Heading into winter is when many people forget about yard care, putting the lawnmower away for the season. We fill our time cleaning the house, scrubbing the nooks and crannies we ignored in favor of being outside. But after a summer of heat, a fall of drought and a winter that’s slow in arriving, your lawn needs a little coddling to keep it healthy until spring.
The ability of turf to survive winter depends on healthy root systems. The stresses of summer often take their toll on roots, which need to regenerate in fall during cooler weather. To help lawns recover, fertilize now.
Late season application of nitrogen is recommended for Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue or Perennial Rye. Fertilize by applying 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet during the first week of November, while the grass is still green and the ground isn’t frozen (if you have sandy soils, don’t fertilize after September). With the warmth lingering late this year, lawns will get the benefit of a slow cool down of the soil, which will give fertilizer the chance to help roots regrow.
Nitrogen is the most important food to feed the turf – extra potassium or phosphorus is not as critical. At this time, nitrogen in the fertilizer should be from sources such as urea, ammonium sulfate or others that don’t need microbes in the soil to release them. Soil microbes slow their activity during cold weather, which may delay release of
nitrogen to the plants, making the late application unsuccessful.
For quick benefit to plants, make sure the soil is moist, which helps the nitrogen dissolve easily. If the ground is dry, irrigate a day before fertilizing. But if you’ve already blown out your system for the winter, apply fertilizer just after one of our rain squalls have passed through.
Then protect roots from drying out during winter by giving it a bit of water if we’re having a dry spell. Dry soils can lead to dieback of the root system, which will limit the top growth of turf during the growing season.
Typically, lawns benefit from watering once every four weeks if we are not getting much rain or snow fall. Keep tabs on how much rain or snow falls at your house – not across town or in Denver where the TV stations are located – and water your lawns when we don’t get 1 inch of water, cumulative, over four weeks.
The late fertilization means lawns will green up early in the spring but not put on a lot of top growth, saving you the effort of mowing before you’re ready to swing into summer chores. Keep in mind that the March-April application may not be needed if you fertilized in November the previous year. As long as the turf greens up and grows, delay fertilizing until May or June.
- Fall Lawn Fertilizers: How to Choose (brighthub.com)