Help me fertilize for the first time
July 30, 2009 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a brand new house in mid-May. I've never owned a home before and I'm new to yard keeping. The entire yard was sodded in May. Recently my builder mentioned following Scott's four step process. I'm located in the midwest. Can you explain what Scott's four step process is? Can you also point me to a link (preferably on for exactly which fertilizer I should buy to use this week? Any other tips to help a newbie? Thank you!!
posted by gocubbies to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, did you even Google it to see? The first Google result explains the steps in detail and tells you what you should be buying.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:47 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Scotts is a major fertilizer producer and they have every incentive to get you involved in the cycle of paying them money. Your builder may or may not have a financial incentive in recommending Scotts.

Take a step back. You don't have to apply the PERFECT fertiizer THIS WEEK to make this property yours. There is no pressure. You don't have to have a putting-green perfect lawn. There are many many beautiful and easy-to-maintain alternatives.

So what do you want to do in your backyard? What do you want to have in your front yard?
posted by dogrose at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2009

the single best advice I can give you is to be careful spreading fertilizer. Too much will scorch the lawn and it will take a long time to grow back. Fill the spreader over a concrete pad so you can sweep up any that spills. Be careful that you don't dump out the spreader at the end either. I have several scorched marks on my lawn due to spreading it just a little too thick.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:37 PM on July 30, 2009

(The "organic approach to lawn care" is also good because it's cheaper and easier, IMO. Instead of a neverending cycle of fertilizing, you can focus on building a healthy and more self-maintaining lawn that is more drought-tolerant than regular lawns. To do this you want to: include a mix of beneficial plants (for example if you include white clover in your yard, it will fix nitrogen for you, without you having to fertilize), do things to promote beneficial insects and worms etc, mow the grass relatively high, and leave the clippings on the lawn rather than bagging and removing them.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:54 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

When you're shopping for a spreader, I can tell you from experience to buy a broadcast spreader, not a drop spreader. A broadcast spreader flings fertilizer/seed/etc out in every direction as you walk. A drop spreader just drops it straight down.
The problem with that is that you need to ensure every pass is exactly next to the previous one, which in my experience is impossible. If you don't want your lawn to be alternating stripes of green and brown, spend the $10 more and get the broadcast spreader.
posted by jpdoane at 9:54 PM on July 30, 2009

Is there something wrong with your lawn that you need to fertilize it this week? I have a hard time believing that a sod lawn laid down in May needs fertilizer at this point. Plus it's not the right time to fertilize; you want to do it in Fall and Spring. If you think your lawn is looking yellow and therefore it needs fertilizer, I would hazard a guess that it is being overwatered; nitrogen is less available in wet soil, or in sandy soils that leach.

I have no arguments with the basics in this guide to organic lawn care. Even if you want to use non-organic fertilizer (though I can't think of a good reason why you would when organic fertilizer is much better for building a healthy lawn and soil system) it is quite good for mowing height and watering and pH all the other stuff. The only thing it leaves out is raking- raking lawns helps prevent thatch buildup and also forces roots down into the soil. If you use a mulching lawnmower, raking is essential.

Also: dogrose is totally right about Scotts. I know having an amazing green lawn is a lovely thing, but you don't need Scott's system to do it.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:01 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The thing with new house construction is that most tear up the soil so what's under the grass right now is not likely to be whatever topsoil that was there before construction began. If you're lucky, it will be loose soil that will gradually improve over the years as worms and other creatures come back. If you add chemical week killers to your lawn care, you will poison the creatures that help give you a natural lawn. I agree with the guide to organic lawn care. And, while you're at it, rolling, aireating (rolling over it with something that punches tiny divots out) and dethatching are imho mostly a waste of time. Where I am, dethatching is what comes up when you rake leaves in the fall. Topdressing in the fall when grass naturally seeds itself using a mix of fine soil or fine damp peat moss and seed will bulk up the lawn. The best things are: cut long, water right, choose the right grass for your climate, sun conditions and traffic pattern, and dig out weeds instead of poisoning your earth. If you get into the habit of using Mother Nature right instead of chemicals, you won't have to worry if the kids eat something out of the garden. And, btw, never assume that plants you can buy in your local nursery aren't poisonous.
posted by x46 at 11:42 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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