I don’t know about you but I am so excited that it is finally spring. As a gardener it is the perfect time of year to turn old warn out lawns and gardens into lush, green, gorgeous settings. Throughout the rest of the year we can have tactics, knowledge and experience to help us create majestic gardens but in spring we also have mother nature on our side and that makes a huge difference. Probably the biggest tactic that a gardener can use to reinvigorate their garden after a slow winter is fertiliser so lets have a look at this landscapers weapon.
One of the first things that I need to say right at the start of this article is this, Western Australian lawns need fertiliser. Now obviously with any rule their are some exceptions however these exceptions are very rare indeed. In 2016 Silverstone Gardening did work at over 350 different residential locations in the Rockingham, Kwinana, Baldivis and Port Kennedy areas and we didn’t find a single lawn that wouldn’t have benefited from fertilisation.
The reason why our lawns need fertilisation is due to our very sandy, low nutrient soils. New developments typically build houses on large pads of yellow sand, this sand is great for keeping your house from falling over but has very little nutrients at all. As a result many new lawns, even if they are getting a healthy amount of water, slowly degrade over time as the plants nutrient needs are not being met in the soils at all. This can be seen over a matter of months and results in patchy, yellow lawns that will eventually be overtaken by weeds. So why fertilise in new estates? Because fertiliser is needed to give your lawn the nutrients that it desperately needs, without fertiliser it is likely that the quality of your lawn will decline over time.
Older estates, whilst also being built on soil that is not designed for lawn health, usually do not have as much of a drastic problem as new estates. This is mainly a result of soils having had time for organic matter to break down and add some nutrients however the amount of nutrients is rarely enough to maintain a lush, green lawn. So why fertilise in older estates? Because without fertiliser your lawn may be ok but it is unlikely that it will ever be outstanding.
Ok so now we know that soils in WA are not likely to have enough nutrients to maintain a healthy lawn so what types of fertiliser should we be using to get the results we are looking for? Firstly any fertiliser is always better than no fertiliser, so don’t become paralysed by the number of options. You are better off doing something rather than nothing.
We could get into writing a huge, multi-page article to answer all the different, intricate details about lawn fertilisers. However I am going to give you all the basics that you need to know by the end of this paragraph. Liquid vs Granular fertilisers? Liquids are absorbs quicker where as granular fertilisers are slower releasing so have a longer lasting effect. Rule of thumb, use granular. Organic vs Non-organic? Organic will in the long run build up a better quality soil however are much more expensive. Rule of thumb, if budget is not an issue use organic, if budget is an issue use non-organic rather than doing nothing at all. Ratio of NPK? If fertiliser has N, P and K (NItrogen, Phosphorus, Potasium) then ratios usually have very small variances within brands and will have small differences in your lawns. Some few fertilisers might not have the whole mix of NPK , for example some fertilisers don’t have phosphorus so that it is not necessary to water in. In most circumstances it is best to get and NPK fertiliser. Rule of thumb, get NPK and don’t worry about specific ratios.
When fertilising lawns it is always best to spread with a specialised fertiliser broadcaster, you can buy these at Bunnings, these can be hand held or driven by wheels. Hand held broadcasters typically do not hold much fertiliser so are not practical for large lawns, wheel driven broadcasters are great for larger applications but may be overkill on small lawns like those found in new developments.
When spreading make sure that your lawn has not been cut in the last day or two, freshly cut lawn will be easily burnt by the highly concentrated fertiliser. Your broadcaster should have a dial that will allow you to adjust the amount of fertiliser spread per square meter, you will need to make sure that the setting matches the recommended application rate given by the manufacturer ( i.e. 40 grams per square meter). Once the fertiliser is spread water in well to make sure that your lawn is not burnt. Fertiliser sitting on top of the lawn will be of no benefit to you, make sure it gets into your soil.
To put it simply the best time to fertilise is when the grass is growing. Small and regular applications are much better than random large applications. So a good rule of thumb is a small to medium amount spread every 6-10 weeks during the growing season (September-March).
If you have found anything in this article helpful then we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. If this all seems like it could be a bit too much work and you live in the Rockingham, Kwinana, Port Kennedy or Baldivis areas then contact our office here. All the best for your lawns this spring!