University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Early September Good Time
for Fertilizing Lawns

September 3, 1998

Labor Day weekend is a good time for fertilizing lawns in our area. The decisions to make when fertilizing lawns include what kind of fertilizer, how much to apply, and what time of the season it's being applied.

Nitrogen is the nutrient of most concern when fertilizing lawns. Nitrogen is important for lawns to have a nice green color, as well as for a number of growth processes. Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are also important, but generally do not need to be applied as often as nitrogen unless a soil test has shown a deficiency. Potassium is used for hardiness of the plant, however, and is commonly found in winterizer fertilizers.

With all the choices of lawn fertilizers, which is best? There is not one perfect fertilizer that is superior to all others, but one thing to look for is controlled-release nitrogen. Controlled-release nitrogen, often referred to as slow-release or perhaps extended feeding on the package, will release smaller amounts to the grass over a longer period of time. This leads to more uniform growth. For early September, these fertilizers would be ideal for use on lawns. Although more costly, controlled release nitrogen fertilizers are highly suggested for lawn use.

How much nitrogen should be applied to a lawn? The answer may vary according to the type of grass and maintenance level. An average lawn in our area should receive about 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of area per season. Some should get less, especially lawns in shady areas. Higher maintenance lawns may need more.

Most applications should be around 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This upcoming early fall treatment could be higher, in particular if some type of controlled release nitrogen fertilizer is used.

Finally, the decision on when to fertilize. Early September is one of the ideal times for all types of lawn fertilizer programs. For lower maintenance lawns fertilized only once a year, this would be the time. If conditions are dry, water the lawn to assure active turf growth.


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