A late summer or early fall
lawn fertilization serves several purposes. It helps replenish
the nutrient supply that was used up over the summer months.
It also gives lawn roots a healthy start for winter dormancy.
Fall feeding is recommended for Bermuda, Bahia and centipede
grasses, but not for St. Augustine grass.
The key is to plan your fall
feeding for when plants are still taking up nutrients for winter.
While the timing may vary each year, here is a general timeline
for each region:
* In the North and Northeast,
the best time is usually around Labor Day.
* In the central "transition"
states, begin fall feeding in August or September, as plants
in this area tend to take up nutrients until early October.
* Further south, fall feeding
can be done in late September or October.
Dormant feeding is typically
only done on northern turf types, such as Kentucky bluegrass,
fescue and ryegrass. Even when a lawn is covered with snow or
appears dead, its turf roots still may be storing nutrients for
winter. Apply the usual rate of fertilizer for a dormant feeding.
This equates to one pound of nitrogen per one thousand square
feet, but check specific instructions on the fertilizer bag for
Timing the dormant application
can be difficult. Watch your local weather patterns. When you
see that your lawn is not growing anymore, dormant feeding is
in order. Here are some general guidelines:
* In northern climates, the
best time is usually after Halloween but before mid-December.
* In the transition states,
plants generally go dormant after Thanksgiving.
"Golf course superintendents
dormant-feed their courses every year," said Steve Bailey,
retired superintendent of Brown Deer Golf Course in Wisconsin.
"A dormant feeding helps prepare the greens for the stress
of winter. Plus, it gives them a jumpstart in spring for early
What type of fertilizer should
you use? Research conducted by Kussow at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, shows that lawns fertilized with Milorganite organic
nitrogen fertilizer in the fall tend to become green in the spring
seven to 10 days earlier than unfertilized lawns. Not only do
Milorganite-treated lawns sustain less winter damage, they also
recover more quickly from any damage that does occur. The resulting
thick turf minimizes weed growth because it shades weed seedlings,
preventing them from maturing. This is true from Maine to Florida
Do not apply any type of fertilizer
to frozen soil, as it is highly susceptible to runoff and pollutes
water in lakes and streams. This not only wastes your money,
but it causes environmental damage that is difficult to correct.
"Applying a fertilizer
with a high amount of water insoluble nitrogen is a good way
to help prevent runoff and waste," said Mike Archer, market
development and research coordinator at Milorganite. "Look
for an organic nitrogen source, like Milorganite 6-2-0, that
is high in slow release and water insoluble forms of this nutrient."
If you are in doubt as to which
fertilizer is right, start with a soil test. Contact your local
county extension horticultural agent for help. Another excellent
source is your local nursery.