Lawn fertilizer is like food for your grass, providing it with the nutrients it needs to grow and maintain its healthy, green glow. Each fertilizer uses a unique combination of nutrients, though most include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These ingredients create a vibrant, green lawn that resists weeds like crabgrass while creating an excellent growing environment.
While it’s important to fertilize your lawn, don’t start throwing down these nutrients at any time of the season. It’s important to consider your grass type and the environment you live in before deciding on a time to fertilize. This guide outlines the best time to fertilize your lawn, how often you should do it, and the factors that impact growth.
Best Times to Fertilize a Lawn
The right time to fertilize your lawn is influenced by the type of grass you have. Much of the country has either cool-season or warm-season grass, with some areas combining the two types for a more versatile lawn. It’s important to identify your grass type and plan your lawn care schedule around its needs. Below is a quick overview of which seasons are best for fertilization based on your lawn type.
Early spring is a great time to give your cool-season grasses a bit of a boost before going into the warmer months. This treatment should go down with a spreader before temperatures start to peak and the grass goes dormant. Cool-season grasses, such as perennial ryegrass, fine fescue tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and other turfgrasses, need a small amount of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to get them through summer.
If you have warm-season grass, such as centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and zoysiagrass, you’ll also want to fertilize your lawn in late spring or early summer, just before the season’s high temperatures roll in. This helps the grass fill out and gain strength during its peak growing period.
As mentioned above, warm-season grasses can be fertilized in early summer before the onset of high temperatures. Additionally, a second round of fertilizer should be applied in late summer as the heat starts to dissipate, preparing it for the cooler months ahead. Specialized slow-release granular fertilizers can be used to sustain your warm-season grass throughout the season without requiring a reapplication.
While a spring application is important for cool-season grasses, a heavy fall application is also critical to promote healthy lawn growth during peak months. Additionally, a fall fertilizer helps other grass types recover from the draining summer heat, repairing any brown spots in your lawn.
Most grasses go dormant during the winter, making fertilizer ineffective. However, some parts of the country have mild winters that allow warm-season grasses to break dormancy in late winter. You can fertilize your grass to give it recovery nutrients from its winter dormancy. You’ll know if it’s time if daily temperatures persist in the 70s.
Some homeowners prefer to have a professional lawn care company such as TruGreen pay regular visits to fertilize and maintain the health of their grass and lawn. TruGreen pays a visit to maintain your lawn’s health with fertilizer, seeding, and other services every four to six weeks. Learn more about the company in our comprehensive TruGreen review.
How Often to Fertilize
The frequency in which you fertilize depends on your climate and the type of grass you have. In general, you’ll want to fertilize your grass during its peak growing season, which is during the fall for cool-season grasses and spring for warm-season grasses.
While one application may be enough, follow the instructions listed on your specific fertilizer for more detailed information. Some fertilizers recommend an application every eight weeks, while others recommend just a few times per season. Regardless of your application preference, it’s important to avoid overfertilizing, which can damage your grass’s root system and lead to poor drainage.
How Weather Impacts Fertilizer Application
No matter what type of fertilizer you use, it’s important not to apply it during periods of drought or heavy rainfall. Many fertilizers need multiple waterings to soak into the soil, so applying them during a drought leaves your grass vulnerable to surface burns and slow growth. Additionally, many areas have watering restrictions during seasonal drought periods, so you’ll be unable to water your grass manually.
Periods of heavy rainfall can cause your lawn to become waterlogged, eroding soil and harming your grass. Applying fertilizer won’t be effective during this time, as water runoff can carry the fertilizer away and prevent it from receiving the proper nutrients.
Fertilizing your grass is an important step in your lawn care routine, as it promotes healthy root growth and keeps your lawn lush and green. However, it’s important to pick the right fertilizer for the job and apply it at the right time.
If you have cool-season grass, be sure to apply it briefly in the spring before giving it a good application in the fall. For warm-season grasses, be sure to apply frequently during the spring as directed on its bag. If you’re unsure how to properly treat your lawn, there are many top lawn care providers such as TruGreen that can help tailor a plan to your yard’s unique needs.
Local Lawn Experts
Many homeowners have heard of national brands like Sunday or TruGreen, but would prefer to use a service that’s based out of a local branch. Others would simply like to be contacted by a highly-rated lawn care service provider, rather than going to the trouble of researching companies on their own. To be contacted by a local lawn care expert, fill out this easy form or enter your zip code in the field below.
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