When is it Too Cold to Fertilize Lawn?

Fertilizing your lawn is important in growing and maintaining a lush green lawn. However, fertilizing when it is too cold is a waste of time and money. So, what is the best temperature to fertilize your lawn?

The best time to fertilize your lawn is in spring when the soil temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. After a cold dormant winter, this is the weather your lawn is craving for. The grass is actively growing and requires adequate nutrient to develop roots and grow healthy.

When is Too Cold to Fertilize Lawn?

Fertilizing your lawn when temperatures are too cold is simply a waste of time, money and other resources. The grass is dormant and will not benefit from fertilizer application. Fertilize your lawn when the soil temperature is at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizing in early spring and in the fall is key to achieving a healthy lush green lawn. Here are steps to follow when fertilizing your lawn in preparation for cold winter temperatures.

Fertilize Your Lawn When the Soil is not frozen

Generally, you are not supposed to fertilize lawn when it is dormant. Grass usually go dormant when the temperatures are too cold. The cold winter season can also cause frost to develop on your lawn. Humidity is high and dew may freeze on the grass blades.

Many gardeners believe that they should stop fertilizing when they begin to see frost on grass blades. However, that is not true. You can still fertilize your lawn as late as early December. As long as the soil is not frozen, the grass will utilize the nutrients.

Grass root systems remain active until when the soil is frozen. Therefore, mid to late November can still be a great time to fertilize your lawn in preparation for the winter season. The key point is, as long as the soil is not frozen, the roots can still utilize the fertilizer effectively.

Don’t Fertilize Too Early in the spring

Fertilizing your lawn too early in the spring is also a waste of fertilizer. The grass is usually still dormant and may not utilize the nutrients. On the other hand, weeds may take advantage of the nutrients to smother away your lawn.

Fertilizing early in the spring can also be problematic to your lawn. It promote shoot growth at the expense of root development. Grass requires a deep rooting system to grow healthy. Fertilizing at the correct time will ensure the grass is strong, healthy and ready to overcome the stresses of a hot summer season ahead.

Fertilize your lawn when the air temperature is above 70 degree Fahrenheit consistently for several days. While the soil temperature should be at least 55 degree Fahrenheit.  These temperatures are essential when fertilizing your lawn in spring.

What Temperature should I Fertilize my Lawn

The best time to fertilize your lawn is when the air and soil temperature is at least 70 and 55 degree Fahrenheit respectively. When the temperatures are too cold, the grass enters into a dormant state to protect itself from the cold. The fertilizer will go to waste when you fertilize a dormant lawn.

Fertilize when the grass is actively growing. However, at what temperature you should fertilize your lawn depends on the type of grass you are growing. There are two main types of grasses i.e. cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. Let’s have a look at each of them.

Cool-Season Grasses

There are various varieties of cool-season grasses that include: Kentucky bluegrass, tall and fine fescues and ryegrass. They prefer cool or lower temperatures that is common in areas like northern parts of the United States.

Cool-season grasses have 2 peak growing periods. One is early in the spring after winter dormancy and the second one is the early fall. They can go dormant in high summer temperatures until when water and cool temperatures are available.

At 55 degrees Fahrenheit in early spring is when cool-season grass will start to wake-up from the dormancy. Apply fertilizers when the average soil temperature is at 50 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours.

Apply the second application in the spring when the temperature is 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. 70 degrees Fahrenheit is an important temperature for cool-season grass in the spring and also in the fall as the temperature begins to drop after a hot summer.

Warm-Season Grasses

There are also different varieties of warm-season grasses that include: Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass, Kikuyu grass and Zoysia grass. They are ideal for growing in areas that receive warm temperatures such as southern region of the United States.

Apply fertilizer when the soil temperatures are between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperatures your grass has fully woken-up from the dormancy.

Once the soil temperature hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit, warm-season grasses are really thriving well unlike to cool season grasses that may be dormant during this period. This is the best temperature to give your lawn a second dose of fertilizer to help it grow green and thick.

Combination of Cool and Warm-Season Grasses

If you’re located in transitional zones that receives a wide range of temperature swings, you may have a combination of cool and warm-season grasses. In this case, you will have a different schedule of applying fertilizer on your lawn that is more complex.

Is it Too Late to Fertilize your Lawn in November?

November is time of the year when your grass is recovering from heat, drought, pests, diseases and other stresses from summer. It also start to prepare for a tough dormant period ahead. It is important to fertilize your lawn during this period. It enables the grass to store enough carbohydrates that will help it to resist winter stresses.

However, there are several instructions to follow when fertilizing your lawn in the late fall.

1. Fertilize at the Right Time

Fertilizing your lawn at this time of the year also provides a better coloring over the winter and early in the spring. Timing is important when it comes to fertilizing at late fall. You do not want to fertilize grass when the ground has already frozen.

Fertilize your lawn when the grass has already stopped growing or when the growth rate is low. However, you should not wait for too long before fertilize in the late fall. The ground may freeze before applying fertilizer. If not sure when to fertilize, consult your local weather forecast station about the weather pattern of your region.

2. Choose the Right Fertilizer Ratio

At this time of the year, your lawn need a fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and potassium. An ideal fertilizer ratio should be 24-4-12. Nitrogen and potassium ratios are higher than phosphorus to enhance rooting, cold hardiness, wear tolerance and disease resistance during the winter season ahead.

Be sure to use a slow-release fertilizer. It should be able to break down slow to release small quantities of nutrients into the soil as required by the plant. Slow-release fertilizers are also able to last in the soil for the entire season.

When fertilizing your lawn, it is recommended to use 1 pound of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. Applying excess fertilizer can burn your lawn.

Can you Fertilize in January?

It’s too late fertilize your lawn in January. Generally you are not supposed to fertilize your grass when it is dormant. Grass can be dormant when the weather is too cold to too hot. Don’t be fooled by the term ’winter fertilizers’. Winter fertilizers are applied on the lawn in the fall in preparation for the winter season ahead.

Other than not fertilizing your lawn when it is too cold, there are also other tips to consider for effective fertilization. It helps to get value out of the money you spend on buying fertilizers. They include:

1. Timing your fertilizer application

Timing is critical when it comes to fertilizing your lawn. Fertilizing at the correct time promotes maximum utilization of nutrients. Don’t apply fertilizer in cold season when the grass is dormant. When and how to apply also depends with the type of grass you are having. Some grasses require fertilization when the temperatures are a bit cooler while other prefer when it’s warmer.

2. Read and understand manufacturer’s instructions before applying fertilizer

Prior to fertilizing your lawn, read and understand the label and instructions on the package. You need to be aware on application ratios per square foot and how long it last in the soil before re-applying again. If you are using a slow-release fertilizer, it will last a bit longer as compared to quick-release fertilizers.

3. Don’t fertilize a dormant lawn

Lawn can become dormant when the temperatures are too cold or too hot. Be sure not to fertilize your lawn when in this vulnerable state. Applying fertilizer when it is too cold will only encourage growth of weeds.

Final Thoughts

Fertilizing your lawn in cold temperatures is a waste of time and fertilizer. It also promotes weed growth while stunting the roots. Be sure to fertilize cool-season grass when the soil temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, warm-season grass requires fertilizer application when the soil temperature is above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

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