Whats the deal with N anyways?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by DeepGreenLawn, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    OK, I was wandering today, trying to force out the old synthetic mindset of N N N!

    SO, I was putting down a low N fert today due to the drought and heat and all that good stuff, trying to keep down on stress. It is an organic product, which in this case I could care less as it works and seems to be the best option for the circumstances. One of my customers came out and asked what I could do to get his grass a nice DARK green again. I told him I had a bag of 32-?-? in the truck I could put down right now that would green it up but was not advisable with the conditions. I then went on to explain the reason I had swapped to a lower N fert and he understood fine. I MAY go back and throw a little Fe to keep him happy as he is a high maintenance account but a good customer at the same time basically giving me free reign.

    But anywho... so as the day went on I began wandering why everyone makes such a big deal about N this, and this much N, and I need more N! I am thinking, why not more P and K?

    It would seem the more I learn about organics and how to grow plants properly that the Phosphorus and Potassium would be more important and focused on than Nitrogen.

    Now, I know N is needed... everyone wants a green lawn and all, I understand that... but why is the N getting all the attention? Wouldn't focusing on the other numbers first give you a healthier nicer plant and then the N factored in last as your way of keeping it growing and green?

    Hmmmm... makes since to me...
  2. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Truegreen response to a few of my mowing customers, before I sold out to my partner..

    Customer: "My lawn isn't green"

    Truegreen then comes and hits it with some Ammonium Sulfate and a little Chelated Iron...

    Customer: "They did a great job greening it up."

    Plain and simple, people want green, and it gives green.

    Note that after a year of continues callbacks two of them dropped truegreen and one hired us. 33% N- 30% Sulfur coated urea- and green with no callbacks.


    More scientifically...
    "Nitrogen is the mineral element that plants require in the greatest amounts. It serves as a constituent of many plant cell components, including amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Therefore nitrogen deficiency rapidly inhibits plant growth. If such deficiency persists, most species show chlorosis (yellowing in the leaves)... Under sever nitrogen deficiency, these leaves become completely yellow (or tan) and fall off the plant." Plant Physiology Fourth Edition pg. 79.

    Nitrogen is needed in the greatest amounts... Nitrogen is usually very susceptible to leaching and volitization... Nitrogen deficiency can cause the turf to turn yellow or tan... Thus it is most important that we restore lost nitrogen in the soil.

    But like I said on that other thread, it might not encourage good root growth and drought resistance. :)
  3. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    yeah, that goes back to me understanding that N is needed. I understand that it "greens" things up. But... it almost seems like that is a sort of "quick fix" that isn't really fixing any problems. If there is a deficiency of N, then yeah put it down, and I understand and can see how it may be used more quickly as well.

    I am just thinking... everyone keeps talking N this and N that and P and K are kind of the red headed step kids that get forgotten about. I know people want green lawns, but aren't HEALTHY lawns easier to keep green? Seems like they would make better use of the N and be in a better state to not lose it so fast or use it so fast maybe?

    Again, I know there is a need, and I can see how it is used up faster, but it seems that outside of making it green, which a healthy plant would be, we should be more focused on the P and K of the fert rather than the N and then the N that comes a long should take care of the rest.

    Kind of like... you hear people talking about using high N ferts until a drought or something else comes into play and then they say to use low N ferts. What exactly changed that the plant doesn't need all that N all of a sudden.... OR is it that the plant can't handle the N like it could before therefore meaning that it really didn't want it all in the first place, conditions just came that they were able to "put up with it" due to the good climate conditions?

    Sounds like keeping low N ferts going year round makes more since. I understand that different plants need different nutrients in different amounts, trust me, I deal with bermuda, it eats N for breakfast, brunch, lunch, lunner, and dinner all day everyday. BUT does is really need that much or can it just tolerate it?

    I don't know... maybe this seems more profound than it really is just because the sun fried my brain today...
  4. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

  5. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    that does seem like that is what he is doing... I wander how you may find the proper amounts of N and what not to put down when you find you have a deficiency... seems like a lot of soil testing.

    But it makes since, then take a little of trees doings by making your own compost and having it rich with K and P and your good to go? Then ofcourse the N will be in there, after all, you have to have it to break the products down properly...

    It may all be coming together now...
  6. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    I know I hate it... lol

    Get to learn all this cool stuff just to do some easy maintenance(management) program. HAHA, my slogan fits nicely here... I should be a farmer. :)
  7. quiet

    quiet LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 720

    Many, many soils already have adequate P levels. Many states have either limited P or banned it altogether. Too much P is actually harmful, binding up iron and other trace micros, then running off into lakes and streams where it adds to algae blooms. Unless a soil test shows a need for P, there's really no need for it except, perhaps as a starter fert.

    K levels in soils are often adequate also.

    But N is the limiting factor in plant growth, and as you've noted, bermuda consumes N like there's no tomorrow. When adequate levels of P and K are already in the soil, there's really no real need for additional. HOWEVER . . .

    Bermuda roots have a big dieback as they emerge out of dormancy. For that reason alone, I like my early fert rounds to have a lot of K for vascular strength and root elongation. K helps bermuda deal with stress at both ends of the climate extremes. K also helps in alleviating suseptibilty to disease, leaf spot diseases in particular. I've gotten rid of helminthosporium infested lawns, just by going with a 1-0-1 ratio fert.

    Bermuda responds to all N, organic or not. But regarding reducing N on a bermuda lawn, I'll take Mikey's brother's approach: "I'm not gonna try it. YOU try it." I see way, way too may lawns where the homeowner can't understand why the lawn is brown after Memorial Day. "Geez, I put a fertilizer down right when it greened up. It should be fine."

    I have a big mouth neighbor of a customer that keeps telling my customer, "You should only need to fertilize twice a year. Early spring and late fall." His lawn looks like crap.
  8. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    you guys missed the whole point!!! did you see a N on my test??? f that we dont need to know or care how many N!! its pointless. why do you think bills 2% N 5 times a year gets the job done???? and all that n is tied up and in a protein????

    next one to get this pm me and I got something for ya!!! dont bombard-me with questions and the like, it has all been said before, sorry you missed it:cry::cry:just loose the n idea!!!:hammerhead:
  9. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    I think that is what finally sunk in with me. That N doesn't really matter... just one more step to dropping the old mindset. One thing that got me was a guy with the fert company, organic, kept bringing up lbs N per year or whatever... I was thinking... I don't really care about N and whose to say I need so much N without knowing the conditions. How about we just put down the stuff at the recommended rate for now, with whatever amount of N that may be, and focus more on the that is a base and then go from there.

    It is a little late for this year to start anything big, but next year I am going to go "custom" which means soil tests for everyone, mandatory, and they pay for it. That way we aren't just throwing stuff down, same thing for everyone, your lawn gets what it actually needs, unlike TG or other big/ even small companies that just throw stuff down and go to the next house.

    Like I said, I got this treatment tomorrow and then the next treatment will mostly be pre-m I think? So we will start all that next spring.

    There are a lot of things I am looking forward to next spring, quite a few changes should be coming for the good.
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,315

    Quiet touched on it. Out of all the macro-nutrients, N is typically the most limiting in soils.

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