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Traditional lawn fertilization practices can lead to surface and groundwater pollution. Even when applied at the recommended rates, highly concentrated chemical fertilizers cause water pollution when a heavy rain or too much irrigation follows soon after application. In addition, many homeowners do not calibrate their fertilizer spreaders or they throw fertilizer on their lawns by hand, leading to nitrogen and phosphate loading in lakes.
While banning the application of certain nutrients can reduce pollution problems, a more feasible solution is the use of more sustainable practices and natural products. For example, the recycling of nutrients through the return of grass clippings (using a mulching mower) stimulates soil biological activity and supplies at least two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year without causing any pollution. Applying low levels of natural nutrients such as fish, kelp, humates and corn-gluten meal stimulates the proliferation of microbes and earthworms, which readily consume nutrients before they can reach lakes. As the creatures in the soil multiply, they excrete nutrients and die or are consumed, digested and excreted by other organisms, slowly releasing nutrients as plants need them.
An actual comparison of natural and chemical fertilizer illustrates the difference. One homeowner applies 30-5-10 fertilizer to his lawn at 20 pounds per 5,000 square feet, while his neighbor applies one quart (2.3 pounds) of fish-kelp humate fertilizer per 5,000 square feet. The natural fertilizer puts 0.0184 pounds of nitrogen and 0.013 pounds of phosphate per 1,000 square feet into the soil, and the naturally fertilized lawn is more drought and pest resistant and requires less irrigation because it uses less water. The natural fertilizer also stimulates biological activity, creating stable soil aggregates that enable the roots to go deeper and develop better, keeping nutrients in the root zone. The chemical fertilizer, on the other hand, puts 1.2 pounds of nitrogen and 0.2 pounds of phosphate per 1,000 square feet into the soil (65 times more nitrogen and 15 times more phosphate than the natural fertilizer). Because the grass relies on the chemical to supply the nutrients, the chemically fertilized lawn uses more water and requires constant irrigation. In addition, the chemical toxifies the soil, inhibiting biological activity and leading to compacted soil and an unhealthy root environment. Most of the nutrients are free to flow over the compacted surface, into the surface water or past the restricted root zone into the ground water. Research shows that up to 96 percent of high-analysis chemical fertilizers are not taken up by plants.
Nitrogen and phosphate are present in all ecosystems, and nature knows how to hold them and make them readily available when they are needed. Fertilization in itself is not inherently bad, but the type and amount of fertilization is the key to producing healthy lawns and eliminating water pollution.
Natural lawn care offers lawn-care professionals and homeowners alike an environmentally friendly, easy-to-use alternative to chemical fertilizer. Natural care improves the beauty and vigor of lawns — and may reduce costs. Converting to natural lawn care is easy with AGGRAND products.
The foundation of the AGGRAND natural lawn-care program, AGGRAND Natural Fertilizer is formulated to improve your whole operation, from the quality of the lawns you produce to your profitability.
Prevailing lawn care practices depend on high rates of nitrogen input via dissolved inorganic salts, which promotes excessive leaf-development to root-reserve ratio. Such over-abundant top growth is easy prey for disease-causing organisms and insects, while the shallow root system can’t store the reserves to cope with drought stress. Heavy, excessive top growth also leads to an excessive amount of clippings, which outstrip the ability of soil organisms to break down dead materials, leading to thatch buildup, increased disease risk and unsightly appearance. Finally, all that top growth needs frequent mowing.
Rapid leaf growth
Poor root development
Poor stress tolerance
Rapid thatch build-up
Poor nutrient cycling
Depletes plant reserves
Favors weed growth
Leaches out of soil
Pollutes nearby waters
Increases soil salt content
Excessive nitrogen and salt
Harms soil microbes
Reduces nutrient cycling
Decreases organic matter
Promotes soil compaction
Damages soil structure
Balanced leaf and root development
Reduced mowing frequency
Good stress resistance
No thatch build-up
Cycles nutrients efficiently
Increases plant reserves
Favors grass growth
Stable in soil
No leaching, no pollution
No salt increase
Efficient nutrient cycling
Increases organic matter
Increases soil aeration
Improves soil structure
Allows soils to return to more
natural pH, salinity and overall
chemical and physical balance,
encouraging the return of
earthworms and microbes
Application rates and timing vary according to grass species, soil type and lawn condition. Normally, four to six applications of AGGRAND Natural Fertilizer per year are sufficient. The first application is made as soon as the grass shows signs of growth (green color) in early spring. The second application follows in three to four weeks (shorter interval for sandy soil). On lawns in good condition (mostly turf grass, with few weeds and a small amount of thatch) a third application can be made before the grass goes into summer dormancy. Resume fertilization in late summer when the grass starts to grow again. Fertilize two or three more times before the end of the season at the same interval as the spring fertilizations. To obtain the most comprehensive understanding of the nutrient levels and requirements of a particular soil, AGGRAND recommends a soil analysis be performed before determining a fertilization program. Soil Analysis Kits are available from AGGRAND at a nominal cost.
