Problems of sustained over-fertilisation of grass

By | 22/12/2015
Lush Grass

I have recently taken on a number of lawns that have previously been maintained by “lawn care professionals”, and I have been absolutely aghast at how bad these customers’ lawns have become as a result of a poor-quality fertilisation programme.

The worst of these lawns are undoubtedly those which have been “cared for” for by these companies for many years … and it seems that the longer that they have had this “care”, the worse they seem to be! Let me explain why…

Lawn care is a long-term commitment. To keep your lawn looking fantastic, you need an annual programme of fertilisation and weed control treatments, moss-control and, less regularly but of equal importance, cultural treatments such as aeration and scarification.

“Little, but often” is a phrase I often use. If you feed your lawn lightly, but regularly, it will become strong, green and healthy, and a beautiful, lush lawn will be your reward. This takes a long time. Usually many months, but often well over a year or more.

This is a truth that many home owners don’t seem to appreciate and this lack of knowledge and quest for a fast, easy fix to their lawn problems has been exploited by both the DIY lawn care product industry and the less reputable lawn care companies.

The reason for this is that the only way to achieve a “quick fix” to any lawn is to apply a fertiliser which is high in nitrogen. After the treatment, often in as little as a week, the lawn will appear to green up tremendously and praise will be heaped upon the product or service.

However, this result will only be short-term. To gain such a quick green-up, the feed needs to be fast acting, and fast-acting feeds don’t last long in the soil, so in just a few weeks the lawn will gradually return back to its previous condition. So, the lawn owner (or lawn service) applies another high-nitrogen fertilisation treatment, and hey presto, the lawn greens up again! And the cycle continues…

Why is over-fertilisation such a problem?

The problem with this over-fertilisation cycle is that the repeated application of a high-nitrogen feed does the lawn absolutely no good at all. It is like giving it a drug … and like many drugs, the lawn becomes an addict and needs more and more for it to be effective, ultimately leading to its demise.

Thatch in a lawn from over-fertilisation
Thick thatch from over-feeding.

Nitrogen encourages grass to produce lots of leaf growth (which creates the lawn green-up) however too much leaf growth from over-fertilisation can quickly become a problem for a lawn.

The first thing you will notice is that you need to cut it more … a lot more, several times a week in fact. Then after a year or more your lawn will start to get spongier, and catch fungal diseases more than it should. This is because all of that lush, soft leaf growth has decayed into the lawn and created a thick layer of thatch which the natural organic decomposition processes cannot cope with … this builds up and up over time creating an disaster of a lawn, to which the only fix is drastic lawn regeneration work, which could have been avoided if a professional lawn fertilisation programme had been followed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times of the year when a high-nitrogen feed is suitable, but applied at the wrong time of year, and without thought to previous treatments, you will only be wasting your money and hurting your lawn in the long run.

My lawn fertilisation programme provides a balanced, year-round programme of fertilisation treatments designed to keep your lawn healthy all through the season, year after year.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kris Lord
The Lawn Man

2 thoughts on “Problems of sustained over-fertilisation of grass

  1. Jessica

    I recently moved to the Modesto area of California which is full sun and high heat in summer. I laid sod and my husband decided to hand sprinkle fertilizer down. We are both new to this and just trying to have a lush green lawn but aren’t succeeding. I am wondering what to do to reverse the results of our newly brown patchy looking grass? Thank you.

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Jessica,
      I can’t advise on grass in California as this is a British blog, with different grass and different issues.
      Contact your local lawn care company, of which I’m sure there are plenty.


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