If you’ve noticed yellowing, browning, or thinning of your grass after applying fertilizer, you’re not alone.
Fertilizer burn is a common issue that happens when too much fertilizer is applied, resulting in damaged grass plants.
The good news is fertilizer burn can be repaired with some TLC and adjustments to your lawn care routine.
This blog provides a complete guide on recognizing fertilizer burn and nursing your lawn back to health.
With a little time and patience, you can get your grass looking green again!
What Does Fertilizer Burn Look Like?
The first signs of fertilizer burn are yellowing or browning of the grass blades and tips. You may notice the damage in streaks along the direction you applied the fertilizer.
The stolons and crowns can turn brown or orange.
Over time, the burnt areas can become thinner or develop dead patches as the grass dies back.
Left unchecked, fertilizer burn can leave large sections of exposed soil prime for weed invasions.
It’s important to distinguish fertilizer burn from other problems like drought stress, disease, or pest damage.
True fertilizer burn will occur shortly after a recent fertilizer application. The pattern may reflect how you applied the fertilizer with a spreader or sprayer.
What Causes Fertilizer Burn on Lawns?
Fertilizer burn happens when the grass absorbs too many nutrients at once, to the point of damaging or even killing the plants.
There are a few key factors that can lead to overfertilization:
- Using quick-release fertilizer – Types like ammonium sulfate provide an immediate nutrient jolt that can overwhelm grass.
- Applying too much fertilizer – It’s easy to accidentally overapply, especially with broadcast spreaders. Exceeding the bag rate can easily burn grass.
- Fertilizing during hot, dry weather – Grass has a harder time absorbing nutrients when moisture stressed. Fertilizer salts build up quickly.
- Failing to water in fertilizer – Watering after applying helps dissolve granules and wash nutrients into the soil.
While fertilizer is important for healthy grass growth, too much of a good thing can quickly do more harm than good.
Understanding what causes fertilizer burn can help avoid overapplying.
Why Fertilizer Burn is Harmful for Lawns
Beyond just discolored grass, fertilizer burn can cause lasting damage if left untreated:
- Stunted growth – Too many nutrients disrupt normal growth patterns, creating thinning and dieback.
- Increased weed invasion – Bare patches from fertilizer burn provide footholds for weeds like dandelions.
- Loss of turfgrass – In severe cases, large sections of lawn may be permanently damaged or killed.
- Polluted runoff – Excess fertilizer getting into storm drains and waterways can cause algae blooms and dead zones.
- Wasted money – Fertilizer is expensive, so burning your lawn wastes product and your lawn care budget.
While most cases of fertilizer burn are temporary, repeatedly overfertilizing risks long-term harm. Catching and correcting the problem early is key to getting your lawn back into shape.
The good news is lawns can recover fully from fertilizer burn if given proper care and treatment. Here are the steps to nurse burnt grass back to health:
1. Stop Fertilizing
Halt any further fertilizer applications until the lawn recovers. This gives the grass time to absorb the excess nutrients already in the soil without accumulating more. Wait 4-8 weeks before considering fertilizing again.
2. Increase Watering
Watering liberally helps leach out excess salts and fertilizer elements that may be burning grass roots. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated. Proper hydration encourages recovery.
3. Raise Mowing Height
Set your mower deck higher to reduce stress on burnt turf. A higher cut means taller leaf blades and deeper roots to regrow. Start at 3-4 inches and adjust as needed.
4. Apply Supplements
Foliar sprays with liquid kelp, humic acid, or compost tea provide microorganisms and growth hormones to aid recovery. Rescuegrass seed fills in bare spots.
5. Dethatch and Aerate
Dethatching removes dead grass blades and thatch to encourage new growth. Core aeration enables better water and nutrient absorption while reducing soil compaction.
6. Overseed Bare Areas
Repair thin or bare spots by overseeding with a matching grass variety once the weather cools. Lightly topdress overseeds with 1/4 inch of compost to retain moisture.
With attentive care and cultivating optimal growing conditions, burnt lawn areas can fill back in over time. Be patient, as full recovery can take 1-2 months.
How to Prevent Fertilizer Burn in the Future
While overfertilization happens, there are steps you can take to fertilize responsibly and avoid burn:
- Use controlled-release fertilizers – The nutrients are released over an extended period, which is safer.
- Follow bag rates carefully – Never exceed the recommended amount per square footage. Estimating leads to overapplying.
- Split applications – Apply half the yearly total in spring and half in fall to avoid a nutrient surge.
- Water after fertilizing – Irrigate shortly after to dissolve granules and incorporate into soil.
- Avoid fertilizing before hot weather – High temperatures increase burn risk. Apply when cooler.
- Alternate with organic fertilizers – Compost, manure tea, and grass clippings slowly enrich soil.
- Test soil annually – A soil test determines exactly which nutrients your lawn needs more or less of.
- Leave grass clippings – Clippings return nitrogen and nutrients back to the soil as they decompose.
With mindful fertilizer practices, you can have a thriving lawn that avoids the pitfalls of fertilizer burn. Stay tuned for a recap and conclusion of the key lessons from this article.
Recap and Conclusion
To summarize, fertilizer burn happens when too much fertilizer overwhelms grass plants, causing yellowing, browning, and dieback. While unsightly, fertilizer burn can be repaired through proper lawn care practices:
- Stop fertilizing to give grass a nutrient break
- Increase watering to hydrate and leach salts from soil
- Raise mowing height to reduce stress on damaged grass
- Apply foliar sprays and amendments to aid recovery
- Dethatch, aerate, and overseed affected areas
With time and TLC, lawns can make a full comeback from fertilizer burn damage.
Avoiding future fertilizer burn comes down to mindful fertilization – follow rates, split applications, and maintain healthy soil.
Proper fertilization is crucial for lush, green grass. But more is not always better when it comes to fertilizer.
By exercising care with nutrients and following these fixing steps, your lawn can once again become the lawn envy of the neighborhood.
FAQ: Repairing Fertilizer Burn on Lawns
How long does it take for burnt grass to recover?
With proper care, lightly burnt areas may recover in 2-4 weeks. More severe damage can take 4-8 weeks to regrow. Patience is key, as rushing growth risks further burn.
Should I use extra fertilizer to help burnt grass?
No, more fertilizer will damage it further. Give your lawn a nutrient break until it recovers. Rely on water and supplements instead.
When is it safe to fertilize again after burn?
Wait a minimum of 4 weeks, though 8 is better if damage was extensive. Test the soil to see if nutrients are still abundant.
Should I replant damaged areas instead of waiting for recovery?
Try recovery methods first unless grass is completely dead. Replanting may shock roots. Overseed for bare patches.
How can I prevent burn with my fertilizer spreader?
Double check settings and overlap to avoid missed strips. Consider a drop spreader for better control around landscaping.
What’s the best organic fertilizer for preventing burn?
Compost and compost tea provide a gentle nutrient boost. Many organic options are lower in nitrogen to avoid surge feeding.