Your grass growth has slowed and it’s almost time to retire the mower to the shed for the winter. You’ve spent a long, fruitful spring and summer maintaining your property and you’re just about ready to take a welcome break from seasonal lawn care. You’re almost done, but don’t throw in the towel just yet!
Now is the perfect time to fertilize your lawn and garden so that it will come back healthy and strong in the spring. Thanks to the mild temperatures that most regions of the country experience this time of year, root systems are able to absorb nutrients more efficiently and completely during the months of fall. Many experts actually recommend two fall fertilizer applications — first in late September or early October, and then again in November before the permafrost sets in.
Things to Consider Before You Fertilize
When you purchase fertilizer, you’ll see a rating on the bag with three numbers. These figures indicate the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the mix, respectively. You can use the mnemonic “up, down and all around” to remember how each benefits your lawn. Nitrogen promotes healthy “upwards” growth, phosphorous promotes healthy root growth, and potassium protects from diseases and pests.
So what’s the right mix for your lawn? You’ll have to take this on a case by case basis. Your best bet is to get a soil test to determine exactly what minerals your lawn needs most. Generally speaking, when it comes time to decide how much fertilizer your lawn needs, its best to err on the side of caution. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer can leech into groundwater, resulting in some fairly serious environmental and public health concerns. A soil test will ensure that you’re not over-fertilizing. As a rule of thumb, never use more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. If your lawn is already in good shape, you will probably need far less than this.
Fertilizing in the fall can actually minimize the amount of remedial lawn maintenance you’ll have to do in the spring. It might seem like an unwelcome task now, but you’ll thank yourself for time saved next year.