Applying Fall Weed and Feed Fertilizers for September and October

Fall Weed and Feed and When To Apply A Fall Fertilizer.  It is often overlooked, but fall can be the best time to apply fertilizer. If you take care of your lawn this September and October, you will have less work to deal with come spring.  A fall feeding of fertilizer builds strong roots and protects the lawn for winter, so you’ll have a better looking and healthier  lawn next year.

Fall is also a good time to kill weeds in your lawn. You may need to simply feed your lawn with fertilizer or apply a fall weed and feed product to kill weeds also.  Lowes has two products to help your lawn as the fall season begins; Scotts TurfBuilder Winterguard Fall and Winter Fertilizer and Sta-Green Winterizer Fertilizer. Both are available in regular or weed and feed versions.

You can help your lawn continue to look its best when you  apply a fertilizer  to your lawn in September or October.  Many fall or winterizing fertilizers are higher in potassium than regular fertilizer or lawn food. Potassium is the nutrient that makes grass more winter hardy.

The first thing to understand about any fertilizer is the formula, which is represented by three numbers, such as 28-0-5 or 26-2-12. The first number is nitrogen, which promotes lawn blade and foliage growth.  If you want a dark green lawn, use a lawn fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen.

The second number stands for phosphorus, which helps new lawns get established and also helps plants and shrubs root growth. Because of the concern for excess phosphorus in lakes and rivers from fertilizer, many states now restrict or reduce phosphorus content in fertilizers.

The third number is for potassium or potash, it guards against diseases, aids in drought protection and also serves a role in improving root development. Each number represents the percentage of that nutrient.  For example a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate and 10 percent potassium or potash.

What Kind and When to Apply Fertilizer in the Fall:

lawn grass and fertilizer mapSo what kind of fertilizer should you apply in the fall and when do you apply it? Follow the same guidelines as you do in the spring.  If you have weeds, use a fall weed and feed product.  If weeds are not a problem, use a fall fertilizer only.

Remember that the most important nutrient for a fall fertilizer or fall weed and feed is nitrogen. Make sure to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer.  Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard With Plus 2 Weed Control has a ratio o 26-2-12.

Lowe’s exclusive brand of non-phosphorus Sta Green Winterizer has a ratio of 22-0-14.

Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass, grow rapidly in warm weather. Generally, you will feed warm-season grasses from late spring to early fall. If you fertilize too late in fall, the grass is likely to be less hardy as it enters slow growth during colder weather and is more susceptible to winter injury.

Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, grow most vigorously in the spring. They also have a growth spurt during the cooler months of fall but become dormant in winter.  Also be aware that some cool season grasses are grown in southern climates. In some areas, such as the deep South and southern California, cool-season grasses can also be grown throughout winter.

Fall is a very important time to feed cool-season grasses, keeping them growing longer into cool weather and providing the nutrients needed for quick green-up next spring. Fall fertilizer application should be done while the grass is still green and about 3 weeks before the ground is expected to freeze.

Transitional Grasses: In the transitional zone, you may have a combination of cool season and warm season grasses. This is the most difficult region to grow and maintain grass and in general, lawns in the transition zone see more success with cool-season grasses over warm season varieties.

You may have a lawn with Bluegrass, Fescue, Ryegrass, and Zoysiagrass.  Use extra care if you live in a transitional grass area, know exactly what type of grass you have and seek professional lawn care if needed.

One or two applications? Most companies, including Scotts Turf Builder and Sta Green Fertilizer, will recommend that you apply one fall feeding from early to late September every year.  I live in a cool season grass area; Michigan. For years I have used a two step approach to fall fertilizer. I believe two fall fertilizer applications properly prepare your lawn for winter.

Since I want to take care of weeds, I apply the initial treatment with a fall weed and feed product in late August or early September. In six weeks I apply the second feeding of just fertilizer in mid to late October.

The nitrogen in both products feeds the roots to keep the grass strong during the winter. They also provide reserves for a green and quick growth spurt in the spring.  Now, if you prefer just one treatment you can still apply once in early to late September.

You Want Easy or Just Don’t Have The Time Method. Proper lawn care requires fertilizer and a weed and feed product about every six to eight weeks to have an above average looking lawn.  If you’re not one for higher-maintenance lawn care, which also brings frequent mowing, fertilize once in the spring and once in the fall for cool-season grasses and once in early summer and once in late summer for warm-season grasses.  This will still  give you a nice looking lawn.

Now, I don’t recommend a once or even twice a year treatment, but if you want to put in even less work; fertilize cool-season grasses once in the fall and warm-season grasses once in late spring. For maximum appearance however, remember, you should fertilize your lawn about once every six to eight weeks during the active growth period.

WinterGuard, Winterizer, Fall Fertilizer

Companies may use different but similar sounding names for their fall and winter fertilizers. WinterGuard, Winterizer, Fall Fertilizer, Winter Fertilizer, Fall Pro etc… They all work pretty much the same. If you still have some of your spring weed and feed left over and want to save some money, you can certainly use it and apply it in the fall as well.  Fall is also a great time to fertilize shrubs and trees.

In addition, every fall we rake leaves, depriving lawns and plants of the organic nutrients that decomposing leaves release.  I always prefer fertilizing my trees and shrubs 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.

Healthy lawns depend on many factors including adequate water, sunlight,  carbon dioxide and oxygen. Lawn growth also depends on nutrients and essential elements absorbed by the roots from the soil. When the natural soil and organic nutrients do not provide adequate supplies of these essential elements, fertilizer can be applied to maintain your lawn.

Soil tests should be conducted to establish the proper lawn program.  A soil test kit will cost around $20 and will provide valuable information about your soil.

When fertilizing lawns, it is important to consider the weather, grass conditions, rainfall and if watering immediately following the fertilizer application. Always use a fertilizer spreader to apply the product and wear gloves and eye protection.

Late season fertilization is very beneficial because the advantages to its use are easily realized when compared to only spring and summer fertilization.  Applying a fall fertilizer will provide better fall and winter color, earlier spring green-up, increased root density and promote needed spring root growth.

By Victoria Stone

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