Just like perennial or vegetable planting beds, lawns need to be prepared for winter. The type of action you’ll take depends on what kind of turfgrass your lawn has. One common action to prepare turf for winter is fertilizing. If your lawn is healthy and thick and you’re unsure whether you need to fertilize, take a soil test. ldi landscape
Fall Growth Patterns
Even though fall’s cooler temperatures cause plant growth to slow, plants continue to produce internal food reserves. Many perennial plants shift excess nutrients to roots during autumn, creating a nutritional storehouse they can draw from when spring’s warmer days arrive.
Grass follows this growth pattern, storing nutrients in roots throughout fall. As air temperatures drop, blade growth slows, but roots remain active. A fall fertilizing fuels turf roots, which enables it to produce and store more winter food reserves. When spring’s warm air temperatures arrive and grass blade growth resumes, roots have a readily available supply of nutrients, which favors a quick spring green-up and thick growth. A thicker lawn helps elbow out crabgrass and other weeds.
In areas where freezes occur and warm-season lawns go dormant during winter, you shouldn’t fertilize after September 1. These warm-season grasses include Bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, centipede and zoysia.
If grass stays green through winter, you can apply an early fall fertilizer that provides a readily available, soluble nitrogen source. This causes turf to grow and thicken, which can help crowd out winter weeds. Use modest application rates, especially if you have sandy soil, to avoid having the bulk of your nitrogen leach out of soil into groundwater.
In northern regions where lawns feature cool-season grasses, such as fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, it’s especially important to prepare turf for winter. Cool-season turfgrasses actually experience their peak growth in autumn and respond to fertilizer with strong growth.
Some lawn-care professionals recommend that if you only fertilize cool-season grasses once a year to do so in the fall, because the fertilizers available in this season offer more balanced nutrition. These fall fertilizers are often sold as a “winterizer fertilizer.”