The Ultimate Guide to Fall Lawn Fertilization

The arrival of fall doesn’t mean your lawn care duties are over. In fact, your final fertilizer application of the year is crucial for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. Let’s dive into the why, when, and how of fertilizing your lawn in the fall to set yourself up for success.

Why Fertilize Your Lawn in Fall?

Just like us, our lawns get worn out after enduring a long, hot summer. From excessive heat and humidity to drought and foot traffic, our lawns have been through a lot. By the time fall rolls around, they are hungry and in need of a good meal before winter sets in. Here’s why fall fertilization is essential:

  • Thicken up your lawn: Fall fertilizer application helps restore turf density to its early summer glory.
  • Regenerate lost roots: Summer weather can take a toll on your lawn’s roots, but fall fertilization helps them bounce back.
  • Fortify your lawn: By fertilizing in the fall, you equip your lawn with the strength to withstand the harsh conditions of winter.
  • Energy storage: A well-fed lawn before dormancy ensures it has enough energy stored for a healthy start next spring.

When to Fertilize Your Lawn in Fall

Timing is key when it comes to fall fertilization. The ideal window for your last fertilizer application is between August 15 and October 1. Aim for six to eight weeks before the average first frost in your area. For example, if the first frost in Minneapolis/St. Paul is typically around October 10, target August 15 to September 1 for your last application. Adjust this timeline based on your local frost dates.

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Planning your fall fertilizer application around frost dates gives your lawn ample time to absorb nutrients without carrying them over into winter. Applying fertilizer too late can keep your lawn actively growing during winter, leading to winter kill and disease issues in the spring.

What Fertilizer to Use in Fall

Choosing the right fertilizer depends on your local regulations. Some areas prohibit the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus. If you live in a phosphorus-free community, opt for fertilizers with readily available nitrogen sources and higher potassium content. Examples include 24-0-12 or 21-0-21.

If phosphorus is allowed in your area, using fertilizers with phosphorus can further enhance your lawn’s health for winter. Consider options like 24-5-10 or 20-5-20. Lawn starter fertilizers, such as 14-14-14 or 12-24-12, can also be effective.

Liquid or soluble fertilizers with similar NPK ratios can be used as well, but keep in mind that sprayable fertilizers deliver fewer nutrients per application compared to granular products. Applying a fall fertilizer with a hose-end sprayer may require multiple applications to achieve the desired effect.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn in Fall

Approach your fall fertilizer application like any other. Follow the product’s coverage recommendation and consider splitting the application. Make two passes in different directions to ensure even coverage. For example, if the fertilizer bag covers 5,000 square feet, set your spreader for 10,000 square feet, allowing only half the recommended rate to flow through. Then, make two consecutive passes using this setting.

After applying the fall fertilizer, be sure to thoroughly clean your spreader to remove any fertilizer residue. This prevents corrosion of spreader components during winter. Check your owner’s manual for additional recommended maintenance before storing the spreader.

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Remember, a well-fertilized lawn in the fall sets the stage for a lush and healthy lawn when spring arrives. Take care of your lawn now, and it will reward you in the seasons to come.

Ames Farm Center