Maintaining the nutritional balance of soil is arguably the most important factor behind a lush and thriving lawn, alongside climate and a sufficient supply of water. To ensure lawns stay healthy and vibrant, they should receive periodical fertilisations, especially after the soil has been exhausted by long and grueling summers. This is particularly important for lawns which don’t enjoy the benefit of lawn mowers with mulching functions.
However, before rushing to spread a few bags of fertiliser on your lawn, you should know that fertilisers are not the first option to restore the nutritional balance of soils. Let’s delve a little deeper, shall we?
Why Your Lawn May Not Need Fertilisers Just Yet
It is vital to understand that fertilisers are not plant food – you won’t fatten up the grass on your lawn by flooding them with fertilisers. Plants create their own food through photosynthesis, which is essentially a process of converting energy from sunlight to chemical energy to facilitate the production of carbohydrates and complex sugars.
Fertilisers supply plants with nutrients and chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorous and soluble salt compounds needed for photosynthesis. However, the distribution of these nutrients and chemicals are never even, especially for aged lawns. While the lack of fertilisers can affect the health of your lawn, over-fertilising is actually an even more troubling matter. Excess fertiliser cannot be naturally removed from your lawn by regular watering or rainfall. As such, their presence will alter the soil by raising salinity and pH levels. Not only will this affect the efficiency of food manufacturing in grass, it could also lead to years of below-average growth, increased susceptibility to diseases, and pests, as well as less vibrant colour.
Investigate the Health of Your Soil
The sky is not falling, so get out from under the table – testing your soil is actually a relatively simple matter to resolve. You don’t even have to wear a lab coat! Visit your nearest home and garden outlet and purchase pH and salinity test kits. They are fairly inexpensive, but very accurate. Follow the instructions supplied. Alternatively, you can call your local agricultural office or university agricultural department. They are usually more than willing to perform soil testing for a small fee (sometimes free). You will need to bring the samples to them, though.
Repairing Your Soil
Restoring the pH level of your soil is not hard. There are several naturally-occurring compounds you can use. Calcite limestone, hydrated lime and wood ashes are some common additives used by lawn owners as they are inexpensive and easy to use. You can obtain these additives from your local home and garden centre as well. Make sure to follow the instructions and recommended dosage to prevent your soil from becoming too alkaline. For salinity, the recovery will take slightly longer. However, the process is also equally simple. Once again, head over to your local garden centre and purchase gypsum. Gypsum contains calcium in soluble form, which will bind the salt in the soil. You will need to improve the irrigation on your lawn to help leach the salt away.
Obviously, if your soil is in pink health, you don’t have to do any of these steps. However, it would not hurt to start using organic compost, vermicompost and cured manures on your soil instead of rushing to fertilisers again. Consistent periodical application of organic compost and bio-fertiliser will help to improve and maintain the nutritional balance and long-term health of your soil.