Regular fertilization leads to a healthier lawn

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By Dennis Morgeson

Fertilizing your lawn is a good way to maintain a healthy turf. You should fertilize every year. Fertilizing your lawn helps maintain a uniform, dense, green turf and reduces weed problems. The good effects of fertilizing can be lost if you fertilize at the wrong time. Low-maintenance turf requires one application of fertilization in late October or anytime in November for most grass types.

Don’t guess what your lawn needs! Get a soil test done. This can be done through the extension office. We have literature on hand to show you how to take the sample. With a soil sample, a good recommendation can be made on how much lime, phosphate, and potash your lawn will need. You should have your soil tested every few years.

Soil tests measure several important elements, however it doesn’t measure nitrogen. Turf is highly dependent on nitrogen but applying it at the wrong time of year can severely damage it. As a general rule, you should apply one pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn. If you are using ammonium nitrate for your nitrogen source, that would be three pounds per 1000 square feet.  Never apply fertilizer when the grass is wet, it will increase the likelihood of burn.

The time of year to fertilize your lawn is dependent on the types of grasses you are growing. Fall and early winter is the best time to apply nitrogen fertilizer to cool season grasses such as fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass. Most lawns in Kentucky are made up of these grasses. By fertilizing cool season grasses in the fall they will develop better root systems, become very dense and will have better fall and winter color. During mild winters the turf will maintain an even green color all winter.

By eliminating spring fertilization you will prevent a heavy flush of growth in the early spring, reduce the frequency of mowing during spring, develop a better root system, reduce disease, and develop a more heat-tolerant and weed-free turf.

Late spring-early summer is the best time to fertilize warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass and zoysiagrass. These grasses don’t grow until it gets warm; therefore fall and winter fertilization would be useless. Warm season grasses have been used on several area athletic fields because they form a dense mat, however they turn brown after the first hard frost and stay that way until May or June.  Happy gardening!