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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Apply Lawn Winterizer Fertilizers Soon - from David Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

Most people think about fertilizing their lawns in spring and early fall. However, Thanksgiving is also a time to think about applying fertilizer.

Late fall fertilizers are often called winterizer fertilizers or just winterizers. Simply put, this may be the most important fertilizer you apply to your lawn–especially if you've never applied one.

Winterizers don't provide immediate results. You won't see anything this winter except maybe some granules here and there that don't work into the soil or break down with late fall and winter rains and snow. That's due to the nature of the fertilizer and the season of the year. Winterizers benefit is what they do to the root system throughout the winter months and the effect on shoot development next spring.

The best winterizers are slow-release fertilizers, and usually low analysis, with nitrogen levels between 10 and 15 percent. Nitrogen is the first number listed on the fertilizer bag.

The fertilizers granules break down slowly over the late fall, winter and spring based on soil temperature, moisture and microbial activity. During this time, the roots, which are growing as long as the ground isn't frozen, are absorbing and storing the nutrients until the air temperature is ideal for the bluegrass, ryegrass or fescue to use it for shoot growth and green color.

When air temperatures finally warm in the spring, the stored nutrients are immediately available and the turf is green and thick usually by mid-March. A thick stand also means less reliance on crabgrass preventers since crabgrass problems are minimized due to a lush turf.

Winterizers are put on a week after the last mowing of the year. Since that's difficult to predict, a better method would be to apply the winterizer to the turfgrass on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Most applications are based on applying one pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Like straight lawn fertilizers, most winterizers are formulated for this rate. Read and follow the directions on the label. It doesn't hurt to water the winterizer in right before bringing the garden hoses and sprinklers in for the winter.

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