The answer to this common question spells the difference between a healthy lawn and a patchy, unattractive yard. If you fertilize too often the balance of nutrients will burn and damage the grass. Fertilize at the wrong time and the weeds may benefit more than the grass, resulting in entirely the wrong patch of green. If you don’t fertilize enough your lawn simply won’t have what it needs to grow well and a host of other problems will follow. Learning when and how often to fertilize the lawn is valuable information.
When Should You Fertilize the Lawn?
Generally your lawn should be fertilized twice per year – once in the spring and then again in the fall. What type of fertilizer is used when depends on whether you have a cool-season grass or a warm-season variety. The key to fertilization is to hit the lawn with it during a growth period, delivering the nutrients needed for the burst of energy.
When Should You Not Fertilize the Lawn?
Don’t fertilize when the lawn is dormant. Growth needs fuel and fertilizer should deliver that fuel just as your gas needs it. If you fertilize during a dormant period you will most likely be adding to growth of weeds and potentially harming your entire lawn. Cool-season grasses are dormant during the cool months of winter and also slow down their growth significantly during the high heat of summer. Warm season grasses are similar, with a dormant period in both the winter months and the hottest days of summer.
Avoid fertilizing during a drought or dry period in your area. If rain is not in the forecast, it’s best to wait since fertilizers need a few decent soakings after application to make their way into the soil. When the fertilizer is left on the surface of the grass it will result in burning and leave unsightly patches on your lawn.
It’s a good idea to dethatch the lawn before fertilization as well. A thick layer of thatch will provide an effective barrier between the fertilizer and the soil and result in those same burnt patches. Removal of the thatch allows the fertilizer to make its way down into the soil quicker, resulting in better looking grass fast.
Seeding and Fertilizing Go Together
When seeding or overseeding it’s a good idea to apply a slow release fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are often naturally slow releasing and work well with seed. Be sure to take this into consideration when the time comes to fertilize again. Never spread another application of fertilizer until the period of release has passed.
The proper time is more dependent on the current conditions of the lawn and the climate, although these general guidelines are a great place to start.