How Fertilizer Feeds Turf

How Fertilizer Feeds Turf


Turf feeds mainly on fertilizer’s nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) formula. However, there’s also a variety of secondary and micronutrients needed to keep turf healthy and growing – calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and chlorine. View a complete list of fertilizer nutrient functions.

Granular fertilizers can contain a blend of nutrient particles, or each homogenous particle can be comprised of all the nutrients. Some products on the market use both approaches and contain a blend of different nutrient particles and individual homogenous particle nutrients.


The nutrients in the fertilizer are made accessible to the plant through a number of natural release mechanisms including microbial action and soil temperature, osmosis, hydrolysis, and physical breakdown. As the structure of the fertilizer pellet melts away, minerals are released into the soil and absorbed by the plant.

1. Microbial Action
Naturally-occuring microogranisms act to break down the fertilizer elements into more basic compounds. Soil temperature affects the activity levels of microorganisms; cold temperatures mean less activity and less breakdown, while warmer temperatures increase activity and breakdown.

2. Osmosis
Chemical elements will naturally move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. For example, the higher concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer granule will slowly migrate to the less nutrient-rich soil.

3. Hydrolysis
Water interacts with the fertilizer, breaking down the compounds and releasing the nutrients into the soil.

4. Physical Breakdown
Mowing, foot traffic, and other physical handling of the fertilizer particles will cause nutrients to break down and be released into the soil for plant absorption.