Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Help for Fertilizer Burn in Lawn Grass

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Brown spots on grass from fertilizer burn.

I put fertilizer on my lawn, and a few days later I had patches of dead grass! Will I have to replant, or will the grass come back? –Roger

Over fertilizing is one of the quickest ways to kill your lawn. From general discoloration to those telltale stripes from overlapping spreader rows, excessive or careless fertilizing can cause quite a bit of damage to lawn grasses.

About Fertilizer Burn in Grass

Chemical fertilizers are made up of mineral salts. When you over fertilize, the salts build up in the soil and cause a drying effect, which can result in the grass turning yellow or brown and. This process is called “fertilizer burn.”

Fertilizer burn isn’t always fatal, and it’s hard to predict whether or not your lawn will recover. It depends on the amount and type of fertilizer that was applied, the moisture available, and the overall health of the grass. A slightly yellow lawn is likely to recover, while crispy brown grass may not. Recovery of your lawn also depends on how quickly you intervene.

Lawn sprinkler watering grass.

How To Treat Fertilizer Burn in Grass

If you have applied too much fertilizer to your lawn:

  • Remove Fertilizer: If you’ve spilled granular fertilizer or can see it on the ground, grab a broom or wet/dry vac and get up as much as you can before it dissolves into the lawn.
  • Apply Water: As soon as you notice a problem with fertilizer burn, drag out the sprinklers! Water helps to dilute and flush the mineral salts away from the roots of your lawn. On the first day, water until the ground can’t soak in any more. Then water every day for about the next week. Water in the morning to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.
  • Wait and See: At this point, there’s nothing you can do except wait and see if your lawn will recover from fertilizer burn. Unless it’s early spring with plenty of planting time left, I’d wait until the next planting season rolls around (fall for cool-season grasses, spring for warm-season grasses) before replanting. Then overseed thin spots, and sow seed or sod in large dead areas. In the future, be sure to fertilize your lawn very carefully!

What about gypsum?

Agricultural gypsum binds with soil salts and is often suggested as a remedy for fertilizer burn. However, gypsum changes the chemical makeup of your soil (by replacing other minerals with calcium) and really should only be used if recommended by a laboratory soil test. If your problem is caused by an over application of chemicals, your best bet is to stop, rather than applying yet another chemical! If you’ve burned your lawn with fertilizer, put the spreader away for a while to let it recover.

How To Prevent Fertilizer Burn in Grass

To keep fertilizer burn from being a problem in your lawn, consider:

  • Use Organic Fertilizer: Use organic fertilizers and well composted amendments. Organic fertilizers must be broken down by soil microbes according to nature’s timeline, which significantly reduces the chances of burning your lawn.
  • Follow Fertilizer Instructions: Always apply fertilizer exactly according to package instructions. Different fertilizers come in different strengths, and it’s important not to over apply them to your lawn.
  • Reduce Lawn Stress: If the grass in your lawn is in poor condition, fertilize it very lightly to ease it back to health. Resist the urge to feed heavily, since weak grass is easily burned by chemical fertilizers. Don’t fertilize lawns that are severely stressed by drought, heat, or disease – it won’t be absorbed and can cause further damage.

Fertilizer spreader applying fertilizer to lawn.

Further Information

Julie



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12 Comments on “Help for Fertilizer Burn in Lawn Grass”

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  1. Cherie Quammen Says:
    May 5th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you for this information. Actually, I didn’t spend hours looking for the answer. I used Vigaro Weed and Feed liquid. The area coverage is 7500 sq ft total. My husband said this would cover our front & back three times. However, the bottle is five-sixths EMPTY. That means I used five applications on my Bob Sod. My fault, lack of experience, but the grass needed thatching. Common sense told me to flood the grass, which I have been doing. I feel encouraged. Cherie.

  2. Bob Ellis Says:
    July 16th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks so much for the information. I used Green Thumb 30-0-30 fertilizer, even when the temperatures were in the 80′s and I still got fertilizer burn over half of my “beautiful backyard grass”. Never used it before and will never use it again–in the trash it goes.
    Bob

  3. henry Says:
    April 3rd, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I am being asked to recover a patch of brown lawn that has suffered chemical burn. Do I dig the whole patch out and resoil and seed? It has been 3 weeks since she ruined it. This is a well defined area. This is very labor intensive and your instructions give few details.
    Thank you…Henry

  4. Larry Martin Says:
    April 7th, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I can not water my yard after fertilizing because of the size and cost of water. Can I spread 10-10-10 a couple days before rain and be ok?

  5. Debbie. Walls Says:
    June 30th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    We put in irrigation and seeded the lawn this past fall. Grass came up nice but uneven in places. The lawn company put fertilizer on it this spring and again with the weed and feed. Initially was great but the turned brown with frayed leaves. They said it was in a heat from fertilizer. Very upsetting. What are we to do? Please advise

  6. Marilyn Webb Says:
    June 2nd, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I over fertilized and now have a burned out lawn. I’ am watering but not much is happening. Do I have to dig out the damaged lawn and reseed????

  7. Paula. Adamy Says:
    June 12th, 2014 at 10:38 am

    My boy friend sprayed my lawn with vinegar, Epsom salt, and Dawn. He tried to kill weeds but killed my front lawn too. Is there anything I can do to bring my green lawn not look brown and ruined ? Thanks

  8. Lupine Says:
    July 21st, 2014 at 8:26 am

    We overfertilized our small front yard (in front of a single wide mobile home). It now looks very yellow and dry. The reason we fertilized a 2nd time this season was we saw cobwebs and yellow patches on the lawn to begin with. Now I think it had a bit of disease by that description. Could we add MANURE to it right now along with watering, to see if it will come back? Is manure ok – steer manure. We just had the sod put in last summer and feel sick to see it so yellow now. Thanks for your help. Desperate in Oregon.

  9. Chad Trybula Says:
    August 4th, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I fertilized 2weeks ago dark brown spots… If I fluffed dead grass… Spread seed do I have a chance oh ya plenty of water…..

  10. Lupine Says:
    August 8th, 2014 at 6:34 am

    We ended up spreading steer manure on the yellow spots in yard and water each day, to get rid of the yellow spots. A couple of them are from dogs and have died; will need to sprinkle grass seed on those spots. But the MANURE WORKED! Now our grass is so green, that the neighbors are stopping by to see what we have done – and this is the beginning of August. Wow. You know the book by Erma Bombeck, “The Grass is always greener over the septic tank”? Well, it’s true. Thanks.

  11. Dennis Lamkin Says:
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    I over fertilized one area and rather than wait and see (I am the impatient gardener) I cut out the spot and replaced with good sod from another part of the yard which is not very visible and replaced the patch with newly purchased sod…problem solved for a smaller area…for the whole yard I’d suggest moving.

  12. Dr Kadambini Wagh Says:
    August 24th, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Can I collect the leaves and stem after trimming my plants ,dry them ,burn them and use this ash as a fertilizer?

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