By Patrick Rentz and Ken Healy
Spring Green Lawn Care
Fall is right around the corner. That means it’s time to play football, pick out pumpkins and prep our lawns for the cold winter months ahead. Fall fertilizing can set your lawn up for success year-round, but timing does matter.
Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Fall Fertilizing Questions:
- Do I need to fertilize my lawn in the fall? Fertilizing your lawn in the fall is more important than any other time of the year. In fact, fertilizing your lawn in the fall can be critical to maintaining a healthy lawn, especially if you have cool season turf grasses like fescue or Annual or Perennial Ryegrass.
- Why does fall fertilizing matter? One key reason to fertilize your lawn in fall is the benefits you’ll gain this spring. Setting your lawn up for good health during the coldest months of the year will ensure you have a lush, green lawn come spring and summer as well as reduce your maintenance requirements after the winter thaw.
- When should I fertilize my lawn this fall? Now that we’ve established that fall is an essential time to fertilize the lawn, a next commonly asked question is, does the exact time in fall matter? The answer is, in a word, yes. Your first fall fertilization should be in late September to early October and then apply a second treatment of fertilization in November.
- Does time of day matter when I fertilize my lawn? And, yes, the time of day that you fertilize your lawn this fall matters as well. The best time of day to fertilize is in the morning or early evening. Both times of day help you avoid the warm daytime temperatures that can often work against the effectiveness of fertilizer. Also, a slow-release fertilizer is essential for sustained feeding and doesn’t have the burn potential that a non-slow release product has.
- Should I keep mowing in the fall? Fall fertilizing efforts will be most effective after your last mow of the season. This is the equivalent to creating a clean slate right before you add fall fertilizer. Feel free to leave a bit of grass clippings behind to help the roots of your grass.
- Should I avoid fall fertilizing if it’s been raining a lot? Rainy fall days are not beneficial to fertilization efforts. If it has just rained, it is best to wait until things dry out to apply fertilizer to your lawn. You can, hopefully, avoid runoff by checking the weather forecast before you fertilize.
- How much fertilizer should I use? As a rule of thumb, it is better to apply too little fertilizer than too much. Nitrogen and phosphorous are not absorbed by your lawn past a certain amount and can get washed into storm drains and watersheds if over-applied causing nutrient pollution. This is another key reason to use sustained release products, they are usually released by temperature and some are taken up and stored in the plant instead of being released into the soil.
- Is there a benefit to calling in a professional to help? Yes! Many variables come into play when determining how to best fertilize your lawn this fall. An experienced lawn care professional can take into account the variables such as your region’s unique climate, your lawn’s unique makeup and your goals for your landscape. While the DIY approach is always available, a lawn care professional can set up for success this season and many to follow by eliminating trial and error.
During fall, best practices say that September is the best time to fertilize your lawn. So that means, right about now you should be taking steps to get your lawn ready for fall and winter. Even more important than the September fertilizer application is the second one that should take place at the end of October or early November.
This last application of fall lawn fertilizer before the winter can make all the difference in the health of your lawn next spring. Taking the time to fertilize in the fall will strengthen your plants and lawn’s roots, giving them a strong base on which to thrive next spring.
Fall is also an important time for warm season turfgrass and fall applications can set any lawn up for success in the spring and summer of the following year. Fall is when Pre-emergence herbicide is applied and keeps Annual Bluegrass or Poa Annua from germinating. This is one of the most problematic weeds in warm season turf in the Spring. Following a strict Pre-Emergence program throughout the year is essential for keeping unwanted weeds out of your yard and also will eliminate the need for post emergence herbicide to eradicate those weeds.
All in all, Fertilization is the key to a healthy Lawn, feeding your lawn regularly will make it thick and lush and will also help the herbicides keep weeds away so you can reduce the amount of Herbicide needed to do the job.