What fertilisers should we use?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 22, 2012 12:22 Updated

What fertilisers should we use?

One of the first choices facing the amenity turf greenkeeper is whether to use a granular or liquid product. Granular fertilisers should be viewed as the essential base feeds in any programme. They release nutrients over a period of time, from a few weeks to many months, allowing grass to be fed steadily. Liquid fertilisers, with their very quick uptake but very short longevity, are best used as in-fill applications between base granular feeds or when a very quick green-up or deficiency correction is required.

Choose a granule size that matches the turf type. Short cut greens and tees require small granules of 1.5mm or less in order to give an even coverage on these most important areas and to disappear down into the sward, so avoiding collection in the mower box. Larger 2-3mm granules will spin out further and cost less, ideal for sports’ pitches, fairways, cricket surrounds and other areas cut at 10mm or higher.

Standard release or controlled / slow release?

On the most important areas, where man hours will be spent very regularly to get appearance and ball roll just right, there is often little need for slow release nutrients. A standard release fertiliser every five or six weeks, supplemented with liquids in-fills, will give more precision and control. On tees, fairways and sports’ pitches, where fewer man hours are to be spent, then a good controlled release product can give you the sward you need with fewer applications. Remember, if you are using a fertiliser with longevity then you need to apply more nutrients, either by higher application rates or higher NPK analysis, as you are expecting them to feed the grass plant for longer.

Choice of slow release type is important. Do not apply coated fertilisers (time capsules) to very short cut swards as they will end up on the clippings pile, may well release early due to granule damage by machinery and will blunt mower blades. Methylene ureas (MU) and urea formaldehydes (UF) are more expensive but, once physically broken down on short cut turf, they will still give release longevity. Organic ingredients can also be used to give longevity but at the very least they can be unpredictable in release pattern and at the worst can possibly remain unavailable to the plant. They could be viewed more as a biostimulant for soil life.

Fertiliser analysis

The choice of NPK analysis will depend upon the time of year, grass varieties, the weather, soil analysis and sward appearance. The basic rules are to use a nitrogen:potassium ratio of 1:2 in the early spring and late autumn, whilst a ratio of 2:1 is more appropriate for the late spring and summer times.

If your long-term plans are to promote and maintain fine grass species, such as fescues, then annual fertiliser programmes should deliver as low a nitrogen input as possible whilst still maintaining the growth and appearance required. This will stress the unwanted vigorous grass species and reduce their competitiveness.

Grass requires phosphate, especially for disease resistance, root growth and at germination, but so much phosphate has been applied over the years in many inappropriate NPK ratios that many soils could be mined for it. A soil analysis will indicate whether you need a little in your fertiliser or if you have an abundance that may have become locked up in the soil. If the latter is the case then address any pH issues and consider using phosphate solubilising inoculants in your fertilisers to make best use of the soil reserves.

Don’t forget the micronutrients. Magnesium is especially important. It is one of the base atoms in the chlorophyll molecule and will contribute to a good green-up as well as plant health. Iron, manganese and a trace element package are also important within a fertiliser because it only takes one element to be in short supply for the grass plant to underperform.

Biostimulants such as seaweeds, humates and amino acids have a lot to contribute to plant health, root and shoot development, maintaining plant count and helping grass cope with stress situations. These are usually best applied as liquid sprays and when tank mixed with fertilisers they improve the uptake of the nutrients remarkably.

The price

With ever tighter budgets it has never been so important to choose the right fertiliser for the job and to feed your turf with maximum efficiency. Shop around and source your fertilisers by what is right for you and your turf based on the points covered in this article and try not to be too affected by the brand name on the bag.

James Whittick is the marketing and sales manager for Greenbest

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 22, 2012 12:22 Updated
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1 Comment

  1. kathy August 15, 12:37

    Do you have try tea seed pellet as worms killer and organic fertilizer ?

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