Winter fertilizer is an important element to your lawn care plan to maximize the health and wellness of your lawn. After the long, hot summer, lawns can take a beating. Whether it be from the heat or humidity, constant wear and tear or an invasion of a turf damaging insect it is important to give the lawn a chance to recover after each growing season. A winter fertilizer is just the trick to help give it the right nutrition before it goes into its long winter nap. Think of it like a cozy cup of hot chocolate just before bed… but for your lawn! See below for just a few reasons why this is an important step to take to help your lawn come back next spring healthy instead of hungry.
Choose the Right Fertilizer
Nitrogen Content in the mid range with a slow-release component. Even though nitrogen is used typically by plants to increase top growth (i.e. the part of the lawn you can see) it is still very necessary to put down as the lawn is going into winter dormancy. As the colder weather approaches, the grass is biologically trained to start storing nutrients in its crown, and root system. So by putting down a fertilizer with a mid range nitrogen count you are providing that food that it normally has to search for in the surrounding soils or from the leaves and debris that collects over the fall. Higher potassium content is always recommended for this application because it encourages better water and nutrient uptake to help absorb and store the nitrogen over the winter months. Potassium also helps strengthen the cell walls in the root system of the grass to make for stronger, more disease resistant turf.
Timing is Everything
Mid October – early November is the best time. This is when, as mentioned above, the growth process is starting to slow down and the plant is starting to store nutrients for the long winter ahead. If you apply it too early (September), it will absorb everything you put down and leave nothing for the winter months. Or if you apply it too late (December) the roots are not able to take up any of the nutrients and it will sit on the top of the soil over the winter to be absorbed in the spring.
Benefits to the Health of your Lawn, Long-Term
There are many benefits to put down a winter fertilizer but there are a few that avoids winter kill – on average, we lose about 5-15% of our lawns each winter due to the harsh and fluctuating temperatures. By strengthening the roots of the grass in the late fall time it becomes more capable of withstanding the winter conditions.
A Fall fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen, it will increase the chlorophyll content. This strengthen the crown of the grass, which keeps it safe during times of stress (either winter or summer stress). Finally, by applying a fall fertilizer it helps the grass store the nutrients in the root system so when the spring weather hits it will come back strong and healthy and earlier each spring.
When the weather gets cool it can be easy to want to put all of your tools away but just remember: your grass is like a bear going into hibernation, you don’t want it waking up grumpy next year so it’s a great idea to put down a late fall fertilizer this year!