When Should You Fertilize Your Lawn?

When should you fertilize your lawn? You should fertilize your lawn in the spring to allow the nutrients to decompose and once in the late summer to get a burst of grass growth before winter. Organic fertilizers work well, but are slower to activate.

When asked about when you should fertilize your lawn, Merrideth Jiles, who is the garden center manager at The Great Outdoors Nursery and Landscaping Center in Austin, Texas, says, "You want to fertilize your lawn right at the beginning of its natural growth cycle. Often I recommend that people fertilize their lawns in early-to-mid March and then maybe again in late August or very early September because lawns get two major growth periods in the spring and in the fall." This of course is based on what type of grass that you have. The two types are cool-climate grass, which Jiles is referring to, and warm-climate grass, which has a different growth cycle.

The standard fertilizing schedule for cool-climate grass is right when the ground begins to thaw, before it gets muddy and then again in late summer. With the second application, because the soil is usually drier, it is important to water the fertilizer in well. If it is allowed to just stay on the surface of your lawn, it actually might do more harm then good, causing a chemical burn. If your lawn is doing well, an application might have to be made in early summer as well, a few months after the initial fertilization.

The standard fertilizing schedule for warm-climate grass begins as soon as the grass begins to turn green. A second fertilization should be done in the middle of summer. You may have to add to this schedule depending upon the type of warm-climate grass that you have and how well it is doing. No matter what, you should never fertilize in the fall as this is a dormant period.

Jiles goes on to discuss that the second aspect of when you should fertilize your lawn is based on the type of fertilizer that you use. If it is a fast release material, such as those used for golf courses, the fertilizer needs to be re-applied on a continuous basis because of getting washed away by rain and sprinkling systems. "Chemical fertilizers need to get wet for the chemicals to be released and that happens almost immediately," he says Though, this makes a lawn green and lush, the amount of maintenance required usually has the average homeowner choosing a slow-release fertilizer. With this type, it is most importantly applied to your lawn right before your grasses season of growth. Jiles says, "With organic fertilizers, they are not as quick to act. Organic fertilizers have to slowly breakdown and decompose to release the elements that are in them. So you actually want to give yourself a little bit of a lead-time." For warm-climate grasses this time comes during the hottest months of summer and for cool-climate grasses, Jiles says, "The grass season doesn't really start until about late March. So if you put down your fertilizer in early-to-mid March, by the time it starts decomposing and then releasing its nutrients, the grass is already naturally growing. So you are basically augmenting the natural growth and not trying to force the plant to grow."

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