Fertilizer is food for your grass, but sometimes feeding your lawn can actually be a bad idea. Fertilizing benefits your lawn most when the grass is actively growing. Applying fertilizer at the wrong time can set up new growth for failure and even help unwanted weeds to thrive.
Know Your Grass
If you have a warm season grass that goes dormant in the winter, like Bermuda, zoysia or centipede, wait until late spring and fertilize every four to six weeks through mid-summer when growth is most active.
Applying fertilizer to warm season grass in fall, especially within six weeks of the first frost, would be largely wasted, since growth begins slows down in the transition to dormancy. Also, tender new growth prompted by fall fertilizing is more susceptible to winter’s bite.
Worst of all, when you fertilize warm season grass too late in the fall, you inadvertently feed the cool season weeds that thrive while your lawn lies dormant. Don’t encourage the weeds!
However, cool season grasses that stay green year-round, like Tall Fescue, thrive during the cooler temperatures of fall and spring. October and November are great months to fertilize a fescue lawn, supporting rapid growth with necessary nutrients. You can fertilize again in early spring, but avoid fertilizing in late spring and summer, when fescue growth slows.
Choose the Right Food
If you’re preparing to fertilize a fescue lawn and you haven’t tested your soil in two years or more, send samples to your county Extension Service first. You will receive a report letting you know exactly which nutrients need to be added to amend your soil. A pH reading will also include recommendations to help balance the acidity of your soil. Following the Extension Service guidelines will give your grass exactly what it needs to grow healthy and strong, helping ward off disease, pests and weeds.
If you have amended your soil recently, look for a general lawn fertilizer at your garden supply center that includes nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).
Keep the Clippings
You can save money and time, reducing your lawn’s need for fertilizer by up to half—just by using a mulching mower. Mulching mowers break up grass clippings and leaves into bits small enough to leave on the lawn. The organic bits make their way to the soil surface where they break down and become food for your lawn.
If you have questions about feeding your lawn, contact our Certified Turfgrass Professionals at770.832.8608 or info@NGTurf.com.