Your lawn may be looking a little worse for wear after the winter. As a homeowner, it's important to have a healthy lawn. Fertilizing your lawn not only makes it healthy but also creates a welcoming first impression.
The best time for the first application is late spring, just as the green lawn is beginning to grow eagerly. In early spring, the grass is putting energy into root development. By following these simple steps, you'll be able to fertilize at the right time and get your lawn looking lush again in no time.
Identify Your Type of Grass
The first step in knowing when to fertilize your lawn in spring is by identifying what type of grass you have. Your lawn fertilizer schedule will depend on the type of grass you have, but remember that you have to stay committed to fertilizing your lawn every spring. Here are some of the grass types available:
Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are popular in the northern parts of the United States, and varieties like Kentucky bluegrass, tall and fine fescues, and ryegrass are the most common. Cool season grasses prefer lower temperatures and have two peak growing periods, one in the early spring, just after winter dormancy, and another in the early fall.
High summer temperatures and lack of water may cause cool weather grasses to go dormant until chilly temperatures arrive and water is more readily available.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses are popular across the southern states because the varieties, such as Bermuda grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, Kikuyu grass, and zoysia grass, thrive in warmer temperatures. Warm season grasses are tropical in origin, meaning mid summer is their ideal growing season.
If you live in a transitional zone, you may have a combination of warm and cool-season grasses that will require different care at different times. If you want to figure out the grass type, keep a lookout for how your lawn behaves.
Warm season grasses will turn brown after the first frost, while cool season grasses will stay green all year long in the cool and transitional zones. However, they won't survive the summer months if the temperatures become excessively high.
What Does a Lawn Fertilizer Do?
Lawn fertilizer is the food that your lawn needs to maintain a healthy appearance. It can help your grass grow more quickly and with less stress, allowing it to outcompete the weeds that may also be growing in your lawn.
Lawn fertilizer will never turn a regular patch of dirt into a lawn – it does, however, help maintain what grass is already there. This includes helping new grass develop roots and make new growth. When you buy a fertilizer, it will tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium there is in the fertilizer. Organic gardeners are avoiding using these chemical products as lawn fertilizers since there's evidence that they're posing a threat to the environment.
Organic Lawn Fertilization
There are a few organic methods of feeding a lawn safely. You can choose to use a mulching mower that chops up grass into fine particles then breaks down on the lawn. This provides the lawn with nitrogen as one application of lawn fertilizer. If you know how to make organic compost, they can also work well to fertilize your lawn organically.
You can also use organic fertilizers made from natural materials instead of refined chemicals. Organic labeled fertilizers will feed your lawn, though they're usually less saturated with the essential nutrients than the industrially refined fertilizers.
Non Organic Lawn Fertilization
Non-organic lawn fertilizer has a much higher concentration of nutrients than organic alternatives. It also contains chemicals that increase the effectiveness of the fertilizers by creating uniformity in the soil. Depending on where you live, they are more likely to harm the environment but could be worse for your lawn.
Traditionally, chemical lawn fertilizer remains the most popular choice and is widely available at hardware stores, big-box home improvement centers, and garden shops. They come in many varieties, including early season fertilizers, mid summer fertilizers, and late season turf builder mixes.
Other fertilizers are better suited for flowers or vegetables. Another category contains herbicides, which feed the grass, kill weeds, and prevent weed growth. Pre emergent herbicides are a combination of fertilizer and crabgrass control herbicide applied in the early spring.
This combination product doesn't have a full feeding of fertilizer. It slightly boosts grass growth and keeps it alive, while the herbicide in the product restricts crabgrass seedling development.
Knowing When to Fertilize the Lawn
One of the most popular questions for lawn care professionals is when to fertilize a lawn. There are three times, early spring, mid summer, and late fall that homeowners will typically fertilize their turf grass. Technically speaking, here's what you can expect from each type of fertilizer application.
Apply spring pre emergent products mid to late February or early March. In the fall, apply them early to mid-October. If you want to keep organic, then the best pre-emergent product to use is corn gluten. Make sure the one you choose is labeled for the type of grass you have.
