With our warm season grasses (Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia), it is best to wait until the grass has completely greened up in the spring before applying any fertilizer. This is usually mid April in our region. Fertilizing too early (before green up) can result in turf injury and leaching of fertilizer nutrients.
Centipede is a low fertility grass. It grows at it’s best, with fewer problems, when fertilized only once or twice per year. Once after green up and possibly a second application during the summer.
St. Augustine might also get by on one spring application; however, it is more common to apply a second application during the summer. Bermuda and Zoysia will require fertilizer applications 2-3 times over the growing season. Over fertilization promotes thatch, turf decline, pest problems and degradation of the environment from leaching of nutrients that can end up in our ground water.
In order for our lawn grasses to efficiently use fertilizer, consistently warmer nights are required. Fertilizing a lawn before soil temperature is adequately warm results in waste of fertilizer and possible lawn injury.
Despite the fact you can force a lawn to turn green early with high nitrogen fertilizers, it’s a false sense of accomplishment. That new green growth is dependent on availability of other elements, some of which are poorly available under the cool soil temperatures of late winter and early spring. Iron, for example, is not readily available when the soil is cool. This is exactly what happens when your lawn begins to turn bright yellow after being fertilized too early. You induce or cause a nutrient deficiency by fertilizing too early. It’s a matter of the soil being too cool to allow the roots to take in needed iron to support the new growth caused by fertilizing too soon.
There are other needed nutrients, such as potassium, which are not readily available under cool soil temperatures. Waiting to fertilize during more favorable soil temperatures allows for more efficient use of the fertilizer and less waste. It’s best to wait until mid April to fertilize your lawn.
Reference: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science/Okaloosa County Extension
Did you know, anyone who applies fertilizer commercially, must have a Limited Commercial Fertilizer Applicators License? They must be trained under the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. took the initiative, and was one of the first companies in our area to get our people trained and Licensed. As professionals in the Landscape Industry, it’s our responsibility to minimize the negative impacts to the environment whenever possible.
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