Using fertilizer on your lawn is a great way to keep your turf lush, healthy, and fresh looking. While high-quality fertilizer, if used in the right amount, will provide you with green and thick lawn grass, using too much fertilizer will be counterproductive.
It’ll stress plants and grass in your lawn, leading to fertilizer burn. If you’re already experiencing this problem, then fret not. That’s because, in this article, we’ll discuss a detailed method that will help you reverse your lawn fertilizer burn.
How to Identify Fertilizer Burn
Before getting into the details of reversing fertilizer burn, let’s discuss how to identify it in the first place. Although fertilizer burn can vary in severity, the main symptom of this problem is always the same: discoloration.
If you have a mild fertilizer burn, you’ll see yellow or slightly brown streaks through it. Additionally, you won’t break the grass blade by touching it, if it’s burnt mildly.
Whereas severe fertilizer burns typically have a tan or brown color, making the grass blades brittle. They'll break immediately if you try to bend grass blades with severe fertilizer burn.
Here are some important tips that will help you identify fertilizer burn.
- Fertilizer burns usually appear a day or two after the fertilizer application. However, they can take up to two weeks as well.
- You’ll see patches of brown or yellow grass on your lawn.
- If you use a spreader to apply fertilizer on your lawn, you’ll likely see long strips of burnt grass. These strips show the area where you overlapped the fertilizer.
How Does Fertilizer Burn Occur?
If you don’t already know, lawn fertilizers contain different elements, such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. They can also have mineral salts that your lawn soil absorbs.
When you spread too much fertilizer on your lawn, the salts in the product start drawing moisture from grass blades. It results in discoloration and can also kill grass in the worst cases.
Fixing Fertilizer Burn: Step-by-Step Method
If you have fertilizer burns on your lawn, consider using the steps listed below. It’ll help you fix fertilizer burn effectively.
Step 1: Inspect Your Lawn
You should start by assessing the damage that fertilizer burn has done. Inspect each burn carefully to check the grassroots in order to determine how deep the problem goes.
Generally, it’s easy to recover slightly yellow grass with healthy roots. You only need to water such patches to help grass, with mild fertilizer burn, bounce back.
However, you might not be able to recover crispy brown grass. You’ll need to remove such patches with a shovel and add new topsoil and grass seed.
Step 2: Remove Fertilizer Leftover
As mentioned, fertilizer burns usually appear a day or two after the fertilizer application. So, you won’t see any leftovers if you use quick-release liquid fertilizer.
However, if you apply granular fertilizer, you’ll be able to find some of its granules on the ground. Use your hands (with gloves on) or grab a broom to remove as many of these granules as possible to get rid of excess fertilizer.
You don’t want to water burnt grass that still has fertilizer around it, as it’ll make the problem worse.
Step 3: Water the Grass
Watering your grass will allow it to dilute and eliminate excess salts. It’ll be enough to catch the fertilizer burn early when the grass still has healthy roots. You want to keep watering affected areas until the soil can’t suck any more water in.
Ensure you water your entire lawn (follow your usual watering technique for healthy areas). You’ll need to water your lawn using this technique daily for seven to 10 days to help recover the grass. In addition, you should water the lawn in the morning as it’ll mitigate the risk of fungal diseases.
Step 4: Inspect Again
You'll see new growth if you use the watering method discussed in the previous step. However, if you see no visible difference, you’ll need to inspect the roots again. If there are new grassroots, then you’re on the right track.
Whereas, if everything is still the same as it was on the first day of watering, the damage is beyond repair. In this case, you’ll need to plant new grass.
Step 5: Plant New Grass
Pick up a shovel or trowel to remove dead grass (with two to three inches of soil) from the affected spots and get rid of it. Then, water the treated area generously and wait for a week. You might need to water the area again during this time to prevent it from drying.
After that, you can plant new grass. You can reseed the lawn or lay new sod depending on the size of the affected areas.
If you had to remove dead grass from a small area, you can easily fix the problem by just reseeding. However, you’ll need to lay new sod if you have to remove burnt grass from a large area.
If you’re planning to reseed, cover each grass seed with organic mulch or straws to keep harmful insects, such as critters, at bay.
On the other hand, if you’re laying a sod, be certain to push it down properly. It’ll help the roots to hold firmly on the soil.
Step 6: Take Care of New Grass
Once you have reseeded or re-sodded, take care of it properly to help the new grass thrive in the new environment. Keep watering the treated areas adequately until new roots develop. After that, you can water your lawn two or three times a week.
You’ll also need to apply fertilizer on your lawn but use it in the right amount to avoid facing the same problem again that you’ve just fixed. Your newly grown grass will need fertilizer application two to three weeks after plantation.
Another important factor to keep in mind is to avoid mowing the grass until it reaches a height of at least three inches. Although trimming the grass helps it to grow quickly, if you carry out the mowing process before the grass reaches a proper height, it can die.
How to Prevent Fertilizer Burn
Having grass with fertilizer burn in your lawn is a frustrating experience, and it takes a lot of time and effort to solve this problem. To ensure you don’t face this issue again, use the following preventative measures.
Use Organic Fertilizer
Using synthetic or chemical fertilizers on your lawn increases the risk of fertilizer burn because they usually contain mineral content in high amounts. Therefore, we recommend you use organic fertilizer to keep your grass and plants healthy.
Compost is an excellent example of organic fertilizer. Not only is it cheap, but it also contains low salt content and minimizes the risk of fertilizer burns.
Use Granular Fertilizer
Use granular fertilizers (slow-release fertilizers), as they slowly release minerals in the soil. In addition, it also makes it easy to see where you have applied the fertilizer. As a result, you’ll be able to pick up the fertilizer’s granules easily if they’re in excess in a certain area.
Important Note: Add your fertilizer to the spreader on a hard surface like a patio or driveway. It’ll prevent accidental spills in the lawn that can cause fertilizer burns.
Follow Instructions Carefully
Different types of fertilizers come with different application instructions, depending on the materials they contain.
Whether you're using a synthetic or organic (liquid or granular) fertilizer, don’t forget to read the instructions listed on the package before applying it.
It’ll help you use the fertilizer in the right amount to avoid fertilizer burns.
Don’t Stress Your Yard
If you have a lawn with unhealthy and weak grass and needs immediate attention, you can use fertilizer to bring it back to life. It’s very tempting to apply more fertilizer than required/recommended in such a situation, which can lead to fertilizer burns.
So, avoid using this approach, as it’ll do more harm than good. Additionally, it’s also important not to apply fertilizer on your lawn if it's recovering from a pest infection, disease, drought, or severe heat.
The weak grass won’t be able to absorb the chemical minerals present in fertilizer, and they’ll further damage the grass.
Water the Grass Regularly
It’s not possible to overstate the importance of watering your lawn grass. To keep your lawn healthy, it’s crucial to water the grass regularly to keep the soil moist.
It’ll allow plants and grass to absorb the chemicals and minerals that fertilizer offers to thrive instead of dying because of them.
While it’s possible to end up with fertilized burns due to over-fertilization, you can reverse this problem if you act quickly. Ensure you inspect your grass as soon as you see discoloration, even in a small area.
If there are excess fertilizer granules, remove them quickly and start watering the grass if the roots are healthy. If the grass is beyond repair, remove it and add new seeds or lay new sod in the affected area.
As discussed in this guide, take care of the new grass properly by watering, fertilizing, and mowing. Don’t forget to follow the preventative measures to avoid future fertilizer burns.