Nitrogen is Key When Fertilizing Lawns in Fall
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
Early September is an ideal time for fertilizing lawns. Key decisions to make in this process include choosing a quality fertilizer and applying the correct amount to your lawn.
Nitrogen, which helps provide nice green color, is the key element when fertilizing lawns. When looking at the fertilizer bag, the three numbers represent nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in that order. Phosphorus is generally not suggested in significant amounts unless a soil test has shown a deficiency. Potassium is used for hardiness of the plant, however, and is commonly found in winterizer fertilizers sold in fall.
Look on the fertilizer package, usually on the back, for the guaranteed analysis. This section tells more about the nitrogen and other nutrients in the package. Look for controlled-release nitrogen in the product. 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.
Examples of controlled-release nitrogen to look for on the label include sulfur-coated urea, ureaform, coated urea, IBDU, and activated sewage sludge. Also look for water insoluble nitrogen, or WIN. These are all examples of good fertilizer sources for use on lawns. Although more costly, controlled release nitrogen fertilizers are highly suggested for lawn use.
Apply about one pound of actual nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. If a fertilizer is 20 percent nitrogen, it takes five pounds of fertilizer to supply this one pound. Fertilizer labels often have suggested setting guides and also indications on the lawn coverage the bag will provide.
Whether fertilizing once, twice, three times or more a season, early September is a key time. If the lawn is dry, fertilize right after a rain or irrigate ahead of time for the best results.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office