Fertilizing Your Lawn For Improved Grass Color & Appearance

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Every homeowner wants a lush lawn with a beautiful green color, but achieving that is easier said than done. Many things can prevent your lawn from reaching its full potential, which is why proper fertilization is so important for the health and appearance of your grass. If you are hoping to create a lush and green lawn without fertilizing, you will likely end up with a discolored disappointment. Let's take a closer look at how fertilizers can give you the green lawn you have always wanted!

What Makes Grass Green?

lawn fertilization example

The vibrant green color of healthy grass is due to a substance called chlorophyll, which helps the grass absorb energy from sunlight. This process is known as photosynthesis, and it is essential for plant life to survive. Chlorophyll absorbs the blue and red wavelengths of light while reflecting back the green wavelength, making lawns appear green in color. If your lawn is struggling to grow properly or is just generally weak and unhealthy, it can not absorb enough energy or create enough chlorophyll to produce the beloved green color.

During photosynthesis, chlorophyll traps energy from sunlight and combines it with carbon dioxide and water to create glucose, which is a type of sugar that provides fuel for the plant's growth. As this process continues over time, more chlorophyll molecules are created within each blade of grass resulting in an even greener appearance overall. Without sufficient amounts of sunlight or nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, this process can be hindered and can result in discolored patches on your lawn.

The Role Of Nitrogen

npk for the soil

Nitrogen is the most important of the 3 major macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; or NPK) found in lawn fertilizers. Nitrogen contributes to both the color and the thickness of your lawn in a number of ways. Nitrogen is the most important of the three major macronutrients found in lawn fertilizers and plays a crucial role in both color and density. It helps to produce chlorophyll, which makes grass appear green due to its ability to absorb energy from sunlight for photosynthesis. The more chlorophyll present in the plant, the greener the lawn will appear, and adding nitrogen goes a long way in maintaining that green color.

Nitrogen is an essential element for healthy grass growth because it enables plants to create proteins and enzymes needed for proper growth. When applied correctly, nitrogen provides a boost of energy that encourages fast and tall growth while also helping lawns grow thicker blades of grass with a vibrant green color. The larger the individual blades of grass are, the more nutrients your lawn is able to absorb from the soil and sunlight. Applying nitrogen-rich fertilizer to your lawn is one of the most important things you can do to improve its color and texture. The main benefits of nitrogen are the following:

  • Faster growth
  • Taller growth
  • Greener grass
  • Denser lawns

The Role Of Iron

All nutrients and ingredients found in lawn fertilizers help create a better-looking lawn. In addition to the macronutrients that make up the NPK ratio, many micronutrients can be found in lawn fertilizers that also help improve your grass. One of the most important of these nutrients is iron, especially when trying to achieve a certain aesthetic for your lawn.

Iron in fertilizers plays a supporting role in the functions of nitrogen, such as the production of chlorophyll. Just like lawns can become discolored due to a lack of nitrogen, grass can also start to turn yellow if your lawn has an iron deficiency. However, when proper levels of both nitrogen and iron are present, your lawn can maximize its chlorophyll production and show off a deep green or blue-green hue. To achieve this, test your soil for nitrogen and iron levels to make sure it actually needs more of these nutrients. If it does, look for fertilizers that contain 2.5% iron, as this is the optimal iron content for a well-rounded fertilizer.

How Fertilizers Make Lawns Thicker

liquid fertilizer spreader

We have covered that nitrogen and other nutrients help increase lawn density by feeding your grass, but there are many ways the effects of lawn fertilization help increase grass density! Fertilizers that contain slow-release nitrogen and phosphorus help to promote strong root development and growth, which will in turn lead to a thicker lawn. Deeper and thicker roots mean thicker grass blades above the soil. Depending on the type of grass and how the roots develop, improved root systems can also lead to new grass "plants" sprouting up from underground rhizomes.

As the roots develop and grass blades become thicker and more plentiful, weeds will also have a harder time growing in your lawn. Lawn weeds drain the soil of the nutrients and moisture that your grass needs to survive. While removing weeds chemically or manually is the best way to stop the spread, simply fertilizing your grass can also help control weeds. Unfertilized lawns also become patchy and thin quickly because weeds start to steal nutrients. By fertilizing, you are adding those nutrients back into the soil so your lawn can absorb what it needs to grow thick and strong. This will help your grass outcompete weeds for resources. Below are just a few of the main ways fertilizers create thicker lawns:

  • More nutrients for your grass
  • More opportunities for new growth
  • Less space for weeds to grow
  • Better defense against pests
  • Resistance to fungal diseases
  • Deeper, complex root development

Timing Matters!

When it comes to fertilizing your lawn, timing is key. For cool-season grasses like rye or fescue, the best time to fertilize is early spring or late fall, as this will ensure that your grass has enough nutrients during its peak growing period. If you live in a warm climate like here in Louisiana, your lawn likely consists of a warm-season grass type like Bermuda or St. Augustine. For These types, the best time to fertilize is during the summer months when temperatures are higher and your lawn needs more nutrients and energy to survive.

Of course, if you are starting out a new lawn from scratch or taking over maintenance duties on a struggling lawn, a good starter fertilizer with plenty of nitrogen can be applied whenever your lawn care routine starts. Starter fertilizers are designed to jump-start your lawn with a quick burst of energy to get your grass growing. From there, it is up to you to apply fertilizers at the right times throughout the year.

Don't Over-Fertilize Your Lawn

Scaled Granular fertilizer example

Lawn fertilizers are necessary for creating lush, green lawns, but they do need to be monitored and applied appropriately. After all, we are talking about chemicals being sprayed or placed onto your lawn, and too many of these chemicals could result in damaged grass. If this happens, your lawn will experience the opposite effect of what is intended by applying fertilizer, meaning your grass will become overstressed and start to become thin and discolored.

A good rule of thumb is to apply 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of your lawn. This should be done at least at the beginning and end of your lawn's growing season, and up to 4 times per season is considered safe and effective. To make sure you don't damage your grass by over-fertilizing, call a professional lawn care company like Brothers here in Louisiana! Professional fertilization services will help ensure the best results for a thick and green lawn!