Lawn Feed Ain’t As Cheap as Bird Seed

Not all nitrogen is the same!

I bet you didn’t know that! If you think about it, though, it’s obvious. Nitrogen, at room temperature, is a clear, odourless gas. So how do we feed it to plants as part of liquid or granulated feeds?

The answer is, of course, processing. Just as Bette Midler and her sisters devised a method to extract the life essence from young children and Skeksis to get the same from Podlings, so science has devised ways to add the nutrients of nitrogen to garden chemicals. The key word in that statement is “ways” for there is more than one.

We’re at that time of year when lawns all over the country will suddenly start to sprout black patches. These are caused by simple over-dosing of lawn food in granular form and are, fortunately, temporary. But, yep, it’s weed and feed time, otherwise known as the great waste of money. Because lawn weed and feed granules are a lot more than tuppence a bag! And, often, people don’t give them time to do their job.

If you stop to think for a while – those black patches of grass are where you have “double-dosed” with the feed bit of the lawn weed and feed compound. However careful we are, in a reasonably large lawn there will always be patches where you spread the feed walking one way and cover the same bit walking the other way. The grass is blackened because of the over-dose. It isn’t killed and, over time, will return to its normal green colour. But until it does, the neighbouring green grass is still working on its single dose of feed. The nitrogen in granular feed is processed by the grass leaves and converted into the compounds that feed the roots. The lush spurt of green growth is merely the cosmetic effect of the nitrogen. And that lush spurt induces people to cut the lawn way too soon, before the leaves have done their job. So a lot of the feed ends up wasted – it doesn’t get to the roots to give them a boost too.

I could also argue that you’re also wasting the weed element of the compound. You may have followed the instructions on the packet and not mown the lawn for a few days but it will take a lot longer for weeds to regrow sufficient foliage to absorb the weedkiller. And that weedkiller, once absorbed, has to get down to the roots to do the job properly. Most lawn weedkillers mention, in the instructions, that repeat applications may be necessary. Of course they will because you’ve subsequently mown the foliage off the weeds before the granules dissolved, got absorbed and translocated down to the powerhouse of the weed underground.

So let’s do it differently. Enter “Lawn Magic“. This is a liquid lawn feed which is a consumer version of a product used by professional groundkeepers in bowling greens, golf courses and sports grounds all over the country. It knocks the spots off the granular feeds because:

  • The nitrogen in it is “stored” in a different way and when applied to the grass not only greens the top growth but translocates down the roots far more quickly;
  • Can be used all year round – no need for separate autumn lawn feed which promotes root growth – “Lawn Magic” can be used right up to November to help promote strong roots;
  • It contains compounds which strengthen the cell walls of grass and help to control moss;
  • Cannot be “over-fed” so no more blackening of grass;
  • Unlike normal lawn feeds, it can be applied to newly-sown and newly-turfed lawns and will help seed germination and grass establishment.
  • It isn’t fussy about only being applied when the grass is dry and the ground is damp, though applying the day after some rain will often get better results. (It’s risky applying granulated stuff to wet grass.) And you don’t need to water the lawn if it doesn’t rain for days after applying it.

I start feeding my lawns at the beginning of March then repeat at the beginning of April and May. Only in mid-May do I (maybe) break out the weedkiller. In years gone by I have sometimes dosed the entire lawn area but now I find I only need to deal with isolated weeds. There’s a wide range of products but I find the best is Vitax Lawn Clear. It’s available in pre-diluted trigger spray or concentrate versions – the latter can be used with a watering can fitted with a dribble bar or, if you’re very careful to measure it out, to refill the trigger spray. It’s fast-acting and, in my experience, will zap dandelions in one go. Because I’ve already been feeding the lawns, the weeds are also growing strongly and will have decent foliage areas to spray, particularly as, in mid-May, we haven’t reached the twice-a-week mowing season yet! As with all garden chemicals, please read the instructions carefully, particularly those relating to disposal of lawn mowings after application.

I only apply weedkiller once (at most) each season. Thereafter the odd weed will be removed by hand. After early May, I won’t feed the grass again until mid-June and then every six weeks until late October (or November if I’m still cutting the lawns then).

Regular readers will know that I’ve recently started on a mission to save money by shopping around for things, using different incarnations of the same company. “Lawn Magic” has different incarnations but I’ve been unable to find any difference between them other than cost and packaging. It’s available in 1 and 5 litre sizes and occasionally in 2 litre bottles. It can be applied by watering can or hose-end sprayer. The sprayer isn’t always cheap, retailing at around £10 plus p+p. But it is possible to get it cheaper.

Lawn Magic

The three main sources I’ve found (apart from eBay and Amazon which seem to be the most expensive) are Garden Wizard (the manufacturers), QVC, the TV shopping channel, and Hayloft Plants. If you’re canny, you can save a bit of money depending on where you choose to buy it. I find I use 10 litres of the product each year so have calculated costs for a single bottle and for two.

  • Garden Wizard sell a 5 litre bottle for £22.00 and the sprayer for £9.14. Delivery costs £7.99 per order. So a single bottle and sprayer will set me back £39.13. Adding the extra 5l bottle takes the total cost to £61.13.
  • QVC normally sell a 5 litre bottle for £22.00 (but watch for occasional promotions). They only sell the sprayer occasionally as part of a promotion. Their delivery charge is £5.95 for one bottle and half that for subsequent bottles. So a single bottle will cost me £27.95 (buying a sprayer elsewhere will add at least a tenner so a total of £37.95). Two bottles will cost me £52.93 but adding a sprayer from elsewhere will bring the total to at least £62.93.
  • Hayloft sell 5 litres for £24.95 and you can add a sprayer for £5.00. They have a standard delivery charge of £4.95. So one bottle plus a sprayer will cost £34.90 and adding the second bottle will bring the total to £59.85. This is the cheapest of the three but as I invariably buy plants from Hayloft each year, I just add the Lawn Magic to a plant order and save myself the £4.95 delivery cost. So my comparative total is £54.90. It gets better as Hayloft always seem to have a “spend x get a voucher for y” offer going and I’ve just received a £5 voucher, valid for six months, following my latest order.

So a little bit of thinking has saved me a tenner this year. And I’ve got a far better lawn to boot. And, incidentally, you can also use the sprayer to apply plant food and to water on nematodes. I’ve chosen to get three sprayers as it saves a lot of cleaning out!

Which reminds me: the mower blades need sharpening.