The addition of 1 pint/5,000 sq. ft. of AGGRAND Natural Kelp and Sulfate of Potash to the spray mix once in early spring, before summer heat or drought, and in early fall provides increased beneficial effects to plant health. Addition of 1 quart/2,000 sq. ft. of AGGRAND Liquid Bonemeal once in early spring or later fall provides further enhancement of root development.
rates for specific grass species:
1 quart per 5,000 to 8,000 sq. ft.
• Buffalo grass
• Fine fescue
• Tall fescue
1 quart per 3,000 to 5,000 sq. ft.
• Bermuda grass
• Carpet grass
• Kentucky bluegrass
• Perennial rye grass
• Zoysia grass
1 quart per 2,000 to 4,000 sq. ft.
• Bahia grass
• Bent grass
• Centipede grass
• St. Augustine grass
Someday, after a soaking rain, cut a sod sample three to four inches deep.
You should see:
Moisture throughout the sample. Dry area may indicate thatch build-up or soil compaction.
Roots throughout the sample. Roots shorter than four inches may indicate soil compaction, mowing too short or nutrient deficiencies.
Less than one-quarter foot of thatch. Deeper thatch encourages diseases.
An ongoing AGGRAND natural lawn-care program helps keep pH in the optimal zone, for greatest nutrient availability and superior lawn health and beauty.
helps lawns develop deep root systems with proportional top growth by supplying nitrogen as part of a balance of nutrients. Natural lawns resist disease, insects and drought much more successfully than lawns treated with chemical fertilizers because of their balanced growth. Lawns managed naturally cycle nutrients efficiently, preventing thatch build-up. In fact, recycling thatch actually gives the lawn an extra two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the growing season – a nice little boost. Finally, natural lawns require less mowing than high-nitrogen lawns.
Conventional lawn-care practices may cause micronutrient deficiencies and inefficient nitrogen usage. Plants take up nitrogen and micronutrients in a fixed proportion, so when nitrogen is highly abundant, micronutrients should be, too. Most commercial fertilizers don’t supply micronutrients, so lawns may suffer micronutrient deficiencies and often fail to use all the supplied nitrogen.
Natural lawns depend on fixation and release of nutrients by soil microbes to regulate soil fertility. Nutrients that are not directly taken up by the grass are stored and released slowly in proportions that promote healthy growth.
contains kelp and fish, potent macro and micronutrient sources. Many of the nutrients are in chelated form, which holds them in reserve until needed. Plants get the nutrients they need when they need them.
Conventional fertilizers supply nitrogen as a salt. Salts dissolve quickly in soil, releasing nitrogen and encouraging weed growth. In fact, a late-season nitrogen spike specifically favors crabgrass.
Lawn grasses respond to a nitrogen spike by producing excessive top growth in lieu of storing carbohydrates. Lawns with poor carbohydrate reserves go dormant during drought or other stressful times.
Rapid fertilizer release also allows nitrogen to leach through the soil, which pollutes ground and surface waters.
supplies many of its nutrients as organic compounds, such as carbohydrates and proteins. These water-insoluble compounds are held in the soil until microbes and other organisms digest them, “time-releasing” plant nutrients, with no leaching, no pollution.
Salt-based fertilizers toxify the soil, which reduces soil microbe and earthworm populations and consequently reduces nutrient cycling, decreases soil organic matter content, increases soil compaction and damages soil structure.
helps restore soils to their natural nutrient balance, encouraging soil microbes and earthworms to repopulate the soil which increases nutrient cycling and loosens soil structure.
Sprayable liquid, available in quarts, 5-gallon twin packs, 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon totes. Guaranteed analysis: 4-3-3. One quart treats 3,000 to 8,000 square feet.
provides a source of natural phosphorus immediately available to your lawn. Phosphorus makes an important contribution to root development, which is essential to the establishment and longterm vigor of the lawn.
Sprayable liquid, available in quarts, 5-gallon twin packs, 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon totes. Guaranteed analysis: 0‑12‑0. One quart treats 1,000 to 2,500 square feet.
contains high-quality (99.6% pure) dolomitic limestone in suspension specifically formulated for faster penetration around the roots. AGGRAND Natural Liquid Lime features lime particles typically much finer than those of conventional, bagged lime. As a result, it penetrates the soil profile more rapidly, providing immediate availability.
