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When Do I Stop Fertilizing in the Fall or Winter?

lawn fertilizerMost homeowners who’ve spent the time and care to cultivate a gorgeous lawn will know that their grass is at least somewhat dependent on a fertilization schedule in order to remain verdant. Even native species need added nutrients once in awhile to compensate for other environmental factors, such as soil and climate variations.

On one hand, the cooler seasons allow plant life to begin winding down, in preparation to go dormant for a few months. This means you can down-shift your lawn care regimen accordingly, but you don’t want to bring it to a full stop until winter has fully settled in.

We’ve all heard how it’s important to drink a glass of water before bed, to stave off dehydration. And that, unless you’re intentionally fasting, it’s important to have an evening meal to nourish your system.

These same concepts ring true for other living beings, including your lawn. Before it “settles in for a long winter’s nap,”as the famous poem states, it needs its own “evening meal and glass of water” in order to sustain.

So what does that look like, when it comes to fall and winter fertilization practices?

Plano Sod Installation already has the basics covered for you in our previous article, Effective Lawn Care in North Texas, but let’s take a moment to focus on the issues we’re facing as autumn sets in.

Why Fertilize in the Fall and Early Winter

Just as we’ve already indicated, continuing a fertilization schedule into the cooler months will not only keep your lawn healthy even as the days shorten; it’s also a proactive measure in ensuring your grass will return robustly next spring. Giving it plenty of what it needs right now- without overdoing it- sets it up for success when things begin to warm back up again.

As the ground temperature begins to drop, grass uses available nutrients to fortify its root system rather than focusing its resources on blade growth. Again, this process sets up your turf for success once spring rolls back around.

While the minerals in fertilizer don’t directly feed your grass, they are utilized in photosynthesis and carbohydrate production. Neither of these processes come to a full stop until soil temperatures begin to reach- and sustain- levels around the low 30s. We all know how long those higher temperatures can stick around in North Texas, so you may as well take advantage of that by continuing to fertilize until the grass can literally no longer utilize those nutrients.

When to Fertilize in Fall and Early Winter

While we definitely want to give your lawn a leg-up for next season, what we don’t want to do is waste resources. You don’t want to fertilize (or irrigate) your lawn beyond the point of what it can effectively absorb and utilize. You also don’t want to encourage lawn diseases that thrive on excessive nitrogen.

This Texas lawn fertilization schedule is a fantastic (though thoroughly detailed) guide we like to reference. Scroll down to page 5 for a map of average annual first frost dates by region. Those dates are a handy reference point for when to start slowing things down. You can also check out the classic Old Farmer’s Almanac for seasonal trends. Just enter your zip code and find the category you need!

However, as great as those resources are, the point of this article is to save you a bit of time and research. Did you know that the most critical nitrogen application is right before the very last time you mow you grass? This hearkens back to the notion we just discussed- preparing it for next season after a spell of dormancy.

So when and how often DO you fertilize your lawn in our region? Most authorities suggest that your final fertilization should be about 6 to 8 weeks after your most recent summer fertilization. However, this really depends on regional climate patters, which is why we suggest you learn what to expect for your specific area.

The truth is, here in North Texas, some areas won’t see their first full winter frost until…well, winter! It may be late December or early January before your area’s temperatures drop below 32*F. Does that mean you could squeeze in one more beneficial fertilizer application? We think so!

Let’s say you fertilized in late August, and then again in late October. If late December is approaching and your first freeze isn’t forecasted until early/mid January, go ahead and give your yard one last dose of nutrients. Again, we aren’t in the business of overdoing anything; it’s all about how your local climate affects the timing of this endeavor.

Reviewing the Main Points:

  1. Fertilizing in the fall will set your lawn up to thrive more verdantly in the spring, as it provides the minerals needed to set up a strong root system.
  2. You don’t want to waste resources, so their really is a cut-off point that you should identify based on local weather patterns. Fertilizing directly before a freeze will not allow the soil and roots to absorb the nutrients.
  3. Utilize available resources to accurately plan the best time to apply your final fertilizer application.

As always, Plan Sod is here to help sort out the details, including when and how to fertilize your lawn.
Contact us for a free service estimate!

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