Fall Fertilization Tips

Last Updated: 10/8/2023
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Feeding your lawn is an important part of lawn care. Fertilizer can help you achieve a healthy lawn that is the envy of your neighborhood. The only problem is that applying fertilizer can be tricky, and there are so many products on the market to choose from, including using what might already be on your lawn. These simple tricks can help you fertilize your lawn successfully.

Feeding Your Lawn with Leaves

Instead of breaking your back raking leaves on a beautiful weekend afternoon, wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative that would save you time? If you have a mulching mower, you have all you need. Just remove the bag and insert the mulching plug.

Mow it high; Let it fly. Your lawnmower has the capability to chop those leaves into tiny pieces, thereby causing them to decompose and break down at the mercy of insects and microbes. Recent research clearly indicates the benefits of mulching the leaves of deciduous trees into existing turf:

  • Chopped leaves provide a beneficial “top dressing” of nutrients and organic matter which enriches the soil. It will improve the soil by enhancing its structure and nutrient properties.
  • Mulching leaves generally saves you money. They don’t have to be transported offsite.
  • When cleaned off of the streets, leaves can be mulched onto the turf instead of being washed down storm drains potentially clogging them and adding to the nutrient problems of the local watershed.
  • Using leaf mulching provides a softer surface for people engaged in sports or physical activity.
  • Mulching the leaves into the turf requires much less work.

Mulching the leaves into the lawn is not without problems. Research indicates heavy leaves can result in visible leaf litter. Try to “re-mulch” visible leaves until they are gone. Clean it up as much as possible making sure not to leave large piles of leaves on the lawn.

Granular Fertilizer vs Spray Fertilizer

Using spray fertilizer may seem like a time-saver, but you can easily make mistakes using a spray system. Granular fertilizer is much easier and more precise to use and is more forgiving for homeowners who have never applied fertilizer before. Granules are a much safer choice when it comes to properly fertilizing your lawn, however is important to avoid runoff into the bay by blowing the granular off of all impervious surfaces and back onto the lawn. Helpful Hint: “Fatten Up” your lawn before it goes dormant with a slow-release fertilizer. This will help your soil store the nutrients it needs.

Know What Your Lawn Needs

There are three numbers that appear on the label of fertilizer. These numbers indicate how much Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are in the bag. The levels of these nutrients required by your lawn can vary according to the season and where you live. While the label on the back of the bag may help you figure out which ratio you need, it’s best to get your soil tested to find the right fertilizer for your lawn.

Note, that in Maryland, phosphorus levels in the soil are typically high, and therefore, cannot (and should not) be applied unless a soil test reveals it is needed. In all cases, be sure to read the label on the product for the proper rates: The Label is the Law!

Water Your Lawn As Directed

Before applying fertilizer, you’ll need to determine how much water your lawn requires. The more you water, the more fertilizer your lawn will require. If you’re using granules, you may need to wet your lawn before applying the fertilizer. Different products require different approaches, so it’s best to read the instructions on your fertilizer package.

Avoid Over-fertilizing Your Lawn

When it comes to fertilizer, it’s better to apply too little than too much. Too much fertilizer can burn your lawn and can be expensive to repair. You can avoid overusing fertilizer by initially spreading it at half the recommended rate in one direction and half again in another. This is a good strategy for achieving better coverage and for ensuring your lawn does not burn. Again, please refer to the level on the product for the proper rates: The Label is the Law!

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