Grass Fertilizer

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Grass Fertilizer

When assessing the fertility of your lawn by sight, do not be deceived by soil color. Dark soil may appear to be the most fertile, but it can be depleted of nutrients. Grass can grow in many different environments and on many types of soil, but it will not grow as effectively and beautifully as desired if the soil is not richly supporting its growth. The healthiest of lawns prove to be the most attractive and inviting, and are healthy because they are supported through adequate application of the right type of grass fertilizer.

Although many different opinions exist regarding how and when to use grass fertilizer, there is one rule of thumb which works well. That is that when and how often you should use grass fertilizer will depend largely upon the peak season during which your grass most actively grows. The type of grass may also come into secondary consideration, as some types require higher maintenance than others.

There are three basic types of grasses, when considering them based upon their season of most consistent growth:

  • Cool season grasses
  • Warm season grasses
  • New lawns

Cool season grasses include types such as fescues, blue grasses, and rye grasses. They grow best when grass fertilizer is applied in one to two light feedings at the beginning of fall. It must be reiterated that light feedings work best, as the idea is to promote root growth in the early fall, but not to cause heavy top growth in a spurt at the onset of the season. One goal is to provide the grass with a solid root system which can support later, heavier growth during the cooler season, when nutrients deplete from the soil and difficult weather sets in. Secondly, fertilizing in the fall provides more carbohydrates for the grass to store for survival during the difficult period of winter dormancy and for a stronger showing in spring. Following up with a mid-spring feeding of grass fertilizer will then encourage stronger top and foliage growth. Heavy fertilization should never be done in summer or late spring, and a fast acting grass fertilizer should not be used on this type of grass in late spring.

For warm season grasses which grow most during late spring and early summer, grass fertilizer should be applied in the late spring to early summer, when they need the nutrients most. Initially fertilize in early spring after the grass has started becoming more green and there is no longer risk of frost, to provide the grass with the boost it needs after winter. There are different needs according to the variety of warm season grasses, so cross check information about your specific variety and local climate conditions, watering schedules, soil fertility, and fertilizer type for more guidance about how best to support the lawn’s growth.

In the south, if a lawn remains green all year, grass fertilizer should be applied intermittently throughout the year. In some areas of the south where grass does brown due to colder weather, early spring and early fall applications of fertilizer will likely prove most beneficial to prepare the lawn for the heat of summer and stress of low water periods. When applying fertilizer to warm season grasses, do not do so in late fall. A late fall application stresses the grass toward cold weather injury.

For a starter lawn, phosphorus and potassium inclusive grass fertilizers are key to ensuring proper germination of seedlings and building of strong, healthy roots. Freshly sodded, sprigged, or plugged lawns also need these elements, as well as nitrogen to build foliage in the grass. Work the fertilizer into the seedbed just before planting and consider soil tests to further determine the lawn’s specific needs. For grass fertilization at this phase of lawn initiation, avoid use of weed and feed style fertilizers, as the chemicals in those will kill the delicate new plants which have not yet established themselves in the soil.


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