Consider a slow-release organic fertilizer for a healthier lawn

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Have you ever noticed how many fertilizer choices there are?

Not only can the selection be vast at a single garden center, but each store offers different products. Keep reading to find out the differences between the two main types of fertilizer, synthetic and organic, so when October rolls around, you’ll be ready to fertilize.

Synthetic/inorganic fertilizers are more abundantly available in stores, which will hopefully change. These fertilizers are made of salts that dissolve in water, making nutrients immediately available for plants to absorb. The salts in synthetic fertilizers, when applied at a rate of more than 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet, kill soil microbes.

Nutrients, unless designed to be slow release, will not stay in the soil for long periods of time as they are water soluble.

When synthetic fertilizer is applied, it should be watered down with a quarter inch of water to transport the nutrients to the roots so they can be absorbed. If too much water or rain is applied, it will carry nutrients past the roots. Once this happens, the nutrients will be transported to groundwater and then to the Indian River Lagoon or the St. Johns River.

Another way to think about fertilizing your garden with synthetic fertilizer is to grow your garden hydroponically in sand. This is just one of the reasons why the IRL and the Saint John River are degraded bodies of water.

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In contrast, organic fertilizers are made from animals (i.e. manures, sludge, fishmeal, feather meal, bat guano, etc.) or plants (i.e. -d. Corn gluten meal, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, cottonseed meal, soybean meal, etc.).

Nutrients in organic fertilizers usually slowly become available to plants as they must be broken down by soil microorganisms. An exception to this rule is blood meal, which is a quick-release nitrogen source that should be applied sparingly and lightly watered in.

Along with organic fertilizers, soil microbes also store nutrients and water in their bodies. When a microbe is eaten by another microbe (predator) or dies, its nutrients and water become available to plants, in small amounts.

Due to the slow-release properties of these materials, organic fertilizers are not likely to seep into the soil, burn plant roots or cause rapid growth spurts, which can attract insect pests like aphids .

This is important for the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River because the use of organic fertilizers can reduce groundwater contamination.

Many organic fertilizers also contain beneficial soil microbes, so they are a great way to inoculate your lawn, ornamentals, trees, palms, and edible plants with the soil food web.

The University of Florida discovered in 2006 that St. Augustinegrass has a symbiotic relationship with Glomus intraradices (now called Rhizophagus irregulis), which is an arbuscular mycorrhiza.

AM has relationships with up to 95% of factories. Exceptions to this rule are Brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. These cultures generally have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria rather than fungi.

St. Augustinegrass, which has established a relationship with Rhizophagus irregulis, will be able to grow much better due to the fungus’ ability to gather nutrients and water from more of the soil than the roots of the plant ever could. TO DO.

It is important to emphasize that fertilization properly begins with soil testing.

A soil test will show if each nutrient is deficient or in excess. Excess nutrients can bind other nutrients, making them unavailable to plants, so applying more than one excess nutrient is a waste of money and will not help the plant.

It is important to know which nutrients should be applied and in what quantity. Our soil analysis form is available at edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Search for “soil test form”. Be sure to pay for the $10 Test B, which will measure soil pH and levels of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and zinc.

The crop codes are on the second page, and if you’re testing the soil around palm trees, use crop code 77, as St. Augustine grass and palm trees have similar deficiencies.

Page 2 also explains how to take a soil sample, where to send it, etc. The soil sample can be sent in a zip lock bag with your name, address, sample ID and crop code on it.

Organic fertilizers tend to be more expensive, so for a large yard this could definitely be an issue, but they will help improve soil health and reduce potential leaching of nitrogen or phosphorus into the IRL or soil. St. Johns River.

Since the benefits of organic fertilizers are many, it can be worth spending a little more to inoculate the yard with the soil food web at the same time you apply nutrients. For more information on this topic, email me at [email protected]

Once the soil food web is established, you will have less work to do. After all, establishing the soil food web is the only way to turn dirt into living soil.

Sally Scalera is an Urban Horticulture Officer and Master Gardener Coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Email [email protected]

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