Test Your Soil
A good approach to proper fertilization is to start with a soil test. Many Florida soils are naturally high in phosphorus, one of three major nutrients in fertilizer. If your soil test shows an adequate level of phosphorus, choose a fertilizer blend that does not contain it. Your soil test will also tell you about your soil’s pH (acidity or alkalinity) levels and other nutrient levels. You can get information on obtaining a soil test from your county Extension office or visit WaterMatters.org/Yards.
Know When to Apply Fertilizer
To prevent fertilizer from washing into water bodies, it’s important to know the right time to fertilize. Follow these tips before fertilizing:
- Consider the time of year, climate, soil type and, most important, type of grass and health or condition of the lawn before applying fertilizer.
- Fertilize only when the grass is actively growing. For instance, during the winter, grass is dormant in many areas of Florida; therefore, fertilizer is not necessary. Fertilizer applied when grass is not growing wastes your money and time, since it will not be beneficially used by the grass. Instead, it will leach through the soil or run off and pollute nearby water bodies.
- If your lawn has problem areas, find out if this is related to a pest, soil or environmental problem such as excess shade or the uneven distribution of irrigation water. These problems should be corrected and not just masked by fertilization.
- If your household uses reclaimed water, check with your utility to determine if your reclaimed water has nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are also in fertilizer. If so, you may not need to fertilize as much.
- Do not fertilize if rain is predicted in the next 24–36 hours or when a heavy rain, tropical storm, hurricane or flood is predicted.