How Much Difference Does Lawn Fertilizer Really Make?

little girl playing in a field in tall grassIf you’ve ever wondered whether lawn and garden fertilizer really does any good, let me show you something surprising that happened at my place. It all began last fall.

I live in the country, and by the time last August rolled around I’d gotten tired of tripping over three bags of fertilizer stored in my garden shed. I’d sent in soil samples earlier in the year for my lawn and garden, but ended up buying more fertilizer than I needed to bring lawn nutrient levels up to optimal. My lawn borders onto our cattle pasture, and in late August I figured that my extra fertilizer would do more good enhancing the grass, clover and trefoil out there than it would sitting in bags in a shed. I spread the three bags, but didn’t see a noticeable difference, even by the time fall set in. But wow, how things have changed now.

I decided to let the pasture rest this season after broadcasting clover seed very early this spring to enhance the nutritional value of the pasture. The lack of grazing this year is unusual, and it means that all the growth is completely visible. Although soil type is the same across the field where I fertilized, the difference in growth between fertilized and unfertilized areas is huge. The tallest grass over the bulk of the field measures about 24 inches tall, while the fertilized sections are consistently 36 inches tall. In fact, the tallest stalks of grass in the fertilized section even reach a whopping 44 inches tall. And besides taller growth, the enhanced sections are much thicker, too. None of this difference would be nearly as visible if we’d grazed the pasture as usual, just like the enhanced vigour of fertilized lawns isn’t always immediately visible when you mow.

Fertilizer only makes a difference when nutrients are lacking, and though you probably don’t have pasture to take care of, my accidental visual test plot offers an obvious answer to a question many homeowners have. Does fertilizing make a difference? Yes, it sure can.