Did you know that most homeowners overfertilize their lawns and gardens? And, some don’t fertilize at all! You can have a green, luscious, fantastic-looking lawn in the Spring if you prepare it properly with Fall lawn fertilization. If you’ve ever wondered if fertilizing your lawn in the Fall is important, how much fertilizer you should be using, when you should fertilize your lawn, or even what ratio of nutrients your winter fertilizer should include, you will find your answers here.
Do I Really Need to Fertilize my Lawn?
I’ve definitely been the neighbor with the bad lawn, but it wasn’t because I didn’t care about my yard. It’s because I was never taught how to properly care for my grass throughout the year, Fall fertilization included.
Fertilization gives your lawn stronger roots, makes your grass less prone to drought and disease, and encourages growth. When you fertilize your grass, you are adding nutrients your grass needs, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
When Should I Fertilize?
When you should fertilize depends on what kind of grass you have.
In warmer regions, it is beneficial to fertilize your lawn in late spring or early summer and again in late Summer or early Fall.
In colder climates, you should fertilize in the fall. You might do a second pass in late Spring.
If you only fertilize once, the most important time to feed your lawn is the Fall. No matter where you live, Fall fertilization is going to make sure your lawn is strong enough to last the Winter. Plus, it promotes growth in the Spring, so make sure you and your mower are ready!
Timing Fertilization With the Weather
Make sure to look at the forecast for your area before you fertilize. You don’t want to spend the time fertilizing just for it to be washed away by a heavy rain.
Also, you need to have a general idea of when the ground is going to freeze. Fertilizer should be applied about 2 weeks before the ground freezes (if this is a problem for your area). If you apply your fertilizer too early, your grass will be susceptible to mold, pests, and cool-season weed growth.
Proper Yard Fertilization Tips
You are going to want to pick up a spreader and fertilizer before getting started, of course. Different types of spreaders and fertilizers come with their own pros and cons, so look through the list below and decide what you think will work best for your yard.
- Handheld Spreaders – These spreaders are small, easy to carry, and can hold smaller amounts of fertilizers. These are best used if you are adding different fertilizers for specific areas of your yard, like a different fertilizer for more shaded areas than high traffic areas.
- Drop Spreaders – Drop spreaders drop seed straight downward in neat rows. These are best when you have a very troublesome section of your yard or folks with smaller yards (anything under about 1500 sq. ft.). You can use these to fertilize your entire yard, but you’ll want to be careful to overlap where your wheel paths are or you might end up with strips in your yard.
- Broadcast Spreaders – The most popular lawn spreader is the broadcast spreaders, especially for medium to large sized yards. These spreaders are very time efficient, but you have to make sure to keep up a constant walking speed (or driving, if it’s a pull behind). Otherwise, you will have patches of well-fertilized or over fertilized grass and some….well, not so much.
- Pull Behinds – There are pull behind options for both drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders. Pull behinds can hold a large amount of fertilizer, so they are best for large areas. You can hook them to the back of an ATV or mower to fertilize quickly and efficiently.
Fertilizers are labeled with an N:P:K (Nitrogen: Phosphorus: Potassium) ratio printed on the bag. A great winterizing fertilizer will contain a high ratio of both nitrogen and potassium, which are essential for cold hardiness and enhanced rooting. For example, Greenkeeper’s Secret Winterizing Blend has a 29-5-10 ratio, which will be great for promoting healthy root throughout the winter.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to apply fertilizers with a large amount of Phosphorus, as the runoff can be damaging to rivers, streams, and underground water pockets.
- Winterizing Blends – These contain high amounts of Nitrogen and Potassium. You don’t want to use these during times of heavy growth, or you might be getting the mower out every other day! Our suggested winterizing blends are Greenkeeper’s Secret Winterizer and Winterizer Plus Weed Control, which is fertilizer + weed killer all in one convenient mix.
- All-Purpose Blends – Fertilizers in this category will have an almost equal amount of all three nutrients you’re looking for. This blend is great to use the yard, flower beds, and gardens. If you already have a very healthy yard, you might mix this blend with a winterizing brand so you don’t wake up to a forest in the front yard during the spring. Our favorite? Greenkeeper’s Secret All-Purpose 12-12-12 Fertilizer!
The Fertilizer Formula: How Much Fertilizer Should I Use on my Lawn?
Most bags of fertilizer will have a chart that tells you how much fertilizer should be used with your spreader, and sometimes they even tell you what your settings should be. The problem is you might not have the brand of spreader they mention or their settings might not be accurate.
There is a simple formula you can use for your lawn or any lawn. For this to work, you will need to know the square footage of your lawn. You will need to measure the square footage of the area you need to fertilize.
You can use this Square Footage Calculator to convert acres to square feet. Just remember, if you use your acreage, you will need to subtract for structures and other areas you will not fertilize.
Take the weight of your fertilizer and divide it by (the covers up to # divided by 1,000). This will give you the amount of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet.
Then, take your square footage divided by 1,000 and multiply that number by the amount of fertilizer for every 1,000 sq. ft.
Here’s an example using the bag of fertilizer on the right:
- This back covers up to 15,000 sq. ft. and has a net weight of 40lbs.
First, take 15,000 ÷ 1,000 = 15
Then, 40lbs ÷ 15 = 2.67lbs of fertilizer for every 1.000 sq. ft.
- Our example yard is 3,500 Sq. ft.
So, we take 2.67 x 3.5 = 9.35, which can be rounded up to 9.5lbs of fertilizer for our example yard!
What Are Some Lawn Care Tips?
A few extra fertilizing tips include:
- Start off with a trim pass, especially if you are using a broadcast spreader. Once you have the outer edge of your lawn covered, you can work on the rest of the yard.
- Mow before you fertilize your lawn, but make sure you only trim off the top 1/3 of the grass. This will ensure you’re not stunting their growth.
- Check the Rural King blog often for lawn care tips and more!
Do you have any lawn care tips for us? Please share all of your lawn and garden success stories, tips, and hacks in the comment section below!
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