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All lawns are deficient in nitrogen because grass quickly uses up the natural supply. Some also need phosphorus and potassium.

There are three common types of fertilizers: natural organic, inorganic and synthetic organic.

Natural organic fertilizers, such as manure, do not dissolve in water. They are converted to usable forms by microorganisms in the soil. They help to create proper physical growing conditions, but can add disease or weeds to the lawn.

Inorganic fertilizers (ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate) do dissolve in water and become readily available to plants. They can cause fast growth for a few weeks, but can also cause foliage burn if improperly applied.

Synthetic organic fertilizers (urea foam, methylene urea) provide a combination of slow and fast release of nitrogen, combining the best of the other two kinds of fertilizer.

Dry fertilizers come in several forms which combine all three nutrients and can range in weight from 14 to 70 lbs. for a typical-sized lawn.

Simple-mix fertilizers are mixtures of the three primary nutrients in a bag. The granules differ in weight and texture so that the heavier ones may work toward the bottom of the bag or spreader. The result is uneven distribution.

Pelletized fertilizers combine all the nutrients into semi-rigid pellets or capsules. This does not ensure a steady release of nutrients unless slow-release sources are included in the pellets.

Trionized fertilizers have the three nutrients bonded into a lightweight carrier such as vermiculite. Nutrients are uniform throughout the granules.

Polyform fertilizers require no added carrier, resulting in the lightest-weight fertilizers. A mixture of the three nutrients is screened to uniform size, putting a high proportion of nutrients into the bag.


Can you get along with just one application of fertilizer?

Yes, but the lawn won’t be very healthy. Two feedings are minimum, although most turf experts believe three feedings- or more-are best.

When only two feedings per year are done, they should be done in the early spring and early fall. Each feeding actually serves a different purpose in helping grass grow.

A late winter feeding aids the lawn in early greening and building roots. The late spring feeding builds tillers or sideshoots that help fill in bare spots in the lawn.

A midsummer feeding makes a lawn more drought resistant. The fall feeding helps grass build more sideshoots or tillers and underground stems or rhizomes to thicken up a lawn. It is considered the single most important feeding of the year.

Apply fertilizers in both directions to avoid streaking or missed strips.


Every fertilizer consists of three nutrients, always listed in the same sequence in the formula, which must be printed on the bag or label.

Each ingredient serves a separate function in enriching soil and stimulating plant growth. Listed in order, they are:

Nitrogen (N) – vital to plants for foliage color and density and for root growth. This is the primary nutrient that needs to be replaced.

Phosphorus (P) – for seedling development, cell building and root growth.

Potassium (K) – assists plants in forming starches and proteins and helps them resist disease and environmental stresses.

Sulphur and iron are two other important ingredients to look for in fertilizer. Both are needed to keep the grass from yellowing and to continue growth.

Each nutrient is designated by a number-a percentage of the pounds of each per hundred pounds of fertilizer.

For example, a very common 20-10-5 formulation means there are 20 lbs. of nitrogen per hundred pounds of fertilizer, 10 lbs. Of phosphoric acid and five lbs. Of potassium.

In a 50lb. bag with the same formula on it, there would be 10 lbs. Of nitrogen, five of phosphoric acid and two and a half of potassium.

While formulations vary, the most common are 20-10-5, 5-10-5 and 10-6-4, but others being offered include 24-6-6 and 23-7-7.

When you select a fertilizer, remember the purpose of each ingredient and relate the percentages to the needs of your plants and/or lawn.

Most fertilizers indicate on the package the number of square feet they will cover. To help figure out the amount you will need, take the size of your lot, and subtract the square feet of the house, garage and driveway.


While a 10-5-5 mixture may cost only two-thirds the price of the 20-5-5 mixture, it is delivering only half the needed nitrogen.

Fertilizers with slow-release or slowly available ingredients cost more because they dissolve gradually and give prolonged fertilizing action.

With some types of dry fertilizer, there is considerable danger of “burning” the lawn if applied too heavily or not watered immediately. Also, grass fed with a fast-acting fertilizer can be weaker and more susceptible to disease because it grows too fast.

