Posted on March 27, 2018 at 10:15 AM
March in Ohio can bring many things. A day can start with snow, and end with warm breezes. The flowers pushing up around front doors may be met with rain one day, and strong wind the next. But, one thing that March always brings is Spring! With spring comes the temptation to do all things planting and tending. Lawn companies and retailers often encourage this tendency, offering their services and wares to the winter-weary. One such set of products and services include fertilizing, or even ‘weed and feed’, for your lawn, which come with the promise of a lush green carpet that will make you the envy of your neighbors.
Before you sign on the dotted line or swipe the credit card, there are several things to realize about this temptation. Research from The Ohio State University has shown that late summer through late fall are better times to fertilize and result in a healthier lawn. Spring fertilization does result in quicker top-growth, but at the cost of the plant’s root growth. This will not result in healthier grass, just more mowing for you. The plant is actually put at a disadvantage because of the energy it put into growing taller instead of developing the deeper roots that would have helped it to withstand the dry days later in the summer.
Your lawn many not actually need any fertilizer, or it may need only certain nutrients. Studies have shown that almost all lawns already have plenty of phosphorus. Any extra nutrients your lawn does not need it cannot use. Not only does the fertilizer not benefit your grass, it often ends up leaving your lawn with the rainwater and making its way to our waterways. Once in the waterways, the extra nutrients cause overgrowth of algae and the potential of fish kills. Before fertilizing your lawn, have your soil tested to see what the nutrient levels are in your soil. Montgomery Soil & Water Conservation District has materials available at their office, located at 10025 Amity Road, Brookville, Ohio. Once you have an envelope and instructions, sending a sample of your soil to the Southwest Ohio laboratory will gain you an accurate measure of what your lawn needs. The Montgomery SWCD does not charge for this service, and the laboratory fee is minimal. Save yourself time and money by not buying the fertilizer your lawn did not need anyway!
The ‘weed’ part of the ‘weed and feed’ is a pre-emergent herbicide. It works by preventing seeds from sprouting. If you already have established weeds, they will not be affected by the herbicide, but they will take advantage of the fertilizer! If you do have bare spots in your yard, seed those areas to establish grass. Encouraging root growth through mowing the grass high will give you more ‘bang for your buck’.
Promoting healthy grass with deep roots is actually the best way to fight weeds. Mow high (set your mower at its highest level of about 3 to 4 inches) to promote thick healthy grass with deep roots. Mulch the grass clippings back into the lawn for a free, natural slow release fertilizer! If you have leaves on your lawn as well, mow them into smaller pieces by passing over them a few times to allow them to break into small enough pieces to fall in between the blades of grass. Leaf and grass clippings do not contribute to thatch. This also saves you the time of bagging, and saves space in the landfill.
If your lawn does need nutrients, wait until late summer through fall to fertilize for the best results. Feeding your lawn at that time will result in deeper root growth, better color, and healthier top growth the following spring. Whenever fertilize your yard, make sure to sweep any fertilizer off hard surfaces and back into your lawn. Anything that washes into the street and into a storm drain will contribute to fertilizing our waterway, something we do not want to do! By knowing the right amount and right timing to fertilize your yard, you can enjoy your beautiful lawn while knowing you will also enjoy the benefits of healthier waterways!