Our toes love gliding through our lush, green grass. But did you know our lawn does far more than just look and feel good? Lawns also improve air quality, reduce heat by 20 to 30 degrees and generate oxygen. That’s another reason why we need to ensure lawns stay healthy. So they can continue creating these perks. One of the best ways to keep grass vibrant on the surface and healthy down into their roots is to fertilize. And right now is the most important fertilization of the year – not spring! Learn why fall is the year’s most important lawn fertilization– and everything you need to know about the best time to fertilize. Should you mow first? Wait until after it rains? Or wait until the best time of day to fertilize the lawn? Why Fertilize Your Lawn in Fall – The Best Fall Month and Time of Day to Fertilize Summer heat is stressful on our lawns. Fall’s cooler temperatures provide the perfect setting for lawn to regain strength. Fall is the best and most important time to fertilize your lawn because: • Fall’s morning dew delivers moisture to help turf absorb the fertilizer. • The grass has a chance to build stamina before a chilly winter. • Supporting root growth in fall leads to a healthier, greener lawn in spring. While fall is naturally good for feeding our lawn, you can deliver an extra oomph by fertilizing as best as you can, too. When in fall should you apply fertilizer to your lawn? Apply fall lawn fertilizer 2 to 3 weeks before the ground freezes. To find an exact date, look for the first frost date in your area. That date is typically a good time to fertilize since the ground hasn’t frozen yet. More generally, mid-October is a good time to apply lawn fertilizer. Is there a best time of day to fertilize your lawn? Sure is! The best time of day to fertilize is in the morning or early evening. Both times avoid the warm daytime temperatures that work against fertilizer. When to fertilize lawn after mowing? Start with a clean slate by mowing the lawn right before you fertilize. Leave some grass clippings behind to help the roots. Should lawn fertilizer be applied before rain? Never fertilize lawns before a heavy rain to avoid runoff, so be sure to check the forecast before you start. And if it recently rained, let the grass blades dry before fertilizing. Need an expert to help fertilize your lawn this fall? We’re here to help!Fertilizing your lawn in the fall Tweet It’s not unusual to fertilize your lawn in the spring, but don’t let the cooler temperatures of autumn fool you. Fall actually is the best time to fertilize the grass, even better than springtime. After the summer’s heat and humidity, grass regains its strength before winter with a good fall fertilizing. Fertilizing now also helps grass develop a thick and deep root system, so it can better survive next summer’s heat. Taking stock A soil test is the best way to determine what nutrients are lacking in your lawn. Test for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, as well as the soil’s pH level. Assess if your yard is planted with cool season or warm season grasses. It’s the cool season grasses – bent grass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass varieties – that benefit from fall fertilizing. Cool season grasses are generally planted in locations with cold winters and warm to hot summers. Choosing a fertilizer Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the three primary components in lawn fertilizer. The shorthand is N-P-K. Nitrogen builds strong grass and roots. It keeps grass green and protects it from diseases. Fall fertilizers include phosphorus for stronger roots. A lawn with adequate phosphorus can better fight diseases and is more tolerant to heat, cold and drought. Potassium helps to protect the grass and roots from winter’s extremely cold temperatures. Gypsum also could be present in the fertilizer. It loosens heavy clay soils and improves absorption of nutrients. Loose soil makes it easier for new spring grass to break through. Your soil’s pH level will indicate its chemistry. If the pH level shows a need to reduce acidity, apply lime. If alkalinity needs to be reduced, apply sulfur. The bag’s label shows the N-P-K concentration by weight using a series of three numbers. For example, a 50-pound bag of fertilizer that’s labeled 5-10-5 is comprised of 2.5 pounds (five percent) nitrogen, five pounds (10 percent) phosphorus and 2.5 pounds (five percent) potassium. Larger numbers indicate greater concentration of the nutrients. The concentration determines the lawn area that a bag of fertilizer will cover, so follow the manufacturer’s application directions. Some fertilizers release their nutrients quickly, while others release it slowly. Determine which is best for your fall application given your grass and climate. Slow-release fertilizers result in longer, more even feeding, while fast-release products deliver nutrients to the grass quickly in advance of cooling soil and air temperatures. If your lawn has a lot of shade, it may not require as much fertilizer. Shady lawns generally grow more slowly than sunny lawns. Check the label for any special directions for shady conditions. Timing While the top growth of your grass slows or stops altogether in cooler autumn temperatures, the roots continue to grow. Two fall fertilizer applications properly prepare your yard for winter. Apply the initial treatment late in August or early September. Apply the second feeding in late October to mid-November. The N-P-K nutrients feed the roots to keep the grass strong during the winter. They also provide reserves for a green and quick growth spurt in the spring. Fertilizer dissolves more easily and quickly into soil that’s somewhat moist. If your yard is very dry, give it a good watering and then wait a day to fertilize. Otherwise the fertilizer’s ingredients won’t be as effective. What are your autumn lawn fertilization tips? Tell us in the comments area below. TweetFall is here and it’s time to fertilize. Why now? Taking the time to fertilize in the fall will strengthen your plants’ and lawn’s roots, giving them a strong base on which to thrive next spring. The first thing to understand about fertilizer is the formula, which is represented by three numbers, such as the common 5-10-5. The first number represents nitrogen, which promotes lawn blade and foliage growth; the second number stands for phosphorus, which helps root growth; and the third for potassium, which promotes cell function and absorption of trace elements. But what do you fertilize? When? And with what? Let’s start with your lawn. Early in September, grass is recovering from a long hot summer and may be coming out of a drought-induced dormancy, so you’ll want to give your lawn a shot of nitrogen to push blade growth. A fertilizer with a formula of 20-8-8 will get it growing again. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended rate of application. Some people treat weeds and insects at this time, but I think that unless there are signs of trouble or a history of problems, don’t apply anything but fertilizer. While this September dose of fertilizer is important, an application at the end of October or early November is essential. At that time, apply a fertilizer with a formula of 13-25-12. The push of phosphorus will stimulate root growth through November and even into early December. By helping roots grow before winter sets in, you are insuring that the lawn will green-up quicker in the spring and become more resistant to disease and draught. With the lawn taken care of, it’s time to consider plants. By now, perennials are starting to fade but they will benefit from 0-20-0 super phosphate fertilizer scattered around the plants at recommended doses and lightly cultivated into the soil. Next spring you’ll have stronger plants with more flowers. Fall is also a great time to fertilize shrubs and trees. In my opinion, all trees and shrubs need fertilizer, because most of them are located in mulch beds that use up nitrogen as they decompose. In addition, every fall we rake leaves off these beds, depriving plants of the nutrients that decomposing leaves would traditionally release. To compensate, I recommend applying one to three pounds of slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of bed and cultivating lightly. (To figure out the exact amount of fertilizer you’ll need, calculate the square footage of your beds and consult with your local garden center.) I prefer fertilizing trees in late September and early October to promote root growth. These nutrients will still be in the soil come spring when plants start to grow. If you have a tree or shrub that does not flower well, a dose of super phosphate will help promote flower growth. However, if the plant is not located in the right spot, all the super hosphate in the world won’t make it flower. Fall is also the time to plant bulbs. I prefer to use super phosphate to promote root growth, insuring strong flowering in the spring. Some people recommend using bone meal when planting bulbs but I find that it attracts rodents who eat both the bone meal and the bulbs. As you can tell, the basic goal of fall fertilizing is to promote root growth. When you have strong roots, you have healthy plants with numerous flowers. So push those roots!