How nitrogen fertilizers work

There are many types of fertilizers available, and nitrogen fertilizers are one of the most commonly used varieties. If this type of lawn treatment has been recommended to you, you may be wondering how they can improve the state of your lawn. Understanding nitrogen fertilizers requires an understanding of the soil in your lawn, as well as the way that it reacts to certain elements.

What are nitrogen fertilizers?

Nitrogen fertilizers are made using ammonia compounds. Sodium nitrate is found in the Atacama desert, and this was the source for the original nitrogen fertilizers that were introduced in the early 1800’s. Today nitrogen can be added to fertilizers manually in labs.

So why are nitrogen fertilizers beneficial to your lawn? Nitrogen is essential to soil in order for it to be able to produce healthy green plants like grass. This nutrient is present in most soil, as well as many of the products that we add to our lawns, but products that are marketed specifically as nitrogen fertilizers are very helpful to soils that are lacking in this compound. Grass grows great with lots of nitrogen, but vegetables and ornamental plants do not need as much. This means that these fertilizers are usually not the best choice for gardens and flower beds, but a great choice for the average lawn.

Nitrogen fertilizers lead to excessive growth of your grass. If you have planted a type of grass seed that needs to be kept relatively short, this could mean mowing will be required much more frequently, perhaps more than you’re willing to commit to. If your drinking water comes from a well that’s found in your yard, you should avoid this type of product. Too much nitrogen in your drinking water can be dangerous, especially to pregnant women. In yards where wells are not present, this is not a concern.

Types of nitrogen fertilizers

Nitrogen fertilizers come in several forms: Mainly organic and inorganic. Here are some of the basic differences between these two types of fertilizer, as well as some notable traits of each:

  • Organic nitrogen fertilizers feature nitrogen that has not been added to the product. These include animal manure, compost, blood meal and even grass clippings. If you need a fast nitrogen boost in your lawn, you’ll want to look elsewhere. The nitrogen that is available in these products does not make itself available to the soil for several weeks, in some cases it could even take years for it to break down.

  • Ammonium and Nitrate fertilizers have had chemical compounds added to increase the presence of nitrogen, as well as speed up its availability to your soil. This type of fertilizer is what’s known as chemical fertilizers, though you’ll sometimes find ammonium in certain types of fresh manure. With these products, nitrogen will be available to your plants almost instantly, and you should see the effects right away. Nitrate fertilizers sneak into water systems quickly as well, so this specific product should always be avoided in yards with wells.

If you’re still unsure about the right type of fertilizer to use for your soil, speak with a lawn care expert to get some advice. The staff at your local gardening center should be pretty well-versed in fertilizers, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction after hearing the answers to a few questions about your lawn. If you’re still unsure, get in touch with a lawn care company. They will assess your lawn and then apply the proper types of fertilizer and lawn treatments that are required to keep everything looking healthy and lush.


TruGreen will gladly visit your property as often as needed between scheduled visits to make any necessary adjustments and to ensure your satisfaction.

Getting Started with TruGreen

1. Call or fill out the form above to reach a lawn care specialist.

2. Know the square footage of your yard, as well as any specific areas of concern.

3. With the help of your specialist, create a customized lawn care plan that meets your lawn's needs.

4. Schedule your Healthy Lawn Analysis to start your service.