Urea formaldehyde (or urea foam) is a good slow-release source of nitrogen, whereas urea alone or other mineral sources of nitrogen dissolve quickly.

Fast-acting inorganic fertilizers, with lower price points, appeal to price-conscious consumers. Remember that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The important part is how the grass responds and thrives.


Specialized fertilizers, in dry or liquid form, are manufactured for specific plants. The best way to learn about the specific merits of each product is to study manufacturer’s literature.

The local agricultural extension agent is also a good source not only for product knowledge, but for information about the soil conditions, growing needs and special characteristics of your area.

Insects Insecticide* Suggestions for Control
Ants (N HE- I11); Carpenter ants (NHE-10) Outdoors: diazinon 25% E.C.; Indoors: chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., hydrazone baits, propoxur baits, boric acid R.T.U. Chemical: Use diazinon to spray completely around outside foundation and the adjacent 1 ft. of soil. Apply an R.T.U. spray to baseboards, cracks, and door thresholds. Apply boric acid in out-of-reach areas only.
NonChemical: Keep foods in tightly sealed containers or in the refrigerator. Most ants prefer sweets and fats. Practice good sanitation. Avoid leaving dirty dishes or other food particles where they are accessible to ants. Caulk cracks and crevices in house foundation.
Ants, Pharaoh methoprene baits, boric acid baits Chemical: Indoors: Place baits near ant food and water sources and in other areas where ants are found. Treat for several weeks, replacing bait as it becomes dry.
NonChemical: Follow suggestions above for other ants. Apply petroleum jelly or double-sided tape to furniture legs to keep ants off of furniture.
Boxelder bugs (NHE-9) diazinon 25% E.C., carbaryl 50% W.P., insecticidal soap Chemical: Spray boxelder bugs on tree trunks, foundation walls (diazinon and insecticidal soap), under eaves, and other areas where they gather. Use carbaryl on foliage where beetles are feeding.
NonChemical: Keep screens, and other openings in good repair. Caulk all seams around windows and doors. Indoors remove the bugs by vacuuming.
Carpet beetles, clothes moths (N E-87) chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U. Chemical: Spray storage areas, edges of carpeting, baseboards, cracks and crevices.
NonChemical: Destroy all badly infested materials. If insulation is of plant or animal origin remove it from the structure. Check for any dead animal or bird carcasses that may be in wall voids, chimneys, or fireplace areas. Keep accumulation of lint to a minimum and vacuum thoroughly in areas where hair and other natural fibers gather. Remove all bird, insect and rodent nests in the fall before cool weather. Place cleaned or washed woolens in insect-free chests that are tightly sealed or in plastic bags. Dry cleaning and laundering kills these pests.
Carpenter bees carbaryl 5% dust, diazinon R.T.U. Chemical: Dust and spray entrances to nest with insecticide. Do not plug entrance.
NonChemical: In the fall, fill the holes and paint or varnish the entire wood surface.
Centipedes, millipedes, sowbugs (NHE-93) Outdoors/Indoors: diazinon 25% E.C., chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U. Chemical: Apply diazinon as an outside foundation spray. If millipedes are abundant, treat entire lawn according to label. Indoors: Use R.T.U. spray according to label.
NonChemical: Correct situations where moist habitats occur such as crawl spaces, poorly drained areas, and piles of trash, mulch, or compost. Remove indoors by vacuuming.
Chiggers (NHE-127) diazinon 25% E.C., DEET R.T.U. Chemical: Treat lawns, roadsides, and areas not mowed. For personal protection, a repellent such as DEET will prevent attack.
NonChemical: Eliminate or mow breeding sites, especially briars, weeds, and other thick vegetation where there is an abundance of moisture and shade. Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, shoes, and socks. Tuck pant legs into boots or socks. Avoid sitting on the ground either in the lawn or brushy areas. Take a warm soapy shower or bath immediately after returning from any infested areas.
