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  • Mark Govan

What to do this week
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening” on 970WFLA

ABC Pest Control Inc. FloridaFertilizing your lawn and planting your Spring Vegetable Garden

As our weather starts to moderate and the cold days of winter begin to fade, there are several things you should be doing now to keep your landscape healthy and green. Fertilizing your lawns and landscape is necessary to give your plants the nutrition necessary to produce the lush growth and flowers you have been waiting for. Timing is critical, and your lawns and plants need this feeding now. Those of you who are starting your vegetable gardens should also be planting the seedlings you have grown indoors, into your gardens. If you did not grow from seed, but you still want to enjoy a garden, then there is ample time for you to start. But time is running out so let’s get started now.

Most spring lawn fertilizers contain higher amounts of nitrogen (the first number on a bag of fertilizer) to promote leaf and stem growth and potassium (the last number on the fertilizer bag) to produce strong roots and help fight diseases in the soil. As our lawns break out of winter dormancy, they require these additional elements to grow the new roots which will help take up the nitrogen to feed the grass blades. A complete lawn fertilizer will contain all the nutrients your lawn needs to encourage this root growth. I suggest a sulfur coated fertilizer with an analysis of 14-0-10 for your turf grass. The sulfur coating allows the fertilizer to break down slowly over time lessening the chance of burning your lawn from over-application. In order to determine how much fertilizer your lawn will need will involve a little math.

Most St. Augustine and Bahia lawns require four to six pounds of nitrogen yearly. To figure out how much fertilizer your lawn requires, you will need to know the square footage of your lawn and the analysis of the fertilizer you will be using. If you purchase a 14-0-10 fertilizer, then you will need at least seven pounds of fertilizer for every one thousand square feet of grass.

All fertilizers base the application rate to the amount of nitrogen you are applying per every one thousand square feet. If you have a lawn that is four-thousand square feet, then you will need to apply twenty-eight pounds. However, you need to do this at least two times in the spring and two times in the fall to give your lawn the required amount of nitrogen your lawn needs to be healthy. If you purchase a fertilizer with higher nitrogen content like a 16-0-10, then you will not need to apply as much in each application.

Some fertilizers contain weed control products like “Bonus S” or “Fertilome Weed & Feed.” These products will feed the grass and control the broadleaf weeds you have in your lawn at the same time. If you plan on using one these products then, please make sure you read the entire label to ensure your particular turf grass is included. Some weed and feed products say you can use their product on certain grasses, but when used improperly, you can severely injure or possibly kill your grass. Personally, I like to fertilize my lawn separately from doing weed control. When I apply a weed control product, I like to use a liquid product, which I can spray through a backpack sprayer and then only use it on the areas that have weeds.

Granule lawn fertilizers should be applied with a rotary spreader. Walk in straight lines as you fertilize and try to overlap the previous pass by fifty percent. By overlapping each pass, you will be able to eliminate streaking of the lawn. Sweep excess product off all walkways to keep fertilizers from running off the targeted areas. If you live on a canal or near a water source, then keep at least ten feet away from the water source or use a deflector to stop the fertilizer from getting into our waterways. Ornamental plants and shrubs require a different type of fertilizer.

Flowering or fruiting plants requires fertilizers that contain phosphorous, the middle number on a bag of fertilizer. For these types of plants I recommend an 8-10-10 fertilizer. For trees or tall shrubs, you should apply one-half- pound of fertilizer for each one-inch of trunk diameter. A four inch fruiting tree will require two pounds of fertilizer. For non-fruiting or non-flowering shrubs, you can purchase an 8-0-10 fertilizer. Apply three to four pounds of this fertilizer for every one hundred square feet of bed space. Do not apply fertilizers around the stems of your plants because the feeder roots that need the nutrients extend well beyond the drip line. Please water your plants and lawns following applications of fertilizers. You should see results on your lawn in about fifteen days, for shrubs, please allow at least thirty days. Trees can take much longer to show results depending on how large the plant is. Now, let’s move to the garden.

Hopefully those of you, whom are planning or planting out their spring vegetable gardens, should have already prepped your soil with additional compost, Black Kow, and fertilizer. Even though your plants do not mandate additional compost, the base of any vegetable garden is the soil you use and the nutrition you apply. Vegetables’ tender roots need a well-balanced, loose medium to grow in. Compacted and or nutrient deficient soils can inhibit proper root formation which will lead to under-achieving plants. My planting beds and even the containers I use for my vegetables, always start with a proper soil mix. This foundation also aids in the proper penetration of water and nutrients you will be applying throughout the growing season and will discourage nematodes.

Once your beds are properly built, you should be ready to start adding your seedlings and starter plants into the garden. I am planting five varieties of tomatoes this year. I like to try many varieties of tomatoes, especially the heirloom varieties to see which type will do well in my garden. Some people say the heirlooms taste the best but a few of the varieties I have tried have not set enough fruit to warrant me replanting them again. Also, you should know that heirloom varieties do not have the protections against viruses, Fusarium wilts, or mosaic diseases engineered into them, and you have the possibility of losing some of these plants early. Please, do not let this discourage you from trying them as there are many varieties that you may find are absolutely fantastic.

This year I am also planting the new “Meatball” eggplants I purchased from Burpee Seed Company. Although the fruits themselves are small, only five inches in length, they are supposed to be very meaty, sweet, and great flavored when roasted, sautéed, or grilled! I will let you know how they are when I pick my fist ones. I am also planting bush beans, pole beans, peppers, summer squash, sweet corn, and I am starting my sweet potatoes!  If you do not have the patience to start from seed, many retailers have starter plants ready to go in the garden. Make sure to stop and look for varieties you have not tried before as you may be surprised at the flavor.

Please be sure to pick out the proper fertilizer for your lawns and ornamental plants. Putting down fertilizer now will give your lawn and landscape the nutrients they need to produce a healthy and strong root system. Read the fertilizer label to learn how much of the product to use and how to properly to apply it. Give you garden a good soil base, and it will reward you with a bounty for your kitchen. Do not be afraid to try different varieties of vegetables, you may find you like something you have never tried before. Good luck and remember, without plants, we would not be here.

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