Sprayable liquid, available in quarts, 5-gallon twin packs, 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon totes. One quart treats 1,000 to 5,000 square feet.
enhances plant health by providing potassium, micronutrients, sulfur, hormones and amino acids. AGGRAND Natural Kelp with 2% Sulfur increases heat, cold and drought tolerance while decreasing the susceptibility to insect attack and infection by disease-causing organisms.
Sprayable liquid, available in quarts, 5-gallon twin packs, 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon totes. Guaranteed analysis: 0-0-8. One quart treats 5,000 to 10,000 square feet.
Do not apply AGGRAND fertilizers in direct sunlight or immediately after rainfall or irrigation.
Lawns that exhibit slow growth, yellow color and a large number of weeds may have other problems. If weeds are problematic, they need to be removed either by hand weeding or the application of an herbicide. Herbicide applications should be made when the weeds are just beginning to grow. As a general rule, grassy weeds begin to grow in early spring when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F, whereas broad leaves take off later in spring when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees F. It makes matters worse to “weed-n-feed” the lawn because resistant weeds will grow that much faster. A workable plan involves these steps:
Note weed types and areas in the lawn where they are growing the first year.
Speak with an authorized weed-control specialist, and implement a weed control plan the second year.
In early fall, after weeds are controlled, over-seed the lawn with turf species mixed with compost or well-composted manure (if the lawn is very uneven, one-third sand can be used in the mixture to help level the lawn).
Fertilize the lawn with AGGRAND Natural Fertilizer as you would normally once the new grass has been mowed two or three times.
Compacted soil can cause the growth of dandelions or quackgrass. Check to see if the soil is compacted by trying to push a blunt object into it in a number of different spots. If the soil is difficult to penetrate, then the lawn needs to be renovated (killed, desodded, tilled, reseeded) or dethatched, aerated and overseeded. Although it may be the only workable solution on very weedy or compacted lawns, check with some lawn-care professionals before taking the renovation route. If renovation is necessary be sure to add compost/manure, adjust soil pH, and apply one quart each of AGGRAND Natural Fertilizer and AGGRAND Liquid Bonemeal and one pint of AGGRAND Natural Kelp and Sulfate of Potash per 1,000 sq. ft. before the final trip over the ground with the rototiller.
Slow growth and yellowish grass may be the result of compacted soil because oxygen is unable to penetrate into the root zone where the roots use it for respiration (the release of energy from stored carbohydrates). The other cause of yellowish grass is low pH. Another sign of low pH is the growth of moss in the lawn. Soil pH below 6.0 can be increased by applying bagged lime. In addition, apply one quart per 1,000 sq. ft. every three to four weeks during spring and fall (along with fertilizer applications).
Dealer Dave Richards of Manchester, Md. developed a commercial lawn fertilization business using AGGRAND Natural Liquid Fertilizers.
“AGGRAND just does a terrific job,” Richards said.
He started using it several years ago when he became interested in natural fertilizers to help protect the environment in the Chesapeake Bay area where he lives. The bay is heavily polluted with chemical fertilizers from farmers and lawn companies. “About 92 percent of the nitrogen ends up in run off in the wells and streams and eventually Chesapeake Bay,” Richards said, which endangers the thriving seafood commerce there.
“AGGRAND is only 4 percent nitrogen and is 20 percent more effective than chemical fertilizers,” he said.
He developed his own spray rig (see Winter 2010 AGGRAND News) and uses it to fertilize lawns and horse pastures for his customers. “They keep coming back,” Richards said.
His customers get an individualized fertilization plan based on soil analysis, which tells him exactly what each lawn or pasture needs for the best result. “The development I’ve gotten from these lawns and pastures is just fantastic,” Richards said. “They hold up in the heat and drought, cold, stress and against disease.”
A season of drought and high temperatures in 2010 put AGGRAND fertilizer to the test. Lawns that were not treated with AGGRAND burned up in the dry, hot conditions, whereas the lawns he fertilized with AGGRAND needed no special care. “They just held up,” Richards said. “Just one application of AGGRAND fertilizer and the lawns and pastures stayed so nice. They produced a stronger, healthier plant.”
One customer had been plagued with thin grass for many years until Richards did a soil analysis and fertilized with AGGRAND Natural Fertilizer. His customer told him, “Our lawn has never looked this good in 20 years.”
His business has grown by word of mouth. “My lawns and horse pastures have come along so beautifully in the last three years,” he said. “I expect that within the next two years I’m going to have a very nice business. I had a very good fall.”
Nothing beats the convenience of using the liquid fertilizers, he said. He uses the 2.5 gallon containers and simply pours it into his tank.