Fall fertilization helps your lawn recover from the stresses of summer and provides nutrients for it to grow deeper roots and a denser stand of grass, which means fewer weeds and a healthier lawn that’s more resistant to drought, insects and diseases.
Fertilize in early September as the temperatures begin to cool and lawns start spreading outward instead of growing upward. Continue to leave mowing clippings on the lawn, as they return nutrients, moisture and organic matter to the soil.
One fall fertilizer application will give low-maintenance lawns the nutrient boost they need, and you’ll have a healthier lawn with minimal care. A second application will improve the lawn’s ability to withstand and recover from wear and tear. Apply fertilizer in late fall between Halloween and Thanksgiving, but before the ground freezes. For those growing warm-season grasses, make the last application in early October at least a month prior to the first killing frost.
No need to purchase a winterizing fertilizer. Most soils have high to excessive levels of phosphorous and potassium. Have a soil test first if you suspect your lawn is deficient in these nutrients. You’ll save money and harm to the environment by using the right product. Consider using an organic slow-release nitrogen fertilizer that helps improve the soil and provides nutrients. As microorganisms work on releasing the nutrients from the organic fertilizer, the nutrients will promote root development, hardiness and disease resistance in the grasses.
Continue to mow high as long as the grass continues to grow. You can gradually reduce the mowing height for winter.
Once you see improvement in your lawn, you may be inspired to adopt a holiday fertilization schedule. Adding one or two additional fertilizer applications can greatly increase your lawn’s health, vigor, resistance and ability to tolerate drought and pests.
Those growing warm-season grasses can begin fertilizing around Easter, once the grass begins growing. Make additional applications around Memorial Day and the recommended fall date. Those growing cool-season grasses should wait until Memorial Day to start fertilizing, in addition to the two fall applications. Add a mid-summer application of slow-release fertilizer for irrigated lawns.
Fall fertilization is the first step to growing a healthy lawn next year. It’ll decrease your lawn-care challenges and workload next year.
—By Melinda Myers, www.melindamyers.com.