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Back to Our Roots Using Fall Fertilizers


October 26, 2021

Apple trees are hanging with fruit. Alders are starting to turn yellow. Even though the afternoons are still warm, the mornings have a certain coolness that we recognize as the beginning of fall. Summer is waning and it’s time to button things up in the yard.

december garden

Fertilizing in the fall is an important step to ensure vigorous growth when the world reemerges in the spring. It is a time when the upward growth of plants is slowing and the roots are able to take full advantage of an extra meal before they too go dormant.

Walla Walla Onion Root

When fertilizing your yard for fall, the basic approach applies to everything from lawns to trees to plants. As long as the soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F., roots will grow and nutrients will be absorbed. So the goal is twofold. Give plants a quick jolt of food to complete any summer growth that’s left, strengthening them for the next season. Then, give plants a steady source of food so they can focus on root growth going into the winter. By springtime, these plants will have a strong base on which to thrive.



Wilco Premium Soil Test Kit

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December garden ferns

While the general concept of feeding roots through the late fall stands true, it’s a little bit different for lawns. In the PNW, most of our lawns consist of fescue and bluegrass. These grasses experience a boost in growth during the fall, so it’s best to give them a separate meal high in nitrogen in September or October and then follow up with a more fall specific fertilizer in October or November. This allows the lawn to grow a bit more before going dormant.

fertilizing lawn

Remember the numbers on the bag? They correlate with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen helps upward growth, phosphorus helps root growth, and potassium helps overall growth (I like to remember it “up, down, all around”). So a good fall fertilizer might be 22-0-22, like the Wilco Fall King Fertilizer, high in both nitrogen and potassium. Plus part of its nitrogen supplied is “slo release” so it feeds longer at a rate slower growing grass will feed. It is found with all of the lawn fertilizers, but it’s a great choice for most of your yard.

N Nitrogen Growth of green leaves
P Phosphorus Root, flower, & fruit development
K Potassium Overall plant health & functions
pH A measure of acidity or alkalinity in a plant (or soil)
Different plants have a “favorite” pH to thrive. Most garden veggies like “sweet” or neutral pH of 7.0, while plants like blueberries and azaleas like a more acidic balance.

Wilco 22-0-22 Fall King Northwest Fertilizer Blend

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With the rest of the yard, remember the goal. You want to give plants a final push for overall growth to store through the winter and then focus on root growth to prepare for the spring. For this reason, most fall fertilizers are high in nitrogen and potassium. Yes, potassium. Even though we usually think of phosphorus for root growth, potassium is more successful for root growth in the fall because the plants are no longer growing upward so all energy is put into overall health, root growth being the main part.

Down to Earth Premium Alfalfa Meal Fertilizer

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Just as we start focusing on indoor activities to feed our souls, so are our plants beginning to focus their energy on growth underground. We dip into the storage of plenty from our summer harvest. And if it’s done right, both our yards and ourselves will be ready in the spring, rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.


We would love to see your planting projects, use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.


ROBYN ROGERS, THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG IS LOCATED ON THE KITSAP PENINSULA IN WASHINGTON AND HER ADVICE IS CONSISTENT WITH THE CLIMATE THERE.