Grass fertilization

Asked January 16, 2014, 7:17 AM EST

Looked at my parents 1500$ Davy tree yard fertilizing bill and was appalled. They suggested 2 grub applications a year and at least 6 fertilizer/bug control application . What do you think is a good program. Thank you

Cuyahoga County Ohio

1 Response

Could you send me a list of exactly what they are proposing as far as treatments and fertilizers including rates of application and timings? Also what kind of grass do they have? I’m guessing cool season, probably 100% KY bluegrass or a KY bluegrass/tall fescue mix. What are your parents expectations for the lawn – where are they in the spectrum from ‘putting green at Augusta’ to ‘as long as it’s green I don’t care’? That way I could give you a clearer picture of what the lawn care company is really proposing.
Two grub treatments seems a bit much. I'm curious when they are recommending these should be carried out. White grubs are typically most vulnerable in August when they are young and still relatively close to the surface of the soil.

As far as fertilizer goes, the first question is did they take/do they plan to take a soil test? This would be important to know what type of fertilizer would be most beneficial based on soil chemistry and how much, if any, lime is needed.
6 applications of fertilizer may or may not be okay depending on the type of grass, level of desired management and the amount of nitrogen applied per application. If it's 1 lb N per 1,000 sf per application, that's more than cool season turf really needs. It could be that the company is applying at different rates at different times of year or just recommending 6 smaller doses of N. That’s question to ask if they haven’t spelled out how much they plan to apply. Ohio State literature recommends ½ lb N in early spring, ½ lb N in late spring/early summer, 1 lb N in early fall and 1-2 lb. in late fall (though if you did 2 lb N, typically this is split into 2 applications of 1 lb N 30 days apart). This gives a total of 3-4 lb N for the year. That doesn’t mean you have to use the maximum. High fertilizer rates, especially if poorly timed, can lead to disease issues, thatch build up and insect issues. In Virginia, for example, I can legally apply 5 lb N per 1,000 sf per year to a cool season for a high maintenance lawn, but we don’t recommend that much for home lawns. Most people in my area can get an acceptable lawn with only 2-3 lb N per 1,000 sf year applied in the fall (with 1 lb N per 1,000 sf per application, applied 30 days apart).
When you say 6 bug applications, do you mean 6 herbicide applications? I can imagine a lawn so infested with insects that you would need 6 application of insecticide (really that would 8 as they were recommending because the 2 grub treatments are insecticides too). If it's 6 herbicides, then that seems a little excessive as well. Not know exactly what they are proposing it’s hard to judge.

Some information you might find useful would be:
What to Look for in a Lawn Care Service - http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/4000/4025.html Fertilization of Lawns - http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/4000/4006.html