Clover mites (NHE-2) pyrethroid R.T.U., dicofol 35% W.P. Chemical: Apply dicofol spray to outside foundation and adjacent 1 ft. of soil. Indoors: Spray with pyrethroid.
NonChemical: Eliminate grass and other vegetation in a 1 ft. band all the way around the house. Also make sure window and door seams are properly caulked and sealed to prevent entry by the mites. Indoors: Mites can be removed by vacuuming.
Cluster flies (NHE-I) pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Fog lightly in rooms with pyrethroid. Repeat spray as needed.
NonChemical: Seal cracks and openings around windows, eaves and siding. Use fly screen over air intake vents or air conditioning systems. Seal off attic openings with screen or caulking. Indoors: Remove flies by vacuuming.
Cockroaches: German (NHE-3),Brown-banded (NHE-4), American and Oriental (NHE-5) chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., boric acid R.T.U., hydroprene R.T.U., hydrazine bait, propoxur bait Chemical: Spray roach runways and hiding places. Treat under sink, refrigerator, cabinets, on baseboards, etc. Treatment throughout home may be needed to control brown-banded roaches. May be supplemented with boric acid applied into out-of-sight and out-of-reach voids under cabinets and appliances.
NonChemical: Practice proper sanitation by keeping food properly sealed or stored in the refrigerator. Keep trash covered. Do not allow dirty dishes to accumulate. Clean frequently under refrigerators and stoves where food particles may accumulate. Eliminate hiding places such as piles of newspapers, boxes and papers. Caulk cracks and crevices. Do not leave pet food out overnight.
Crickets (NHE-137), Field, House, Camel Outdoors: diazinon 25% E.C.; Indoors: chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., propoxur bait Chemical: Use diazinon to spray completely around outside foundation and the adjacent 1 ft. of soil. Apply an R.T.U. spray to baseboards, cracks, and door thresholds.
NonChemical: Cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and in the foundation should be properly sealed and caulked. Indoors: Remove crickets by vacuuming. House lights attract both field and house crickets. Keep garbage cans clean and empty frequently. Keep firewood at least 1-2 feet away from the foundation. Apply a 6-inch band of ashes around the wood pile. Eliminate sources of moisture by fixing leaky pipes and modifying damp areas.
Drain flies (NHE-91) pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Use chemicals only after solving sanitation problems. Pour boiling water or rubbing alcohol into overflow drain to eliminate maggots.
NonChemical: Practice proper sanitation. Clean out overflow drains, drain traps, and basement drains. Keep screens in good repair.
Earwigs (NHE-142) Outdoors: diazinon 25% E.C.; Indoors: chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., propoxur bait Chemical: Apply diazinon as an outside foundation spray. Indoors: Use R.T.U. spray according to label.
NonChemical: Remove unessential plant debris, mulch, and boards from around buildings. Establish a zone of bare concrete or soil which will dry out. Indoors: Remove by vacuuming. Caulk cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and in the foundation.
Elm leaf beetles (NHE-82) carbaryl 50% W.P., Bacillus thuringiensis ‘san diego’ Chemical: Spray nearby Chinese elm trees during the summer to reduce the number of beetles that come into homes in the fall.
NonChemical: Seal cracks and crevices around windows and other openings to prevent entry. Indoors: Remove by vacuuming.
Fleas (NHE-107) naled, carbaryl 5% dust, methoprene R.T.U., pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Replace flea collars on pets about every 3 months. Some pets are allergic. Dust pets directly as needed. Dust areas inside and outside the home where pets rest. For infestations in the home, spray edges of carpets and rugs and floors where fleas are observed. Follow label directions. Vacuum rugs and upholstered furniture thoroughly approximately 30 minutes after spraying.
Fleas (cont.) Diazinon 25% E.C. Chemical: Apply to lawn.
