Originally published on April 20,2020.
Each spring homeowners are anxious to head outdoors to enjoy the great weather. Especially after being trapped inside all winter with that is cold and wet. The same is true for myself and my family. When the weather begins to warm, and the days get longer we tend to spend more time outside.
The first thing most homeowners do after mowing their lawn for the first time in the spring, is to start thinking about controlling those winter weeds and fertilizing their lawn. I am hoping that you were able to take care of those winter weeds already, but if not, this is the time of year you would want to put out a weed and feed type of product to take care of those broadleaf weeds.
In many lawns, fertilization is optional. If your lawn has been generally healthy and attractive over the years, you may want to leave it alone. Remember that once you fertilize your lawn it will be thick and green, and maybe your lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood. However, it will also grow faster, requiring more trips across the yard on your mower.
If your lawn has sustained some damage in the past years from either insects or is thin due to a disease or weed pressure from previous years, you should consider fertilizing your lawn. The question I get most from homeowners this time of year is, “Why wait until April to fertilize or use a weed and feed type product?” Our research shows that turfgrasses undergo spring root decline. This is when much of the old root system dies, and the grass grows new roots. So, during this green up in March, our turfgrasses do not have a substantial root system. If we fertilize too early, we can cause the turfgrass to concentrate its effort on leaf growth and not root growth. By doing so it adds stress on the lawn causing it to possibly have issues in the later months of summer with increase disease and insect pressure. Plus, your fertilizer will not be efficiently absorbed because of this lack of root growth, thus causing increased fertilizer to be washed away.
Now looking for a fertilizer for your lawn can be a confusing and daunting task with the vast options available to you. Be sure to remember what those three numbers on the front of the bag mean –percentages of nitrogen, phosphate (phosphorus) and potash (potassium) in that order. There is not one commercial lawn fertilizer out there that is better than the other. Just make sure that one-third to one-half of the nitrogen in the fertilizer is a slow-release type for extended feeding.
Remember that lawn fertilizer should have a slow-release nitrogen source, and the numbers on the bag are in the following order, N-P-K.
Once you have mowed the lawn, it is a good time to spread your fertilizer. This allows the granules to move down to the soil more efficiently since the grass blades are smaller. Fertilizers should be spread across the lawn with a drop or broadcast type spreader. This gives you an even coverage and prevents burn spots that are seen with uneven application. To also ensure even application, apply half of the required fertilizer one direction, and apply the other half of your fertilizer in the opposite direction. Also, make sure that the lawn is dry when you apply, and water in thoroughly once you have made your application.
Make sure to apply half of the fertilizer in one direction and apply the second half of fertilizer in the opposite direction to ensure even application.
If you are still having a problem with weeds you may use a weed and feed type product that includes an herbicide to kill the weeds as you fertilize. Since an herbicide is present, you must make sure to read the label to make sure that it will not damage your other plants in the landscape (primarily trees and shrubs). Also, make sure that this product is safe to apply to the type of turfgrass you have at your home. Finally, make sure that the product you purchase will also take care of the weeds you are trying to control in your lawn.
Lawn fertilization is something we do to increase the growth and vigor of our lawns. This is not something that must be done every year. Bermuda lawns are the most demanding of fertilizer and may be fertilized three to five times between April and August. Homeowners that have St. Augustine or Zoysia lawns, that do not mind making a few extra trips with the mower, can fertilize once in April, June, and August. However, one application in April and another in July will be adequate in most situations. Centipedegrass is by far a lower maintenance turfgrass that requires less fertilizer than our other southern turfgrasses and can generally just be fertilized once a year in April.
For more information about lawn care or other questions about your landscape, please contact Mark Carriere, Associate County Agent, by calling the Pointe Extension Office at (225) 638-5533 or email him directly at email@example.com. More information can also be found on this and a variety of other topics by visiting the LSU AgCenter website.