Yes, it’s that time of the year when leaves change color and that beautiful nip in the air reminds you that winter is not far behind. Autumn is the ‘official cooling-off’ month between chilling winter and scorching summer. It is the perfect time to bring out your jackets and indulge in an occasional cup of hot cocoa. It is also the time when your lawns need a late fall fertilization schedule because winter turf benefits immensely from fall fertilization.
Why winter fertilization is different from other seasons?
Lawns fertilized during summer and spring lead to dense and rich green grass blades. You can easily feel their glorious softness beneath your feet. But fall lawn fertilizers have a different role. As temperature drops and days become short, you cannot push for top growth anymore. Rather fertilizers are used to increase sugar storage at the base of the leaves.
Sugar-filled crowns are more robust and can resist diseases during the winter months. Another advantage of having a strong grass root is that they green-up more quickly restricting the growth of weeds during spring.
As the emphasis is more on crown building than leafy growth during fall, you need to pay attention to 2 things: the timing and the right fertilizer. A late fall fertilization schedule should not exceed than late October; at best it can be extended to early November.
If you want to maximize the effect of late fall fertilizers, then do not miss on your schedule in early September. Early fall application of fertilizer stimulates root growth. Homeowners who want to go for a single application can choose their time either in early September or early October.
Is timing crucial for winter fertilization?
We have already noted that a fall fertilization schedule should ideally start from September onwards. But what if you miss that window of opportunity? As turf managers, we insist on a ‘winterizer’ or a late fall fertilizer. A lawn devoid of winterizer will face a lot of problems during spring. Studies have proved that even cool-season grass benefits from fall nitrogen.
The best time to apply fertilizer is when the grass stops growing. It is that time when the grass will be still green on the top and quite active below the ground. In different areas in the North, the best time is between mid-November and early December. Follow a simple rule: once you decide to put away your mower for the year, it is time to go for fall late application.
What kind of fertilizers should you use for fall late application?
Previously it was believed that a late fall fertilizer should be high in phosphorous and low in nitrogen. But now nitrogen is a crucial element for a healthy lawn. Even when you use organic fertilizer do not miss the dose of nitrogen during fall.
For northeast fall lawn care, we recommend one pound of soluble nitrogen for 100 square feet of lawn. As you prepare your lawns for the harsh winters of Iowa, it is best to select a fertilizer that contains both potassium and nitrogen. This will not only strengthen roots but will help in disease resistance and allow enhanced rooting.
Is late fall nitrogen applicable for all turfs?
Each site is different. There are some turfs which can do without a late fall N. If your turf remains wet in early spring and cannot be mowed till it has dried, then do not go for late fall application. It will lead to early spring growth.
But as lawn care professionals we recommend late fall application as it reduces the need for fertilization in early spring. You may postpone your spring fertilization schedule till Memorial Day. The residual effects are enough to ensure density and green color minus the spring growth flush.
Word of caution: Overdose of fertilizers is harmful to lawns
Too much nitrogen can be extremely damaging for lawns, especially if you spread grass seeds. For a healthy lawn, a late-to-mid summer treatment of lawns trailed by slight fall feeding is a must.
If you are still struggling with the idea of a proper fertilization schedule, call us for a plan. At AATB we will be happy to answer all your questions and concerns!