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When Is The Best Time To Fertilize My Lawn?

      Who doesn’t love seeing the transition of winter to spring? The days are getting longer, and the weather is getting warmer. An area of dread or delight is the grass cropping up in your lawn. Some homeowners value the time they can spend outside in their yard sprucing it up and others wish they lived on a concrete slab. Fortunately for both types of homeowners, there are a variety of options but most prominently is the option to DIY or hire a contractor. In respect to hiring a lawn care provider, if you select a company that specializes in high quality fertilizer and weed control, they will take care of it for you. However, if you are the owner who prefers DIY, knowing when to fertilize your lawn is just as important as which fertilizer you choose and how you do it.

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      We will cover when to fertilize your lawn and how many times you should do this each season. We are going to cover “cool season grasses” in this blog, which geographically covers all Provinces of Canada, and all the bordering states from Washington to North Dakota. To begin, there are three common myths when it comes to the time in which you should fertilize your lawn.


Myth 1: Fertilize Each Month


      Less is more when is comes to fertilizer – in most cases. It’s much more important to focus on high quality fertilizer rather than how many times you apply it. At the end of the day your aim is to have the healthiest lawn by using the least amount of fertilizer and herbicide. This is possible, as long as you carefully follow the recommendations of this article. Our lawns go through stages:

  1. Growth mode: Your lawn wants to grow while the temperatures are warm, but not scorching and the soil moisture is quite abundant.

  2. Survival Mode: During ‘survival mode’ temperatures are consistently 25C to 35C and rain is minimal. This makes the soil very dry, and your lawn’s number one priority is to retain moisture and nutrients.

      With these stages in mind, fertilizer must be designed to feed the lawn when it wants to grow and protect the lawn when it wants to preserve nutrients.

Lawn fertilizer consists of three nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

chart describing the ingredients of fertilizer, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus

      The fertilizer you apply in early spring will be rich in nitrogen. For cool season grass, phosphorus is naturally abundant in our climate, and it is a waste of your money to buy a fertilizer that contains it. The only caveat is, when you’ve laid down new sod or have new grass seeds sprouting, it’s fair to apply fertilizer with phosphorus. Your fertilizer will naturally contain more nitrogen than it does potassium because it does not take much potassium to yield a result. Follow the instructions on your fertilizer bag to determine how many days between each application.

      With this information determined, we can establish your fertilizer program for the season:

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Follow the instruction on your fertilizer bag to determine how many days between each application you should follow. As a residential homeowner, use the right fertilizer during the appropriate season. 


Myth 2: The More Often I Fertilize The Better


      False! A lawn care company using a very high-quality fertilizer will treat your lawn less often than if you’re applying it. Product quality is the contributing factor – a high quality product will do more work in one application, than a low quality one could in 2 or 3.

Slow Release vs. Fast Release

“Slow-release fertilizers will release nutrients over an extended period of time. In comparison, a quick release fertilizer is one that dissolves very quickly in the soil, making the nutrients readily available.” -Kansas Healthy Yards

      Consider the following situation: You have a headache, so you head to the drug store for medication. But you’re faced with a dilemma when you arrive. You can purchase the “fast acting Tylenol or the “long lasting”. Do you want to feel better now, or have a more permanently relief from the headache later on?

      Slow-release fertilizer is designed for nutrients to slowly leech out of the beads into the lawn to create sustaining nourishment. Fast release fertilizer is designed to give your lawn a quick hit for faster results, but for a shorter period of time. If the fertilizer you purchased from the local hardware store doesn’t mention either, that indicates it’s a standard blend which is a happy medium between the two.

      Once the snow melts, to take advantage of a quick growth and green transition you’ll want to use a fast release fertilizer. Put down a slow-release fertilizer in the summer to soothe the grass through the dry season. Once fall arrives and temperatures start to cool, choose a standard fall fertilizer that focuses on growth and overall grass health. Neither fast- or slow-release is necessary during this season

To Note: Using a fast release fertilizer has the negative attribute of being prone to causing fertilizer burn. The beads are designed to leech out nutrients very quickly so an over application can kill your lawn.

      The method we’ve reviewed in detail is not a one size fits all formula, there are many ways to get a job done. This plan may or may not be the best one for your location or situation.


Myth 3: Using The Same Fertilizer Each Time Is A Good Idea


      Your lawn requires different nutrients at different times of the year. In the plan we previously developed, the ratios of the nutrients differed for each application. It’s always tempting to hunt for a “one size fits all” solution, the reality is you need the right tools for the job.

  • Your lawn needs food to grow in the spring and fall. The fertilizer should be predominantly nitrogen based, with some potassium to balance it.

  • In the summer, your lawn isn’t in a growth stage, it’s trying to hold onto the nutrients it received in the spring. Plus it needs added protection from the heat of the sun, disease and bugs.

      If you’re fertilizing your lawn three times per season, make sure to use the right fertilizer for each season. To complete each application successfully you’ll need to be equipped with the right tools and safety gear.


For A Homeowner: When Is The Best Time To Apply Fertilizer?


       Each season you’ll need to fertilize 2 to 4 times, depending on the fertilizer you choose to use. If the fertilizer is a high-quality slow release, then less is sufficient for giving your lawn the nutrients it needs to have a healthy season. A quick release fertilizer should be applied 3 to 4 times a season. It’s always better to under apply and add more in the future than over apply and kill parts of your lawn. It’s extremely difficult and time consuming to remove fertilizer beads from a lawn and without specialized tools it’s not very effective.

      Stay on top of fertilizer each and every year, using the correct type for each season. One season missed will take more time and attention than you would imagine getting your lawn back in shape. Follow a frequent watering schedule to maintain the health of your lawn after applying fertilizer.

      Hiring a professional company and weed control company is almost certainly more worth your time. If you’re not sure about your ability in the lawn care arena, it’s much more beneficial to contract a company that specializes. Your risk of damaging your lawn is incredibly high. Simply type into Google “lawn fertilizing service [your city name]” or ‘weed control service [your city name]” and a list of qualified companies will appear. Never forget that your lawn is your home’s first impression. A beautiful lawn makes any house look better and stand out.

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