As the fall season creeps on, it’s time to think about getting your lawn ready for winter and this includes one final application of fertilizer.
Your lawn has been hungrily sucking up all the nutrients it can in order to survive the heat and sun of the summer months. You’ve probably noticed its growth has slowed down and even may be brownish or patchy in spots. You need to get it ready to fight off winter’s harshness.
By feeding your lawn now, it will allow for your yard to green-up quickly and healthily in the spring. Plus, it allows you to delay spring fertilization until late spring or early June.
Note that you won’t see any results from fertilizing before the snow falls – that’s not the intent.
The Nitty-Gritty Details
Have you ever wondered why grass and certain other plants don’t freeze during our brutally cold winters? Here’s why:
Though the grass blade growth has stopped, the cooler temperatures make the roots active, and nitrogen is needed for their growth. Nitrogen also makes the grass greener by increasing the chlorophyll content, and as you may or may not remember from Grade 5, more chlorophyll means increased photosynthesis. The photosynthesis means an increase in sugar production, and since the blades aren’t growing at this time of year, the sugars are stored in the roots. This sugar is what keeps the blades from freezing.
So, all that being said, fertilizing in the late fall gives the soil the added Nitrogen boost it needs for all of the above to happen.
The Right Fertilizer
When going to purchase a fertilizer for late-fall application, look for one that is high in Nitrogen content (the first number in the three number sequence on the fertilizer bag) since that is what the grass needs most at this time of year. Many fertilizer companies will often feature a specific “winterizer” or “wintercare” type.
Timing Is Everything
Timing is crucial when applying fertilizer in the late fall. The grass must have stopped growing, but is still green, usually mid- to late October, about a month before the ground freezes. If you do it too late, your turf won’t benefit and you will have wasted your time and money.
You’ll want to make sure that leaves are raked up and removed since they won’t degrade properly unless they’ve been mulched.
Most homeowners will mow a couple of times in the month of October, before the snow flies. Gradually lower the blade each time that you mow so that the last time you mow the grass is only about three-quarters of an inch tall. If it’s left too long, the grass could matt and smother under the snow, and will not allow for proper fertilizer penetration. You don’t want to give it a buzz cut however, since some insulation is needed for the growing point (crown) of the plant.
Ensure the fertilizer is distributed evenly to your entire lawn, the proper technique for your drop or rotary spreader. The fertilizer package will describe the correct application amount and spreader settings.