Installing turf is the fastest route to getting your dream lawn. But, a lush lawn doesn’t just happen—proper preparation of the soil is necessary and this includes applying pre-turf fertilizer.
If you have been wondering what pre-turf fertilizer is, you have come to the right place. We’ll explain everything you need to know about this type of fertilizer for your lawn.
What Is Pre Turf Fertilizer?
Grass doesn’t need anything extra to grow, right? Well, it might seem so but the secret to a verdant, deep green, and springy garden is fertilizer. Without the right nutrients, grass will not flourish even when other conditions are right such as the availability of water and sunlight.
As the name implies, pre-turf fertilizer or starter fertilizer is a nitrogen feed that is applied to the soil before laying turf. When turf is harvested, a large portion of the roots of the grass is cut out. The roots are where the nutrients are stored and cutting them means that the grass is left with little to no nutrients. Therefore, it is necessary to apply fertilizer to the soil to avail the nutrients that the turf needs to flourish into a lush lawn.
Pre-turf fertilizer vs Regular Fertilizer
A question that often comes up is whether pre-turf fertilizer and regular fertilizer are interchangeable. Regular and starter fertilizer have different nutrient profiles and are each used at different phases of gardening.
Pre-turf or starter fertilizer contains a higher amount of phosphorous, which helps the turf to take root. By applying phosphorous to the soil before installing turf, you give the sod the nutrients it needs to fight off disease and weeds.
Another difference is that pre-turf fertilizer is not as concentrated as regular fertilizer. Starter fertilizer is milder and is less likely to damage the roots.
What Nutrients Does Turf Require?
Turf requires macro and micronutrients for normal growth. A good quality pre-turf fertilizer will contain all the required nutrients in the right proportions. The main nutrients that turf requires are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Others are oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, magnesium, sulphur and calcium.
Starter fertilizer will also contain micronutrients such as zinc, iron, molybdenum, manganese, copper, chlorine, and boron. Turfgrass only requires these nutrients in small quantities. Whether the nutrient is required in small or large quantities, the slightest deficiency of any of these nutrients will greatly affect the quality of your turf.
Let’s talk about the major nutrients that pre-turf fertilizer provides:
- Nitrogen: Most starter fertilizers for lawns have a high nitrogen concentration. Nitrogen plays the critical role of supporting the growth of grass blades and promotes the production of chlorophyll, which gives grass the attractive, deep green colour that we all want our gardens to have.
- Phosphorus: Pre-turf fertilizer is also rich in phosphorus, which helps with vigorous root growth. Deep, strong roots allow the grass to absorb all the nutrients required for proper growth and development.
- Potassium: Potassium gives your lawn the ability to absorb as much water as is needed for maximum growth and the fighting power to fend off diseases
Tips for shopping for pre-turf fertilizers
We’ll take a look at how much fertilizer you need to apply in a bit. But, first, let’s talk about shopping for starter fertilizer.
When shopping for pre-turf fertilizer, locate the three numbers printed on the bag. These numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the fertilizer.
Different types of fertilizers will have different ratios of these crucial minerals. For example, a 20-16-5 fertilizer contains 20 per cent nitrogen. This number tells you how much fertilizer you need to apply for the proper growth of your lawn.
When it comes to how much fertilizer you should apply, what you should remember is that one pound of nitrogen should be applied for every 1,000 square feet. If your fertilizer contains a high percentage of nitrogen, the actual amount of fertilizer needed to supply the recommended one pound for 1000 square feet will be less compared to a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen.
All in all, it is recommended that you opt for pre-turf fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 4:1:2 or 3:1:2 to get your lawn off to a good start.
Calculating how much fertilizer to apply
Applying the right amount of starter fertilizer is as important as applying the right type. A common challenge many gardeners face is determining how much fertilizer is enough to supply the required amount of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
So, say you have a 50-pound bag of fertilizer with the mineral ratio printed as 28-6-12. The easiest way to calculate the amount of fertilizer you will need for every 1000 square feet is to divide the recommended amount of nitrogen i.e. 1 pound for every 1000 square feet by the percentage of nitrogen contained in the fertilizer i.e. 28 per cent in this case.
You will require 1-pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet ÷ 0.28 = 3.6. You will therefore need to apply 3.6 pounds of the 28-6-12 pre-turf fertilizer to meet the 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Types of Nitrogen Pre-Turf Fertilizers
There are several types of pre-turf fertilizers but they are categorized into two groups: slow release and quick release fertilizers.
1. Slow-release fertilizers
Slow-release fertilizers are especially important in the soil preparation process for laying lawn turf. This type of fertilizer slowly releases nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil for a longer period.
The controlled release action gives the turf roots enough time to absorb and assimilate the nutrients, which allows for proper growth and development of your lawn. Also known as controlled-release, slow-release fertilizers are a bit pricier than their quick release counterparts are.
On the upside, slow-release fertilizers are less likely to run-off and contaminate groundwater and are also less likely to burn turf.
2. Quick-release fertilizers
Quick-release fertilizers release nitrogen into the soil at a much faster rate. As a result, their effects are seen faster. For example, when applied to the soil, the turf takes on a lush green colour within no time. Apply quick-release fertilizer frequently to slow down excess grass growth and to avoid burning the turf.
Soil Test: How To Know The Needs of Your Soil
The condition of the soil in your garden will determine the amount of fertilizer you need to apply per session. It is therefore important to test your soil before setting out to buy fertilizer for your turf.
You will need to contact your local extension officer to find out the required soil sample size that you should collect for testing. Generally, you will collect several soil samples from different parts of the garden. Take soil samples 3 to 4 inches deep and remove any rocks and vegetation. Mix all the collected samples and send a portion of the sample to the extension office for testing.
The test results will tell you the most suitable fertilizer for your garden and the NPK ratio you should opt for to ensure that your turf gets all the required nutrients. You might discover that your soil contains adequate amounts of phosphorous, for example. In this, you can buy fertilizer with a lower phosphorus quantity.
Keep in mind the general rule: Every 1000 square feet will require 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer. For accuracy, you will need to measure the length and width of your garden or the height and base in case of a triangular garden, to determine the right amount of fertilizer to apply for the best outcome.
How to apply pre-turf fertilizer
Testing the soil, choosing the right fertilizer and figuring how much you need to apply are the most challenging aspects of preparing your soil for new turf.
Applying fertilizer is relatively easy. All you need to do is pour the fertilizer into a spreader and apply all over your garden.
Next, mix the soil so that the fertilizer goes 3 to 6 inches deep into the soil. This way, the roots will easily access the nutrients and at this depth, the fertilizer is less likely to burn the roots.
A well-done lawn is the highlight of any garden and laying turf can help you achieve the perfect lawn. The success of your lawn will heavily depend on how well you prepare the soil, which includes applying the right fertilizer in the right quantity. All in all, be sure to first test your soil before investing in the right turf for your lawn.
Do you have any questions about pre-turf fertilizer? Let us know in the comments section below—we are happy to hear from you!