Even though we woke up earlier this week to a snow-covered lawn, that does not mean the lawn season is over just yet.
The November fertilizer application is the second most important time for cultivating a cool season bluegrass or tall fescue lawn, with September being the most important application.
The November application helps the lawn flourish in several ways. Nutrients applied at this time are taken up by the plant and converted to stored food. The plant holds this energy and utilizes it for good growth when the plant needs it next spring.
How does the grass plant use this stored energy for a greener lawn? The grass uses the food for strong roots, which support the plant and helps it stand up to summer heat and drought.
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The fertilizer also develops strong crowns in tall fescues. Bluegrass uses it to build crowns and rhizomes. The result is a thicker, denser turf canopy and less weed growth, resulting in that lush appearance we crave.
The November application also provides for early spring green-up without excessive top growth. Simply put: a beautiful green lawn with less mowing. But applications of fertilizer in late winter or early spring are converted directly to top growth. You’ll get the same green appearance but it will require more mowing.
Research has found the November application can replace the spring application. In addition to these benefits, studies show spring applications deplete food reserves, resulting in more stress on the turf. Spring treatments force the turf to grow, using more energy. The turf responds best when the nutrients are stored and used by the plant when it wants to grow.
Nitrogen is the essential nutrient for proper grass growth. Rarely do our local soils require phosphorus or potassium, which are the second and third numbers found on a bag of fertilizer.
Look for products such as 30-0-0, 27-3-3 or similar. The formulation of nitrogen should be quick release. That means once it is applied and watered into the soil, it is readily available for the plant. After applying the fertilizer, be sure to sweep or blow any fertilizer pellets back into the lawn. This small step will help to keep our water clean.
Let’s hope a warm spell returns to the Kansas City area so we can get this all-important application of fertilizer on our lawn — the first step to success next season.
Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.