Alex’s Lawn and Turf Blog

Lawn care tips from the experts

Intro to Fertilizer 101 with “The Turf Whisperer”

June 6th, 2012

As you walk down the fertilizer aisle in your local hardware or home improve store it can sometimes be a little daunting.  What do they mean by “Weed and Feed”? What is “pre-emergent”? Do you choose granular or liquid, and which is better? What do those numbers on the bag mean and why are they important? Does “natural” or “organic” fertilizer really make my lawn safer?  All of these are important questions to ask and knowing the answers will help in you making the right decision for your lawn.

Over the next series of blog posts we will be covering these questions and more when it come to understanding what exactly your lawn needs and how you can ensure a healthy, lush and green lawn through the entire season.

Before I go into explaining all of the intricate details regarding fertilizer, the first thing we need to accomplish is to have a working knowledge about the needs of your turf. A start to that is to go outside and actually walk your property. Without trying to come off as too much of a “tree hugging hippie”, barefoot is the best way to walk through a lawn.

As you walk through your grass (bare foot right?) feel the turf under your feet, is it dry and crunchy? Does your turf feel hard and bumpy? Does the ground make a “squishing” noise as you step? All of those characteristics can tell you about the moisture levels of your soil. If it seems dry and crunchy, or hard and bumpy it could mean that you are not getting sufficient water on your lawn. If it feels like walking on a sponge and is making a squishing noise as you walk, it is a sure way to know you are either getting too much water on your turf, or you might have a drainage problem. The ideal feel of your turf under your feet should be cool yet dry, middle range firmness, and a uniform texture.

Now that we have determined the moisture content and retention traits of your turf, the next part is to find out its structural composition. The first thing I would tell you to do is a little on the drastic side, but it may teach you a lot about your property. Find a secluded part of your lawn and cut out and peel back a square foot of the grass, make sure to try and leave it in tact (like a flap) in order to replace it later. Then take a small garden trowel and dig about 6 inches down into the ground trying to keep the trowel scoop intact so you can see the layers. Look and see what the composition of the soil is. It is fairly easy to see if you have a sandy, clay, or combination soil type. This will help in figuring out how easily certain fertilizers will be received by your turf and how long it may continue to be effective.

And the last part of finding out what your turf/lawn’s traits and characteristics are is to test the levels of the soil. The University of Minnesota Extension Office is a great resource for this service and for as little as $15.00 you can get a complete analysis of your soil and be able to properly address its needs and requirements. Go to and follow the instructions on the website on how to properly take a soil sample and where to send it into. For a video regarding taking a soil sample and how the process works, see Alex’s Lawn and Turf’s YouTube channel for our Fertilizer 101 series of videos coming soon at

Our next blog post will be explaining what a “Weed and Feed” and “Pre-Emergent” fertilizer is and how it benefits your lawn. Until next time, “May green be the grass you walk on. May blue be the skies above you. May pure be the joys that surround you

“The Turf Whisperer”

Areas of Service

Circle Pines, Blaine, Mounds View, North Oaks, Lino Lakes, Hugo, White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Arden Hills, New Brighton, St. Anthony, Shoreview, Roseville, Little Canada, Maplewood, Lake Elmo, Woodbury, Grant, Mahtomedi, Oakdale, Hugo, Stillwater