Fall Fertilization Of Southern Lawns

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This article explains the importance of, and provides tips for, feeding southern lawns in the Fall
by Brett · All Zones · Lawn Care · 0 Comments · September 27, 2012 · 2,725 views

Fall is here and it's time to fertilize the lawn. Why now? Won't the lawn be going dormant for winter? Yes, some lawn grass types do. But, no matter what type of lawn grass you have, whether it be a cool or warm season grass, it will benefit from a fall feeding.

If you have a warm-season lawn grass, such as Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia or St, Augustine, these lawns will be going dormant for winter, but will benefit tremendously from fall feeding with the right type fertilizer with the right type of formula.

If you have a cool season lawn grass, such as fescue or bluegrass, these are just now coming out of dormancy...if they survived the summer that is, and will therefore will aslo benefit tremendously from a fall feeding. If your cool season lawn grass didn't survive the summer, it's time for reseeding. But that's another topic. In this article we're talking about fertilization. Continue reading below to find some helpful tips for fall feeding your southern lawn.

Evaluate Soil Conditions First...

Various types of lawn grasses thrive at different soi pH levels. Soil pH is very important because it determines whether or not a plant will effectively uptake essential nutrients required for optimum health. Bermuda, Zoysia, Fescue and Bluegrass thrive in a soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Centipede thrives in an acid soil with a pH between 5.0-6.0. With these somewhat narrow ranges, it might be a good idea to test the soil before fertilizing. You can purchase a test kit at your local nursery and garden center or buy a soil test kit online here. Or check with your local extension service to see if they provide soil testing services. Either way you go, you'll get results and recommendations, if necessary, for correcting the soil.

Warm Season Lawns: - Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine, or Zoysia

Depending on your location, by the time September or October arrives Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine and Zoysia lawns are preparing to go into dormancy for the winter. This means blade growth will begin to slow down. So, why fertilize these lawn grasses in the Fall? When you apply the right type fertilizer you can help to build up the root system, better preparing your lawn for the colder weather to come, and for the spring green-up.

When considering the type of lawn fertilizer you will use on warm season grasses for Fall feeding you'll want to make sure to apply a fertilizer in September or October that is low in nitrogen (first number) and high in potassium (last number), such as 5-0-20. Reason being, heavy amounts of nitrogen stimulates blade growth, and this is not what your grass needs at this time of year. On the other hand, potassium promotes cell function, absorption of trace elements, and root growth. It's the root growth you're after. 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 drought.

If you're wondering why most lawn fertilizers contain little if any phosphorus (middle number) this is due to restrictions aimed at reducing phosphorus levels in our countries water sources. Therefore, most "Fall Feed" fertilizers on the market today will contain little or no phosphorus.

If weeds are a problem or concern in your lawn you can apply a fall feed fertilizer which contains a post-emergent weed killer or a pre-emergent weed preventer. I rarely if ever use post-emergent weed killers over my entire lawn. To reduce the amount of chemicals in the environment I spot spray using a liquid herbicide to kill weeds in the lawn.

Cool Season Lawns: Fescue or Bluegrass

By the time October arrives, cool season lawns in the South are recovering from a long hot summer and may be coming out of a drought-induced dormancy, entering their active growth season. Therefore, unless you are overseeding (see below), you'll want to apply a fertilizer during the month of October which contains a higher amount of nitrogen (first number).

Nitrogen will promote blade growth and this is what you're looking for regarding feeding the cool season lawn grasses in Fall. How much nitrogen? I would suggest a fertilizer that contains between 18 and 34 percent nitrogen, such as 18-0-4 or 32-0-6, and preferably one which provides a "slow-release" nitrogen. Most major brands of lawn fertilizer will have a combination of soluble and slow release forms of nitrogen (indicated on the label). Soluble nitrogen is available to the lawn grass immediately while slow release nitrogen becomes available over a period of several months.

If you're wondering why most lawn fertilizers contain little if any phosphorus (middle number) this is due to restrictions aimed at reducing phosphorus levels in water sources.

If weed control or prevention is a concern, and you will not be overseeding, you can apply fertilizers that contain post-emergent weed killers or pre-emegent weed preventers. I rarely if ever use post-emergent weed killers over my entire lawn. To reduce the amount of chemicals in the environment I spot spray using a liquid herbicide to kill weeds in the lawn.

If Overseeding - If you are overseeding or sodding a fescue or bluegrass lawn during the fall you'll want to apply a "starter-type" fertilizer, such as 8-16-8, which is lower in nitrogen but contains more phosphorus to help promote strong root growth. If you are overseeding or sodding be careful not to apply a fertilizer that contains a weed killer or weed prevently. Stick with fertilizer only, and pelletized lime if your soil pH is too acid. Fescue thrives best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7, the closer to 7 the better. If you're not sure about the pH of your soil it can be tested using a soil Ph test kit purchased from your local nursery and garden center or by your local extension service.

Other Tips


  1. Most lawn fertilizers these days are sold by how much square feet of lawn area they will cover. Click here to find instructions for calculating square footage
  2. It's a good idea to have your soil Ph tested to see if adjustments need to made. You can test with a kit purchased from your local nursery and garden center or by your local extension service. Consult with your local nursery or landscaping professional about what products should be used to correct soil pH for your particular type of lawn grass.
  3. If you would like to see some examples of Do-It-Yourself lawn fertilization and weed prevention programs click here to check out the lawn care programs the nursery and garden center I work at offers.

Buy Lawn Fertilizer to Fertilize Lawns online at Gardener Direct



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