I want to show you something about lawns that most people don’t know. The majority of lawn owners know that if you water a lawn and fertilize it every now and then it will stay green and growing throughout the year but if they come across a property with thick turf that also has a crazy dark green color they think that the grass must be heavily watered, heavily fertilized, and extremely healthy.
That may be the case from time to time but the truth is that many lawns with the deep rich color aren’t all that healthy at all. They may be thick due to the application of heavy nitrogen and they may be growing due to a refined irrigation system but that dark green color that stands out so much is frequently man-made. Not with paint but with the regular application of liquid iron.
To demonstrate I wanted to apply liquid iron to a small square patch in my lawn and show you what it looks like in a single 24 hour period. For comparison sake I’m also going to apply Ironite, a granular form of iron, to another square patch but I’m not going to apply any iron to any other part of my lawn at this time. Nobody does this to their lawns – you’re going to love this!
First off, I’m going to show you the results of this application a little further into this video – so hang on – but before I get to that I want to briefly explain why I say this is man-made, not natural, and although not bad for the lawn doesn’t actually indicate healthy turfgrass.
All grass types need iron primarily for the production of chlorophyll. Magnesium and Manganese play a crucial role in chlorophyll production and photosynthesis as well. Manganese can help grasses and plants metabolize (or use) nitrogen more effectively…but in all cases these nutrients are required in small doses and most soils have enough of them already that the addition of these micro-nutrients in fertilizers doesn’t have to be done very often.
There’s a reason why even the grass in the vacant lot in your neighborhood is green in the spring and the fall even when nobody waters it or fertilizes it.
The vibrant dark green colors the nicest looking lawns have is because of an excess application of iron specifically. When applied in granular form the majority of the applied iron (up to 95% of it give or take) oxidizes in the soil before the plant can uptake the nutrient but the liquid irons are absorbed through the foliar leaf tissue of the plant and because usable within hours. That’s why iron concentration rates of granular products are so high when compared to the liquid alternatives which usually have less iron in them by concentration.
What I’m getting at here is that extra foliar applications of iron result in quick absorption and a surge in chlorophyll production which results in a color change without added growth. So long as the plant has adequate stores of the other micronutrients chlorophyll production and photosynthesis will happen the way it should.
The plant doesn’t need the extra chlorophyll though, during the spring and summer and fall there photosynthesis will occur without the extra shot of chlorophyll so the plant will simply darken up until the leaf blades grow out and return to their natural color.
If a person were to also fertilize with nitrogen heavily the grass would put on more growth at a faster pace and the deep green color would grow out and get cut off faster causing the grass to return to it’s natural color faster.
If that same person didn’t fertilize for plant health then the deep green color could be masking health problems that are harder to see. Heat and drought stress can easily affect deep green lawns when Potassium is under applied. Diseases like fungus can also be a big problem. Just because a lawn is dark green doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Liquid iron foliar applications simply act like green grass paints – they look good but mean nothing for the lawn’s health.
The only time they are actually needed is when your lawn is experiencing chlorosis, an iron deficiency that causes a fading color of the leaf blades, especially in new growth that starts as lime green and gets more and more yellow as chlorosis worsens.
But the thing is that dark green lawns look good so to come back to the experiment and demonstration I want to show you the difference between applying liquid and granular iron. On one side I applied a foliar application of chelated liquid iron. I used Lawn Star’s product which I bought on Amazon earlier this year. The other side I applied Ironite which I bought locally at a big box store.
With the liquid I applied less iron and more filler material and most of the iron was taken into the plant system. With the granular I applied more iron in total and the vast majority of it all oxidized and became plant unavailable. Almost none of it has entered the plant system yet and only a small amount will over the next week.
You can see that in only 30 hours or so the patch with liquid iron applied has already turned a darker green color while the other patch doesn’t look any different. The important thing however is that my lawn is healthy to begin with because I typically make an effort to fertilize my lawn for systemic health and not for its color potential.
If you want dark green grass then that’s easy to achieve, apply some iron, but if you want a healthy lawn then put your time and money into different products all together.
See the link in the description below for a collection of my guides to lawn fertilization…and make sure to see this video in the corner to learn more about feeding your lawn for long term health and improved tolerance to stressors.