When fall comes around, it brings the promise of many of our favorite activities. We get to have football back on the weekends, pumpkin spice lattes hit the coffeeshops again, and the cooler weather is perfect for walks around the neighborhood.
Fall is also the time to start preparing the yard and the house for the cooler weather. With winter around the corner, you’ll want to give everything a healthy dose of love to get through December and January.
One of the best steps you can take is to fertilize your lawn. These steps will help you take care of that chore effectively to ensure your grass ends up greener on the other side of the new year.
1. Time the Fertilizer Application Accurately
If you only fertilize your lawn once per year, the best time of year to do it for cool-season grasses is during the fall months. The actual time you need to do it depends on the year’s weather patterns, the moisture levels your grass receives, and other factors.
Most of the time, you’re relatively safe applying fertilizer any time between September to early November.
If your fall season brings an early frost before the fertilizer got out there, don’t apply it.
2. The Fertilizer Type Plays a Role
The lawn fertilizer type sold at most home improvement stores is usually what’s appropriate for your region’s turf and soil conditions. If you live in the north, some companies brand these products as a “winterizer.” []
This product should have a slow-release nitrogen addition that you add to your soil. When you see the numbers on a fertilizer bag, the first one is for that nutrient. If it’s been a tough season, go with a more extensive application. You don’t want to apply phosphorus at this time unless a deficiency is present.
3. Add Dolomitic Lime for Acidic Soil
The only way to tell if you’ll need this addition is to conduct a soil test. Some signs that tell you it’s worth doing include moss growth and stunted grass.
4. Clear the Lawn Before Applying
Before applying your preferred fertilizer to your lawn, it’s crucial to remove any debris that could interfere with the application. For many homeowners, that means the fallen leaves will need to get taken away. []
You’ll need a spreader to distribute the fertilizer appropriately. Broadcast and rotary designs tend to do the best work for the DIY approach. If you have a small property, a drop or handheld option is suitable.
5. Walk Slowly While Applying the Fertilizer
You don’t want to rush through the process of applying fertilizer to your lawn. Walk evenly and slowly across the grass, no matter what type of spreader you’ve decided to use for the application. []
If any fertilizer lands on a hard surface, you’ll want to blow or sweep it back to the lawn. Some products have a warning on the bag that states it can stain your hardscape assets.
6. Wait for the Rain to Fall
The best way to apply fertilizer is to have it land on moist soil. For many homeowners, that means the work needs to wait until a day after it rains. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, you can start spreading your preferred product the morning after everything gets a good soaking.
If you cast fertilizer on dry ground, there’s a risk that everything will wash away before it has a chance to modify the soil.
When the fall weather doesn’t cooperate with your fertilization plans, you can always turn on the garden hose to give your lawn a good soaking.
7. Review the Ingredients List
Even if you’ve been using the same fertilizer on your lawn each fall for a decade, it’s essential to review the ingredient list each time you buy a new bag. There can be different application and timing tips to consider because materials change. Formulation updates are sometimes legally required, so it helps to get in the habit of reviewing each label before getting to work. []
If your lawn looks lush and green after the summer, it might not be necessary to apply a fertilizer. You can also contact a locally trusted lawn and landscape provider or speak with your agricultural association if you’re unsure about the status of your lawn in the fall.