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Fertilizers are important for soil

Updated: May 6, 2019

According to the MN Extension Office, Fertilizers are important in lawn care because they supplement the soil with needed nutrients.


Nutrients are needed by grass plants because of the many stresses people apply to them. Grass uses nutrients to repair damage done by normal wear and mowing.Other plants in the landscape, such as trees, flowers and weeds, also consume the nutrients. Nutrients are

lost when clippings are removed while mowing.


The three main nutrients needed by plants are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). For a home lawn,the most important nutrient to add on a regular basis is nitrogen. Phosphorus is present in high levels in many Midwestern soils. Adding phosphorus in the form of fertilizer is usually not needed. Established lawns show little response to added phosphorus. Because phosphorus does not easily move in the soil, additional amounts are often beneficial during establishment of new turf. Only apply phosphorous if a soil test indicates a need. Potassium may need to be supplemented.Coarse-textured (sandy) soils often need added potassium. Use a soil test to determine when to add potassium.

Plants also need many other nutrients, but in very small amounts. These are called micronutrients.

Concentration of nutrients

The label on a bag of fertilizer includes an analysis of the concentration of nutrients. Each number in the analysis represents a percentage of the total weight of the product that is actual nutrient.

The first number indicates the amount of nitrogen, or N.The second number is the amount of phosphorus in the form of phosphate, P2O5.The third number is the amount of potassium in the form of potash, K2O. For instance, a 10-10-10 is a balanced food with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.


High numbers of each nutrient in a particular fertilizer usually means the type of fertilizer can be applied less often. This is similar to differences between a concentrated laundry detergent and a more dilute one.

Natural organic fertilizers usually have a low concentration of nutrients compared to the manufactured types. As a result, more organic fertilizer is needed to supply the same amount of nutrients.

It's important to consider nutrient amounts when figuring cost, since more bags of the low analysis fertilizer will be needed to supply the same amount of nutrients.

A soil test from the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab can help you determine if your lawn is missing or has too much of these essential nutrients.

Many factors affect the amount of nutrients needed for an established home lawn, including:

Turfgrass species. Access to water. Percentage of soil organic matter. Amount of shade. Expectations of the home owner.


Turfgrass usually needs more nitrogen than other nutrients and lawn fertilization programs are based around this nutrient. Turfgrass gets some of the nitrogen it needs from the soil. However, homeowners may want to add supplemental nitrogen to maintain turfgrass quality that they find acceptable.


Click here for a table that outlines when and how much nitrogen is recommended for established lawns based on the amount of maintenance required for the lawn.

Nitrogen recommendations for established lawns

If you are looking for sod or need help with your landscaping, contact Nagel's Nursery.

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