What is a good 5-10-5 Equivlanet Fertilizer?

huisman98March 5, 2008

I have a soil test report from my states Agronomic Division. Along with a lime recommendation it recommends 20 lbs of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 1,000 sq/ft. I haven't been able to locate any fertilizer with those numbers or the equivalent of 5-10-5. I am dealing with big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware. Most of the brands they sell are Lesco, Scotts, and Virgo. Do any of those brands make a 5-10-5 fertilizer?

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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Just use a fertilizer with similar proportions, such as 10-20-10 or 15-30-15, then cut the quantity applied by one half or one third if you want to follow their recommendation to the letter. It is doubtful that your lawn really needs that much phosphorus (the middle number). Some municipalities have banned phosphate containing fertilizers entirely. You may be fretting way too much over your fertilizer choice. Just go to Lowes and buy some cheapo fertilizer labeled "Lawn fertilizer" and follow the directions on the bag. That may have numbers like 20-4-2 or 30-4-7 Caution  Do not spill or over-apply chemical fertilizer on your lawn. And Do water it in real good or let the rain do it for you. Bill Hill

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 1:24PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

That seems like a lot of fert per 1000sqft. Especially when ameding other elements in the soil could probably bring that up to where it should be instead of using a hard fertilizer.

I can't tell you what elements that might be, but there are some on this forum that can tell you how to breakdown the soil analysis, and then what to amend the soil with. Probably a good healthy dose of good compost and some lime might change the composition to a better reading. Certainly will do wonders for the soil, in any case. I wouldn't worry to much about what the computer said you need.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 7:04AM
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x3 on this one. If you could reproduce at least the phosphorous information from the soil report, that would be great.

20 lbs of 5-10-5 is 2 lbs of actual phosphorous onto your lawn per thousand square feet. That's kind of high.

You could be seriously deficient, but it's still a bit much to dump all at one time. Established lawns aren't known for their phosphorous usage (nitrogen, sure. Potassium, somewhat).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 7:37AM
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It's still unanimous, now it's four out of four of us. I think we are all a little puzzled by the recommendation, and I'm sure we need a little more information. There is a cheap, but effective, way out of this, and I'd like to recommend that.

1. What city and state are you in?
2. How would you describe your soil?

Let's look at what we've got here with this test:

1. Most soil tests, and most soil testers/report writers, are slanted toward the needs of the local farming community, which, perfectly natually, make up most of the demand for these soil test services. You don't need the exact precision, for lawn care, that the farmers need, and you can, very successfully, 'round off the edges' of that report, and still gain quite a bit.

2. Most reports do not recommend phosporus, your second number. That's because phosphorus stays with the soil longer than nitrogen does, as grass grows. Indeed, most of the problems regarding phosphorus are situations where there is too MUCH, rather than too little, and most reports say 'don't add phosphorus'. "Use a fertilizer ratio of 10-1-2" or some such, meaning 'add nitrogen, but your phosphorus and potash is fine'. Not your lawn. Surprisingly, your lawn seems to need phosphorus, at least for this year.

So go to HDepot, or Lowes, or your local discount garden center. Check the prices on the cheapest lawn fertilzier. That will be a synthetic, kinda-fast-release (there are people out there paying good money for a SLOW release fertilizer) , and all the numbers will be the same. 6-6-6, or 8-8-8, or 10-10-10, or perhaps even up to a 20-20-20. I want you to use 10-10-10, or as close to it as you can get. Thus, 8-8-8 is better than 6-6-6 and 20-20-20, but 10-10-10 is ideal for you.

Plan on two applications of this, thirty days apart, this spring. Ideal for me, in Michigan, would be May 5th, and then June 5th, because of how spring shapes up, and I've still avoided the hot weather of mid July. Your climate will be a tad different, and we'd like to know where you live.

What we've done with this el cheapo fertilizer is add each of the three chemicals your lawn needs, and added them in very likely higher amounts than would be recommended for most well-cared-for lawns. But your lawn isn't in that condition yet, it needs to be brought up to that condition. After that is accomplished, I"m sure we're going to be changing what fertilizer goes down, but for today, that's what the soil test says it needs.

