Does Fertilizer Burn Grass?

For decades, homeowners have been frustrated by browned out lawns, supposedly “burned” by the mis-application or mis-use of lawn fertilizers. Let’s set the record straight; fertilizers don’t burn grass. Repeat, fertilizers will not burn your lawn. Why then, did my lawn turn brown after it was fertilized?
First, pet urine, especially that of female dogs can leave “burned” spots in the lawn. Or, the answer may lie in the type of fertilizer you applied. While top quality fertilizers are manufactured to release their nutrients, mainly nitrogen, over time, water soluble or quick release fertilizers literally dump their contents in just days. And, it’s true that, in hot, humid weather, this excess nitrogen, released rapidly into the turf, can create tip burn, the affect we call “burning”.

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Also, mis-applied or over-applied fertilizer, usually due to an improperly adjusted lawn spreader, can have the same affect. Still, the lawn is not “burned”. What takes place in the presence of excess nitrogen is simply that the salt content in the fertilizer is pulling the water from the grass plants, leaving them to quickly dry out and turn brown, looking “burned”.

Since water moves from an area of low to high salt concentration, as long as the excess nitrogen salts are in the vicinity of grass roots, dehydration will take place and the grass will look “burned”.

The quick remedy…. water the lawn immediately. Enough water will act to neutralize the high salt content in the lawn and eliminate the problem. Since most “burning” is simple tip dehydration, the lawn should recover its natural color in short order. Typically, since most turf will recover, replacing sod should not be required.

In the case of pet damage, homeowners have learned that moving the dogs anchoring leash around the lawn, spreading the urine around the lawn will at least reduce the concentration of brown spots.

To learn more, click here.

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