Nitrogen is important to all life, and plants are no exception. They need nitrogen to produce lush, green growth.
In natural systems, the main source of nitrogen in the soil is organic matter. This comes from decaying plant and animal material. In home landscapes, it's sometimes necessary to provide supplemental nitrogen. Most gardeners do this by applying fertilizer to their plants.
But nitrogen doesn't always go only to the plants. It can be washed away by the rain or leach so deep into the soil that plants can't use it. This "lost" nitrogen can enter rivers, streams, or underground water sources, leading to water pollution.
To best benefit the environment and your plants, fertilize only when necessary and make sure to apply the correct amount.
- IFAS News: Overfertilizing St. Augustinegrass Could Encourage Chinch Bugs, UF Researcher Warns
- Lawn Fertilizer
- Be Careful with High Nitrogen Lawn Fertilizers in the Fall (PDF)
- For a Healthy, Long-lasting Lawn, Fertilize with the Right Numbers (PDF)
- Improve Your Lawn by Using Fertilizers with the Right Numbers (PDF)
- Nitrogen in the Home Landscape
Also on Gardening in a Minute
- Effect of Nitrogen on Water Quality
- Quick vs. Slow-release Fertilizers
- Understanding Fertilizer Labels
- Nitrogen Fertilizer: Agricultural Breakthrough—And Environmental Bane--Scientific American
- Nitrogen in the Environment--University of Missouri Extension
- Organic Materials as Nitrogen Fertilizers--Colorado State University Extension
- Selecting Forms of Nitrogen Fertilizer--Ohio State University Extension