Get back to us over the course of the spring. MY guess is that a lot will be different in July, and everybody's view of that lawn (including yours) will change, and our advice will change.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 9:27AM
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Thank you all for the detailed responses. I will post more info from my soil test results when I get home from work today. For now I can add some basic info.

1) I am in Raleigh, NC
2) My Soil is red clay with little to no topsoil
3) I have a fescue lawn

I agree about your concerns about P. I was under the impression that most soils in my area have plenty of P to begin with and that N is the one that needs adding.

I will add more from my soil test report later tonight.

Thanks again!

~ huisman98 :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 12:13PM
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Ok, here are the specifics from the soil sample results of the soil from my yard:

% Humic Matter: 0.22
Weight per volume of Soil: 1.02
Cation Exchange Capacity: 6.0
% of CEC occupied by bases: 90.0
Acidity: 0.6
pH: 5.5
Phosphorous Index: 2
Potassium Index: 83
% CEC occupied by Calcium: 60.0
% CEC occupied by Magnesium: 23.0
Manganese Index: 198
Zinc Index: 56
Zinc availability index: 56
Copper Index: 52
Sulfur Index: 400
Sodium: 0.1

(15 lbs of lime per 1,000 sq/ft and 10 lbs of 5-10-5 Fertilizer per 1,000 sq/ft)

So can anybody point out what may be going on here? Why so much P??????

Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 4:04PM
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Ah, I see--you said 20 lbs/K ft above but 10 lbs below. If it's the 10 lbs, that's fine. Once. I'm assuming the 2 is parts per million, which means you don't have much at all (you're seriously deficient). I'm also thinking an organic method would be best--it's possibly not that you don't have any P, but that it's locked away.

Your pH rots. Combine that with the humic matter percentage and you have no buffer to deal with it, either. I'm guessing you have that kind of red clay that you could practically throw a pot from (I had the same, but in white clay). BTW, early spring tests of pH tend to be on the lower end of what your soil will show. Fall tests are considered best.

How to go about things depends on what you have. If you have a nice lawn and are pretty happy with it, then follow those recommendations (leave at least a week between liming and feeding). Even if the pH stays bad, a fast shift isn't what you want. You can consider an organic feeding regimen if it appeals to you.

If it's not great, go ahead and lime at that rate. Thinking of shifting to an organic feeding methodology would be a good idea. Raising the organic matter in the soil will buffer your pH toward 6.7 or so, feed the grass, add and grab onto nutrients, and generally do nice things to the soil.

If it's really bad, that 15 lbs of lime per thousand isn't going to go far toward bringing the pH up to optimal range. Absolutely think about organics as they're really going to help (for the reasons above). I can't locate the calculation offhand, but I'd go higher on the lime and do it again in two to three months, then have the soil re-tested in fall.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 7:18PM
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Thanks for your comments. Actually I made a type in my last post. I just rechecked the soil test recommendations and it is infact recommending 20 lbs of 5-10-5 per 1,000 sq/ft. The 10 lbs statement was an error on my part.

FWIW, yes, you throw pots from my clay. And yes, my lawn is "pretty bad"

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

So what do you think now that I have confirmed that the recommendations do in fact call for 20 lbs? I am inclined not to do that.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 7:37PM
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I wouldn't, either. That's a heck of a shock for a soil, even one that's mostly dead and isn't supporting a diverse population of critters that maintain it.

You'll want to aerate at some point (spring and fall are best), and probably plant some seed in fall.

If you stay synthetic, Philes' suggestion would be the best. A well-balanced fertilizer around 10-10-10 applied at the recommended rate twice this spring will really help. Synthetics work fast, but disappear fast, too. They don't do much for the soil except in the fact that growing grass produces more organic material all by itself.

If you decide on the organic approach, any of the meals or pellets would be fine. Apply them at 20 lbs per thousand square feet and then do it again in about a month. The change will be much slower, but much longer lasting (ultimately, after several years, it's self-perpetuating and you don't need to add much any longer). You can continue to dump low-nitrogen, cheap stuff (like corn meal) on the soil monthly through fall, except during really dry periods when it isn't doing much good anyway. That'll de-solidify your soil as worms and arthropods arrive and reproduce and go scrounging for lunch, breaking up the soil nicely.

