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When to fertilize lawn?


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#1 Guest_Rudy_*

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 08:37 AM

After reading this week's Growing Concerns column, I am in a quandry. I had been under the impression that I ought to fertilize my lawn "on the holidays," i.e., Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Halloween. But 's column today suggests mid-April, mid-May, and October. But maybe that was just for the use of 10-10-10? I'd appreciate thoughts on what to do!
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#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 04:54 PM

Better to go by this rule, for lawn and for all plants: Fertilize as the plant comes into active growth. For lawns, that's usually earlier than Memorial Day. But lots of people did find that "on the holidays" memory aid a good one, so it persists.

In truth, the most important time to fertilize lawn, based on tests at Michigan State's turf research center and other such places, is early fall. If you fertilize only once a year, which is possible if you aren't in pursuit of a golf course type lawn but "utility turf", fertilize iin late September or early October because the grass is actually growing much more then than now.
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#3 Guest_Rudy_*

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 12:25 PM

That makes sense to me. We are actually in Midland, so we probably would do things a week later anyhow.
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#4 Guest_Rudy_*

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Posted 13 May 2008 - 09:09 AM

Looks like I need to bring this thread back to life. I am still confused as to when to do the "late fall" application of fertilizer. Using the "holidays" guide mentioned earlier in this thread, it is Halloween. But Rick Vespa in the Growing Concerns column advises:
Apply the following steps at six to eight week intervals. A fifth step may be desirable, particularly if you use automatic sprinklers. A good way to remember is use the holidays: Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Fall is one of the most important applications to get the turf through the long winter.
Seems like anytime in September or October, and that seems an awfully broad range. Is there any better guide for me? Did Rick suggest that the "fifth step" would then be Halloween, in addition to Labor Day?

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#5 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 12:27 PM

Sorry, I can't speak for Rick Vespa, Rudy. He's not a moderator here and although some of the regular moderators do know him we don't speak so often to hima s we do to each other, to be able to guess at all the between-the-lines stuff in each other's writing. You can send an email to Practical Gardening to be relayed to Rick, however.

I can tell you that Michigan Sate University's home lawn research (other universities, too, and the U.S. Turfgrass Institute) indicate that if you fertilize only once a year, it should be in fall. Check the Turfgrass Science bulletin at
http://www.turf.msu....s/E0005TURF.pdf

Notice that they suggest putting the fall fertilizer on in "late fall" and explain that the date varies across the State. I was taught that it's late fall when more than half the leaves have fallen from a native shade tree. Halloween would work, but in some warm years and place it might be a bit early while in other years it's a bit late. That's the beauty of using slow-release organic fertilizer, which won't release all its nutrients in a rush but be there even if you apply early.

From that bulletin, in support of the late fall lawn fertilization:
Research at Michigan State University has demonstrated several benefits for late fall nitrogen applications. During this time of year, the top growth of the plant slows down as the temperatures cool, but root growth continues to be active. Fertilizing at this time of year will enhance the root growth and enable the plant to
store additional carbohydrates. These reserves provide vigorous spring green-up, allowing the traditional early spring fertilizer applications to be delayed. This adjustment helps limit the heavy top growth usually associated with early spring fertilizer applications. Environmental studies at MSU reveal that this late fall application does not pose an elevated risk to water quality. The application times listed in the table are general guidelines for the mid-Michigan area. Adjustments can be made for growing conditions in northern or southern areas.
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#6 Guest_Rudy_*

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:05 AM

Thanks, . The MSU article you quoted supports my previous thinking.
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#7 Guest_Lindamc_*

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 09:06 PM

QUOTE (Rudy @ May 28 2008, 12:05 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks, . The MSU article you quoted supports my previous thinking.



this is a very interesting topic. I have been following 's advice on the timing of when I apply fertilizer. there seems to be alot of misinformation out there. Just last week in the Ann Arbor News someone wrote. "If you're planning to fertilize your lawn now is the time." this was recommended at the first application of the year. And the last application was to be scheduled around Labor Day. The article finished up by saying " . . and nix the third application, formerly recommended for November; it's no longer advised."

No wonder people get confused. I'm wondering where this person obtained his information. . . .
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#8 Guest_Rudy_*

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 09:37 PM

Very interesting topic indeed - more and more confusing! TWO YEARS ago I still had a lawn service, and got very annoyed when their "late fall" application was done in mid-September. That was actually the straw that broke the camels back because I quit them and am now doing it myself. Originally I went with a service due to my work commitments but am now retired.

Another advantage to do-it-myself is I don't have to have pre-emerg put down each year - I have very little crabgrass. And also little broadleaf weeds so a squirt bottle works well, rather than applying broadleaf killer all over the lawn.

It is this do-it-myself situation that prompted all my interest. I appreciate all the inputs (this issue and others) that I have received in these Forums.
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#9 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:12 PM

I wonder the same thing, at times, Linda, but then I also do a lot of research and often when the material involves a horticultural issue that's big-money (shade trees, lawn, or roses versus dahlias, for instance.) (Sorry, dahlia lovers) I also have my answer right in front of me. There's tons of stuff, much of it old, some of it stubbornly unchanging for reasons as diverse as "we're too busy" to "it would cost too much to change all the pamphlets we already have and the equipment we sell" and "not in MY neck of the woods", plus some of it is just plain controversial. It takes more than a casual look to sort through it. And the willingness to look hard at the objective data to understand the numbers in posted results, regions of the country involved, etc. I think it boils down to three things -- some writers don't make time to look deep, others don't understand the need to look, and some have legitimate objections they should be given column-space to voice.

I'm so glad to hear your confirmation, Rudy, of what we learned and have told people over the years (but usually get incredulous looks in reply), that 1) no one canbe the lawn expert you are for your own lawn and 2) spot treatment is the way to go with lawn weedkillers and pesticides, too!
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