NonChemical: Frequently launder pet bedding and rugs where pets frequent with hot soapy water. Vacuum thoroughly to remove lint and dust around baseboards and cracks where flea eggs and larvae accumulate. Eliminate vegetation that will serve as a harborage for the native mammal population (carriers of fleas). Prevent pets from resting under the house and exclude mammals by screening attic and eave entrances. Thoroughly clean furniture in areas pets tend to frequent.
Flies (NHE-16), Houseflies, Gnats, Midges Outdoors: malathion 50-57% E.C.; Indoors: pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Use malathion to spray around garbage cans and other resting sites. Apply fine mist or fog of pyrethroid.
NonChemical: Proper sanitation is important. Dispose of refuse frequently and prevent the accumulation of rotting or decaying vegetation. Keep screens in good repair. Fly strips and fly swatters can also be effective.
Honey bees (NHE-141) carbaryl 5% dust, diazinon R.T.U., pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Drill holes through siding to inject insecticide, if necessary. Remove nests and honey and destroy them. Treat nests at dusk or dawn.
NonChemical: Caulk cracks and crevices during the winter or early spring to prevent nest building. Seal off attic openings, air intake vents, and air conditioning systems with fly screen.
Lice (NHE-105), Human, Head, Crab, Body Kwell 1% shampoo, pyrethrin R.T.U. Chemical: Dust lightly over body hair. Repeat in 2 weeks if needed. Do not get in eyes. Consult a physician.
NonChemical: Practice proper personal hygiene. Avoid using other individuals’ combs, hats, towels, or hair brushes. Bedding and clothing should be changed and washed frequently. Sanitation of locker rooms, and proper laundering will help reduce the incidence of lice. Crab louse is usually transmitted through intimate sexual contact.
Mites, Human, Human scabies, Human itch mite (NHE-135) Kwell 1% lotion available only by a physician’s prescription, pyrethrin R.T.U. Chemical: Consult a physician.
NonChemical: Consult a physician.
Mosquitoes (NHE-94,132) Outdoors: malathion 50-57% E.C., pyrethroid fogger, Bacillus thuringiensis, ‘israelensis’; Indoors: pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Spray tall grass, around doorways, and other resting sites. Use a repellent like DEET when entering mosquito-infested areas. Apply fine mist or fog of pyrethroid.
NonChemical: Keep screens in good repair. Flues and chimneys should be covered during the summer months. Eliminate resting places such as tall grass, weeds, shrubbery, and vines from around the home. Eliminate rain-water-collecting items such as old tires, pans, cans, and buckets. Weekly, drain plastic swimming pools and bird baths. Provide for proper water drainage around the foundation of the home. When visiting mosquito-infested areas, wear protective clothing to prevent bites. If small garden ponds are present use Top minnows Gambusia sp. or Bacillus thuringiensis ‘israelensis’. Bug zappers” and ultrasonic devices have not proven to be extremely effective in controlling mosquitoes and other noxious flying insects.
Pantry and Cereal Pests (NHE-11), Grain beetles, Indian meal moth, Flour beetles diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., chlorpyrifos R.T.U., pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: Force spray into cracks an crevices; allow to dry; cover shelves with clean, fresh paper. Do not contaminate food or utensils with insecticides.
NonChemical: Discard infested packages. Thoroughly clean and vacuum food cabinets and shelves. Keep dry food in tightly sealed containers. Keeping nonhuman food at 32 degrees F for 3 to 4 days will kill eggs and larvae.
Powder-post beetles (N HE-85) chlorpyrifos 42% EC Chemical: Use chlorpyrifos to paint or spray infested unfinished wood. Follow label directions.
NonChemical: Avoid buying furniture of wood products that have not been stained, varnished or properly dried. Properly paint or varnish new wood items to seal pores and to prevent egg laying.
Silverfish (NHE-86) diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U., chlorpyrifos R.T.U., boric acid R.T.U. Chemical: Spray runways, baseboards, closets, and places where pipes go through the walls. Repeat treatments in 2 weeks if needed. Apply boric acid in out-of-reach areas only.
