Fall Fertilizing for Your Lawn: The Ultimate Guide

October 21, 2020

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Fall Fertilizing for Your Lawn: The Ultimate Guide

As your lawn prepares for winter, now is your chance for one of the most important parts of your fall lawn maintenance plan. Many people don’t realize that you need to fertilize your lawn in the fall. In fact, it is one of the most important times to fertilize your lawn. Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know about fall fertilizing for your lawn.

Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Fall

Fertilizing your lawn in the fall is important no matter what type of grass you have. But it is especially helpful if you grow cool season grasses like ryegrass, fescue, and bluegrass. The benefit of fertilizing in the fall is most apparent in the spring and summer. When you fertilize your lawn in the fall, you give it the chance to store up vital nutrients and energy for the cold winter months. When the weather warms, your grass will green up better because it has the energy it needs for new growth.

Fall Fertilizing for Your Lawn - The Ultimate Guide [infographic]

What is the Best Time for Fall Fertilizing?

Fall fertilizing is crucial for the health of your lawn. But the timing of your fertilizing also plays a significant role in how well your lawn uses the resources. If you want to do it right, you’ll have to break up your fall fertilizing into two parts. The first time to fertilize is in late September of early October, just as the weather is turning cool. But don’t worry if you missed that, because the second feeding is even more important. Fertilize your lawn one last time in early to mid-November to get the full benefit of fall fertilizing.

The time of day you fertilize also makes a difference. The sun’s warmth can actually reduce the effectiveness of fertilizer. So the best time to fertilize in early morning or late evening. However, fertilizing a wet lawn can burn the grass, so avoid fertilizing if the lawn is wet from dew. On the same note, don’t fertilize if it has just rained or if it is about to rain. Check the forecast before you start. If it rains too soon after you put down fertilizer, the fertilizer can run off with the water. If it gets into storm drains and local watersheds it can create nutrient pollution that is harmful for plants and animals.

Mowing and Fertilizing

Many homeowners are hesitant to mow too soon after fertilizing, because they are worried they will suck up all the fertilizer and ruin their hard work. But if you use a granular fertilizer, feel free to mow almost immediately after. A mower doesn’t actually create any suction. The spinning blades create a wind effect that pulls the blades of grass upright, and the spinning blade shears off the top of the leaves. There is very little chance that this will disturb your fertilizer. However, if you use a liquid fertilizer, wait 24 to 48 hours for the plants to absorb the fertilizer before you mow.

In the fall, there is some benefit to adding your final fertilizer treatment after you last mowing. As always, don’t worry about leaving some grass clippings on the lawn. The clippings break down quickly and return vital water and nutrients to the soil.

How Much Fertilizer to Use

How much fertilizer to use depends on many factors. The type of grass you have and the unique conditions of your soil determine exactly how much and what ratio of fertilizer you need. If you really want to fertilize to meet the specific needs of your lawn, you need to test the soil. If you take a sample to your local extension office, your results will usually include recommendations for fertilizing.

In general, it is best to use less fertilizer than too much. Over-fertilization doesn’t help your lawn since your turf cannot absorb more nitrogen and phosphorus than it needs. However, extra fertilizer that is not absorbed can wash into storm drains and local waterways as nutrient pollution.

A Good Turf Variety Makes All the Difference

If you are using a Turfgrass Group exclusive variety, like TifTuf™ Bermudagrass or Zeon® Zoysiagrass, you can use less fertilizer than other commercially available varieties. Most Turfgrass Group varieties require about 1-2 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet, divided equally between two applications, one in spring and one in late summer.