Most of you know, if you have ever spent any time in a conversation with me, I usually prefer liquid fertilizer applications compared to granular fertilization. The reason is mainly because I have a terrific amount of control over what goes into the tank and therefore what goes into the grass and the soil. Secondly, because in general but not always, the fertilization manufacturing industry produces to the lowest common denominator, which means it’s hard to find a granular product with everything in it that meets my sometimes-lofty standards. Let me give you an example!
One of the most popular summer blended granular fertilizers is a 24-0-11 with 2% Iron and it comes in a 50 lb. bag. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly is in the bag based on the analysis of the 24-0-11. For those new to the conversation the 24 refers to the percentage of Nitrogen, the 0 refers to the percentage of Phosphate, and the 11 of K refers to the percentage of Potassium. Remember, these numbers are percentages based on total weight of the bag.
So, in a 50 lb. bag of 24-0-11 W/ 2% iron we have 12 pounds of actual nitrogen, 5.5 pounds of actual potassium, and 1 pound of actual Iron. Add it all up and you have 18.5 pound of active ingredient in a 50-pound bag!!! So, what’s the other 31.5 pounds you ask? Is it gumballs and pencil erasers? The majority of the bag is filler, usually clay, lime and gypsum. Lime and Gypsum are often used farther East in the regions of the US that have acidic soils in order to buffer them towards the alkaline p.H of 7.0. Colorado soils are incredibly alkaline, ranging from 7.9 to 8.9 p.H, I know this because I test hundreds of lawns annually, and they do not benefit from these types of fillers. +++++ Remember this the next time you’re at the garden center looking at bags of fertilizer.
But then! A contemporary of mine by the name of Matt set out to do something revolutionary. Matt has been in the green industry as an applicator and a steward for many years and like me was tired of the standard and often insufficient granular offerings. He quit his day job, put everything he had into developing and producing a granular product specifically for the turf care industry. The product’s analysis is 24-0-4 with 2% Iron. What’s different about this product is instead of filling the bag with gumballs and erasers, it is filled with true soil amending products like Humic and Fulvic acid, Sea Kelp, as well as aerobically composted chicken manure, and Biochar!
So why Carbon? These three additions are all rich in Carbon, and also work to slow the release of the N-P-K actives naturally. Carbon functions similar to a coral reef in the ocean, it’s a place for bacteria, beneficial fungi, and soil microbes to dwell. It also creates soil porosity which is important in clay soils. As you all are aware clay easily compacts into an almost impenetrable surface. It’s very common to see irrigation water running off a lawn and down the drain pan away from it’s target. Carbon, and especially Biochar, create spaces between soil particles and allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to enter and stay in the root zone -exactly where the plant needs them.
Another point worth mentioning is that composted litters and Biochar are all waste streams with amazing soil charging abilities. When we say our fertility line is “sustainable” it sure is. These are waste products indeed but they do a lot to amend alkaline clay soils without the further production of new inputs. You’re not only helping your lawn you are helping our environment. You can’t say that about your dads bag of fertilizer!
For further reading on the value of Biochar in fertilizer I have provided some links below. http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/03/biochar-soaks-ammonia-pollution-study-shows http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/11/study-reveals-natural-solutions-combat-climate-change