The Importance of Fall/Winter Fertilizing
As a professional lawn care applicator, I tend to have many people questioning the importance of fall and winter fertilizing. For many people it simply makes no sense to apply fertilizer on the frozen and sometimes snow covered lawns in November or December. The truth remains that these applications are truly the most important of all lawn fertilizer applications.
Many people tend to measure a healthy lawn by achieving the darkest green lawn in the neighbor. Although esthetically pleasing, dark green lawns do not always equal the healthiest lawn since fertilizing in the warm seasons can promote rapid green growth while doing nothing for the lawns root system. We should always try to promote a healthy lawn by achieving a lawn that has moderate growth and good density.
Turf grass, although dormant, still photosynthesizes throughout the winter. It is through photosynthesis that your lawn will take up the nitrogen that you applied in the fall and winter and turn it into energy for the root system. Since your lawn is not actively growing, all of the energy created throughout the winter is not used for excessive leaf growth; rather, all of the new growth is pushed into the root system. This not only equals a dark green lawn in the spring, but more importantly, a dense lawn with a well established root system that we need to combat drought and other stress conditions throughout the following summer.
With the same chemistry we also find that broadleaf weeds are going through the same processes as turf grass in the fall. A broadleaf weed will also start storing energy in its root system which makes it more susceptible to broadleaf sprays such as 2, 4-D. Because of this process one of the best times to kill dandelions and other unwanted broadleaf weeds is in the fall because the plant will quickly take the chemicals of the spray into its root system.
Whether you are not a big fan of fertilizing or would like to simply keep cost down as much as possible, consider fall and winter fertilizing for the vigor of your lawn. Recommended rates of nitrogen are from 1.0-1.5# of nitrogen per 1000ft2.