NonChemical: Alter the physical environment of the infested area by reducing the humidity. Reduce harborage sites by caulking cracks and crevices. Eliminate their food source by storing books, papers, and linens in tightly sealed containers or cabinets.
Spiders (N. HE- 17, 116) Outdoors: diazinon 25Sc E.C.; Indoors: chlorpyrifos R.T.U., diazinon R.T.U., propoxur R.T.U. Chemical: Use diazinon to spray completely around outside foundation and the adjacent I ft. of soil. Apply R.T.U. spray to baseboards, cracks, and door thresholds. Do not use diazinon E. C. inside.
NonChemical: Keep screens and other openings in good repair. Caulk all seams around windows and doors. Spiders are considered beneficial as they are predators of insects and other small animals. Indoors: Remove by simply vacuuming.
Springtails (NHE-70) Outdoors: diazinon 25% E.C. Chemical: Outdoors: Spray soil next to the house, especially grassy moist areas.
NonChemical: Eliminate moist areas around the home where mulch and rotting vegetation are present. Keep outside light use to a minimum. Keep screens and doors in good repair. Allow potting soil of houseplants to dry out between watering.
Swimming pool insects (NHE-103) Do not add insecticides to pool water Chemical: None.
NonChemical: Keep outside light to a minimum. Maintain proper chlorine balance in the pool. Cover pool when not in use.
Termites (NHE-57) chlorpyrifos 429 E.C. (Dursban T.C.), fenvalerate 24.5% E.C. (Tribute), permethrin (Dragnet 36.8Sc E.C.), (Torpedo 25.6Sc E.C.), cypermethrin 25.3% E.C. (Demon T.C.) Chemical: Fenvalerate, cypermethrin, and permethrin are restricted-use pesticides. Control by pest control operator (exterminator) recommended.
NonChemical: Remove termite tubes connecting the soil to wood sources. Eliminate wood-to-soil contacts. Ventilate damp areas such as crawl spaces for proper drying. Use treated wood when landscaping or constructing outside structures. Cedar and redwood are somewhat resistant; termites prefer hardwoods.
Ticks (NHE-56), Brown dog tick, American dog tick, Deer tick, Lone star tick tetrachlorvinphos 50% W.P., malathion 50-57% E.C., carbaryl 505tc W.P., carbaryl 5ic dust, tetrachlorvinphos 3Sc dust, DEET R.T.U. Chemical: Apply spray to lawns, fencerows, roadsides, and areas not regularly mowed. Dust pets directly as needed, according to label instructions. Dust baseboards, cracks, and crevices around pet bedding. Use a repellent like DEET when entering tick-infested areas.
NonChemical: Keep vegetation, weeds and brush, mowed and clean. Avoid areas where ticks are known to be present. Wear long-sleeved shirt and trousers when visiting infested areas, tuck pant-legs into socks. Check for ticks on skin or clothing every few hours. Vacuum baseboards and other cracks and crevices thoroughly to destroy eggs and immatures.
Wasps (NHE-141), Hornets, Yellowjackets carbaryl 5Sc dust, diazinon R.T.U., pyrethroid R.T.U. Chemical: For nests below-ground, apply diazinon according to label and seal opening with soil. Spray aboveground wasp and hornet nests in partitions with carbaryl. Drill holes through siding to inject insecticide, if necessary. Remove nests and destroy them. Treat nests at dusk or dawn.
NonChemical: Keep garbage cleaned up and properly covered. Avoid indiscriminate killing of wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets, as they are considered beneficial. If picnicking, keep food properly covered or sealed. Avoid areas where yellowjackets are prevalent. Keep overripe fruit and vegetables cleaned up and away from human activity. Caulk cracks and crevices during the winter or early spring to prevent yellowjacket nests but do not caulk opening of active nest.
E.C. = emulsion concentrate; W.P. = wettable powder; R.T.U. = ready to use; G. = granules. * Whenever possible, purchase specially prepared, ready-to-use forms of insecticides for indoor use. Use only one insecticide from those listed. When preparing a quantity of 1 gallon or more of a spray, follow the mixing directions on the pesticide label.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.