Understanding Plant Nutrients and the Use of Fertilizer

Understanding Plant Nutrients and the Use of Fertilizer

There are many options when deciding what fertilizer to use on your lawn. Whether it is for commercial or residential use, what your turf needs is solely dependent on the texture of the soil and what nutrients are available for the plant to absorb.

Soil texture is the percentage of sand, silt, and clay you have in your soil. To fully understand what type of soil is present on a property, a soil test is required to determine texture, pH, and available nutrients. This is recommended every 5-10 years to preserve accurate nutrient levels to keep your turf growing at its full potential.

Choosing the right fertilizer for your lawn is as easy as understanding one basic concept. This concept is called Law of the Minimum. Justus von Liebig came up with this theory that states, “Growth and development of a plant can be no greater than that allowed by the nutrient in least supply”. Basically, you can put on all the nitrogen you want, but if there is a very low supply of iron for the plant all that nitrogen will leach through the soil and the plant will not use it.




Think of this theory as a whiskey barrel. The staves in the barrel represent all the nutrients that a plant needs. When one nutrient is low, the plant cannot utilize the rest of the nutrients.

With growing concerns for the protection of the environment, having a soil test done on an individual property basis will be a growing trend. Permitting waste and runoff of nutrients needs to be minimized to the best of our efforts. Understanding how the turf works with the soil and surrounding environment, we can ensure that the appropriate fertilizer will be utilized to its full potential.


By Chris Reifsteck, Chemical Applicator/Emerald Ash Borer Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care

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