If a mixed approach appeals, start with the synthetic now when it's cooler, and shift to organics next month. The synthetics provide a quick shot, the organics start building the soil.

I tend to prefer the organic approach to grow a thick, green lawn. There's nothing wrong with properly-applied synthetics, however, and they'll produce a thick, green lawn if you use them wisely and carefully.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Huisman, my intention, as part of your new program, dovetails with Morph's. After the first two applications of the cheap stuff, I was going to recommend a sewage-based natural fertilizer. Here in the midwest, the most common one is Milorganite. You can probably find it at Lowe's. I have not used the grains, as fertilizer, but many people here in the forum recommend them.

In any event, after the first two apps of the cheap stuff, plan on an application of an organic fertilizer in late July, or early September (we're skipping August on purpose). Then in the fall, mid October to November 1st, plan on an application of big-first-number Nitrogen fertilizer, which means you'd want a 22-2-4, or an 18-1-1, or a 24-4-3 (notice how that first number is much bigger? That's the nitrogen), and even better might be an application of pelletized urea, which carries about a 45-0-0 number, all nitrogen.

At that point, we've done this over the season: given it a dose of chemicals the test says the lawn needs, along with nitrogen. Then added organic fertilizer (rather than synthetic) because organic won't burn the lawn in hot weather, and to increase the amount of organic content in the lawn. Then in the fall, gave it a healthy dose of nitrogen.

I'm sure you're going to notice significant change in the lawn, over course of the summer. Keep your mowing height tall, and your mower blade sharp. Don't pick up the clippings. But in the fall, just before the last fertilizer goes down, I'll want another soil test: my guess is that test will show quite different results than the last one.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 8:29AM
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I am not as experienced as some here, but considering the soil is in such bad shape, I would do the following:
1) Aerate the heck out of it.
2) Topdress with a lot of compost.
3) Learn how to brew up some compost tea and apply regularly.
4) Jump start things with the first synthetic feeding, but from thereon in, feed organically.

Once again, I am not the most experienced guy on the block, but I would bet that the plan above would do the trick.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 8:44PM
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Thank you philes21 and morpheuspa! I went ahaed and got some cheap 10-10-10 from Lowes. I put half an application .5 lbs N,P,K per 1,000 sq/ft down today and will put the second half application down in 30 days. The North Carolina Turf Center doesn't recommend fertilizing fescue after March 15ht here in Raleigh, but it is still pretty cool and I think I will be alright. I also plan on putting down some lime in a week ot two.

My lawn is in real bad shape. I plan to aerate and overseed this fall.

I will keep you posted on the progress of what little lawn I do already have this summer.

Thanks again for the help!!

~ Huisman98

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 7:09PM
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Far be it from me to tell you to ignore the North Carolina Turf Center.

But please ignore the North Carolina Turf Center. ;-)

In 99.5% of the cases they would be 100% right--over-fertilization after mid-March would be a a poorer idea, particularly as the grass regrows. In this particular case, they're not quite right.

The reason that we're all yelling "Organics!" is that they don't burn (usually), don't make themselves available very quickly, and help build the soil. They don't tend to cause the huge flush of top growth that synthetics will cause, and don't have the salts that synthetics have. Many are safe to use during the summer, too. With scores that bad, your soil sure needs it.

So in this case, skipping August (and perhaps July if you folks have weather like you did last year) would be a good idea. The other months, go ahead and feed it, as long as it's organic.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 8:51PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

I tend to agree with the NCSU Turf guys...I converse with 2 or 3 of them several times a year and they haven't put in years of practical study and application for this particular area to not be taken seriously. I also tend to agree with the above posts that organics (especially good compost) is a good way to revitalize the soil, thus helping everything that grows from it.

I use Milorganite from HD several times a year just because it's such a damn hassle trying to locate places that sell soybean meal, etc. You find a place that has the meals and it's either like taking a day trip to get there, or the next year they're out of business or have moved and no one knows where, yada yada...

Anyway, get some of that Stephenson's Nursery compost...your lawn will thank you and you will not be unhappy, but I would reserve that huge task for the fall. You can buy several bags of cow compost at the bigbox stores to carry you through. I have 12k sqft of lawn and got 9 yards of it, and it was all I could to to spread it all out...but have been very happy since.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 6:25AM
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