If you have St. Augustine grass, you could be struggling with brown patch lawn disease caused by the Rhizoctonia fungus. Brown patch creates brown circular shaped lesions in your grass. To prevent this, use a fungicide labeled for brown patch disease.
Grub worms may also emerge in the spring. Grubs are white and about 1 inch in length. If you have grub worms, use an insecticide for grubs. If the problem gets too bad, you might need to treat it with a granular grub killer. Next on the list are chinch bugs.
These little critters love the heat, as they typically attack lawns at the edges first, often near a sidewalk. Chinch bugs are treated with an insecticide spray.
Fertilizer Application Timing
March and late April are great months to fertilize your lawn. What you need to know: Lawn fertilizer is not the same as houseplant fertilizer. You might also do a single turf builder application in the early fall to boost the root system. Many people may omit all fertilizers in the spring and summer and rely on the nitrogen from mulch grass clippings to feed their lawn.
If there's early spring, you need to fertilize twice, once in the early spring and the late spring. Also, the actual timing depends on your region and the type of turf grass you have. For information on the best recommendation for your area, contact an expert from a local garden center or reach out to the nearest cooperative extension office.
Once you've figured out the best time, plan the fertilizer application with a short period of rainfall. If not, you'll need to supply your lawn with at least a quarter-inch of water. Do not apply fertilizer before a massive storm because a rainstorm increases the risk of fertilizer nutrients flowing into storm drains and streams.
When to Apply Lawn Fertilizer in Spring
If you fertilize your lawn the previous fall, especially late in the season, then the slow release function of that fertilizer will help grass growth in the spring. Fertilizer manufacturers or lawn care companies may tell you to fertilize your lawn in early spring, but instead, consider the guidance by turf specialists and agronomists who say to hold off.
When cool-season grasses wake up in the spring, they enter a natural growth cycle when the root system begins growing and building carbohydrate reserves. Wait until the late spring, just before the heat of the summer begins and after the grass is thriving before you fertilize the lawn.
This will prepare the grass for the summer. During the hot summer months, the grass will begin to slow down carbohydrate production and utilize the reserves. Adequately feeding 3/4 to 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen will allow the grass to rebuild its energy reserves and wade off the stress of summer, such as drought, heat, foot traffic, disease, and insects. A polymer-coated slow release fertilizer can feed the grass for 12 weeks.
Feeding Lawn in the Summer
It is not recommended to fertilize the lawn in summer. Grass continues to grow during these months, and adding fertilizer at this time can harm your grass. Raking up leaves, grass clipping, and cutting the lawn will provide enough nutrients for the season. There are certain types of grass that benefit from fertilizing during the summer months.
Feeding Lawn in the Fall
Fertilizing in the fall is the best time to feed your lawn. The main reason for this is that fertilization can help prevent crabgrass from germinating. It also helps strengthen winter root growth. So if you want to learn how to kill crabgrass and remain with a healthy lawn, then try feeding your lawn in the spring.
Cool-season turf grasses, such as bluegrass and tall fescue, do not necessarily need fertilizing in the fall. They will benefit from it if they were underfed during the growing season. But it's best to feed them in the spring when their root systems are stronger and more developed.
If you fertilize your lawn in the fall, do not wait until it gets cold. It's best to apply a slow-release fertilizer in early October. This will give the nutrients enough time to seep into the root zone before winter.
FAQs on When to Fertilize Your Lawn in Spring
How do you fertilize your lawn in the spring?
Fertilize lightly in early spring with either slow-release or quick-release fertilizer. Time your fertilization schedule with the local area's recommended seeding and fertilization date. However, unless you're aerating your lawn or overseeding it with new grass seed, your fertilizing regimen should not be time-sensitive.
What are the benefits of fertilizing your lawn in spring?
The effects of fertilizing your lawn will continue to grow throughout the growing season. A bonus is allowing the nutrients to seep into the root zone before winter.
Final Thought on When to Fertilize Your Lawn in Spring
As you can see, your lawn has a lot of benefits. Therefore, keeping it healthy and green is important as this can increase the value of your home. Fertilizing in spring gives you several benefits, which can help ensure that your grass will grow throughout the year long.