As we come out of our winter hibernation and the days get warmer, many of us get the inspiration to start making improvements to our lawns and gardens. A healthy green lawn is the foundation for your home’s curb appeal and creating a beautiful outdoor setting that expands your living area dramatically (if it is in good shape) as the destination for picnics or sprinkler sessions during the summer. Knowing how to maintain your lawn isn’t always straightforward though, and the approach changes from season to season. Here is an overview of how to maintain your lawn in the spring with the use of fertilizer and other methods.
When to Start Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Spring
So when is the right time to apply fertilizer to your lawn in the spring? While there are variables to consider such as the local climate and type of turf, a broad suggestion is to fertilize your lawn around the time of your first mowing of the season. Since most of our customers are in the northwest, we will focus on fertilization strategies for cool-season grasses (or “northern” grasses) in this post as this category of grasses is most common for the region.
Examples of cool-season grasses include:
- Annual ryegrass
- Creeping bent grass
- Creeping red fescue
- Fine fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Perennial ryegrass
- Tall fescue
When lawns are fertilized too early in the spring, it causes the grass to apply energy into leaf development when it should be putting energy into growing its root systems. A standard recommendation is to exercise patience and apply fertilizer in mid-late spring when it is apparent that the grass is fully in the growing season. Still, you must be mindful of the climate conditions in your area.
Cool-season grasses will often see some of their best growth in late April and May, however, the winter preceding this time of growth has an impact on when you should apply fertilizer. If you had a relatively mild winter and have already moved on to warmer days – fertilize in early spring. After a cold winter, late spring will be the preferred time to feed your lawn. When you fertilize your cool-season grass in the spring, you are preparing your lawn for the hot summer days where the grass will naturally start to use its reserves and go into survival mode.
Planning ahead in addition to fertilizing in the spring, it is perhaps even more important to apply lawn fertilizer in the fall to keep growth active before dormancy in the winter. Lightly fertilize your lawn in early fall and again in late fall. This helps to build a healthy root system before re-booting the growing cycle in early spring.
What Should I Put on My Lawn in the Spring?
While applying fertilizer is important in the spring, there is an abundance of lawn care efforts to take on during this season to ensure a vibrant, healthy, and green lawn moving forward.
Start a new lawn
If you need to start a new lawn from seed (or add on to your current lawn), spring is the best opportunity to do so outside of the fall. A spring seeding should be conducted early in the season so it has time to establish before summer arrives. View our selection of Top Choice and JB Lawn grass seed products to get started.
Time for a Calpril application
Early spring is an ideal time for an application of Calpril. This prilled limestone helps to raise soil pH to improve soil fertility, thus preventing moss and providing a sweeter soil environment for grass to grow well and crowd out weeds naturally.
Address bare patches
As you make your way out of winter and into spring, it is a good time to start fixing bare patches for cool-season grasses. Your lawn may have areas that are struggling to thrive, have lost their green luster, or are no longer growing grass at all. Products like Scotts Patchmaster Lawn Repair Mix or Pennington One Step Complete both contain a combination of grass seed and professional-grade fertilizer and mulch to prompt new grass growth in select areas of your lawn.
Get the weeds under control
Early spring is also a great time to begin your weed management. Later in May, you might consider applying a selective weedkiller to the whole lawn. Weedkiller should be applied on a dry and still day as you do not want it infiltrating other parts of your yard such as flower beds, borders, and gardens.
Fertilizing lawn in spring
Taking the severity of the preceding winter into account to determine timing, it is important to feed your lawn in the spring. Now is the time for a light application of fertilizer to keep your lawn green and at its best. Consider the use of a slow-release or organic fertilizer product for this job. When there is a slow-release of nitrogen within the fertilizer, it is accessible to the lawn over time and helps the grass grow consistently and strong.
Can I Use Winter Fertilizer in the Spring?
You may have fertilizer left over from the winter or another season, but seasonal fertilizer mixes are usually crafted with the context of a specific season (and the variables that come with it) in mind. Because fertilizer types are fundamental sources of nutrients, using an out of season fertilizer will likely not be harmful to your lawn but it may not have the optimal set of nutrients for a season. In addition, it may contain other components that may be unnecessary for a given time (such as added “weed control” when weeds aren’t present).
It is possible to conduct a soil test to determine what elements are lacking. This can inform specific needs for choosing the right fertilizer for your unique lawn, and could also determine how useful an out-of-season fertilizer could be for your specific needs. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the three primary nutrients in fertilizer, and the ratios between these nutrients may be specially formulated from season to season. If you did fertilize with an out-of-season mixture, it would likely require some supplementation to increase its effectiveness. In general, it is recommended to use in-season fertilizer whenever possible.
Spring is an important time to tend to your lawn and get it prepared for the high-use (and high-heat) days of summer. When you apply lawn fertilizer at the right time in the spring, you will give your lawn the best chance to thrive and stay green and healthy through the peak seasons. Also remember that fall is another important time you should be fertilizing, as it sets the foundation for the growing season in the warmer months ahead.