them where they need to be.
Step 2 – Applying The Starter Fertilizer
After you have tested the soil, raked it, and removed any existing weeds or old grass, you can apply the starter fertilizer.
Remember, starter fertilizer is a quick-release option that is applied with a spreader before or right after the seed is planted.
If you’re planting sod, apply the starter fertilizer before you put down the sod but if you’re planting seed, you can apply the fertilizer either before or after planting the seed. Evenly apply the starter fertilizer–granular or liquid, over the planting site.
Once applied, work the product 4 to 6 inches into the soil. When you are done, you can start seeding your new lawn.
Step 3 – Plant The Lawn
Once you’ve applied the starter fertilizer, it’s time to plant your grass seed. Plant enough seeds per square foot of soil.
Step 4: Care And Mowing
After a few weeks, you should see your grass growing and getting stronger. At this point, you should monitor your water application rates and make sure you’re watering your lawn carefully.
Also, wait until the grass has reached the optimal cutting height before you mow it.
Applying starter fertilizer to your lawn must be a piece of cake now that we have discussed and answered questions about it in detail. Starter fertilizers are formulations for new seeds and sod while regular fertilizers support continued growth and maintain established lawns.
You can use starter fertilizer for established lawns because it will not harm them however, it will not give the necessary nutrients and in the long term, this leads to an unhealthy lawn. It is best to use regular fertilizer for mature lawns.
Follow good lawn care like aeration and mowing heights to keep your lawn luscious and beautiful.