Wait to Fertilize Your Lawn?

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Don’t let an unseasonably warm day fool you into fertilizing your lawn. The timing, nutrient ratio and amount of lawn fertilizer depends on the variety of grass you’re working with but generally, fertilize when grass is actively growing. Although one type doesn’t fit all situations, here in the eastern piedmont we have success with both warm and cool-season grass varieties that are adapted to our location. Getting the “perfect” lawn depends on what your needs are for use, looks, wear and tear as well as available resources of time and money. Proper fertilization is certainly a part of putting together a workable plan.

For best results, know the plants that make up your lawn and plan for what their needs are. Cool-season grasses include: Tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, Perennial ryegrass, Fine fescue. Warm-season grasses such as Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine perform as well. Warm season grasses slowly green up in the spring, and don’t need fertilizer until about two weeks after they’ve started to green up. Apply too soon and it may be wasted. It’s best to fertilize cool season grasses in the fall. But if you forgot to fertilize your lawn last autumn, do it early this spring. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) typically get the most attention as they are the nutrients usually added to the soil at regular intervals, in larger amounts and are listed in this order on most bags of fertilizer. The numbers relate to the ratio of each nutrient in the formula.

A soil test should be made every two or three years to determine the amounts of lime for the correct pH and acidity levels, and the concentrations of nutrients needed by your lawn. Centipede grass is somewhat of a special case, since it likes acidic soils with a pH close to 5.5, typical of NC native soils, and low levels of phosphorus. It may not require the addition of lime and phosphorus, but you’ll want reliable soil test information to know what you’re starting with in your soil. Most of the year (generally April through November), routine NCDA&CS soil tests are provided at “no direct cost” to N.C. residents because of funding derived from a statewide fee on commercial fertilizer. From Thanksgiving through March, a peak-season fee of $4 is charged for the processing of all soil samples. Soil test kits with instructions, information forms, sample boxes are available at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center.

Developing a plan for a great looking lawn includes establishing a schedule for first and last fertilization applications in the growing season, as well as best cultural and pest management practices. These activities will help your lawn survive, resist disease and green up nicely.

The Master Gardener program is open to anyone 18 or older, with an interest in gardening and a willingness to use their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to make a positive impact on Lee County.

No previous training is necessary to become an Extension Master Gardener volunteer, just a desire to volunteer in our community and a passion for gardening. Under the guidance of Extension Agents, volunteers complete a 40-hour training program, pass an examination, and complete a 40-hour internship. To remain active in the program volunteers must perform a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer outreach service and 10 hours of continuing education each year.

Our last free upcoming information session to learn what it means to be an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer and how to become one in Lee County will be offered at the following location:

Saturday, February 10 from 10-11 a.m.

McSwain Extension Education Center – 2420 Tramway Road, Sanford, NC 27332

Please contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension Center -Lee County at 919-775-5624 or email me at minda_daughtry@ncsu.edu for more information.

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.