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The fescue turfgrass in the foreground was fertilized in fall and used stored carbohydrates to green up earlier in spring.
Put your lawn to bed for the winter with an application of fertilizer. This is the primo time of year to fertilize, because all factors are working in your favor. The lawn is not growing vertically now, which means that the applied fertilizer will be used by other plant parts, not the shoots and leaves. The majority of the value of the application will benefit the root system, which will continue to grow until Thanksgiving, in most years. This is great, ‘cause the bigger the root system, the better. The balance of the application will be stored in the crown and rhizomes of turf plants, and utilized next spring for growth. What should you look for in a winterizer product? The type of nitrogen and the ratio of nutrients are the keys. Start by looking on the back of the bag. The type of nitrogen will be indicated, such as sulfur coated urea, methylene urea or IBDU. At least half of the product should be slow release nitrogen. Then, look on the front of the bag. There will be 3 numbers in order, with dashes between them. Typical spring or summer formulations will be in the ratio of 4-1-0 or 5-1-1, with typical numbers of 25-3-3 or 24-2-6. These products are mostly nitrogen, which is fine, as that is what is primarily needed in spring and summer. In winter, look for a ratio of 1-0-1 or 1 - 0 - 0.5, with typical numbers of 21-0-20 or 19-2-13. This will provide an equal (or at least higher than normal) amount of potassium along with the nitrogen. Studies at several leading land grant Universities have revealed that potassium aids the turf in tolerating stress. In winter we have stress and in summer we have stress. Stress in winter is due to cold winds and low temperatures that dry out crowns and thin turf stands. Stress in summer is due to excessive heat and the drying of the root system. So, load it up with winterizer. This is so important, that if you only fertilize your lawn once this year, make sure you do it in early November. Your lawn will thank you, and you’ll love the look of it in the spring.
John Fech
John Fech
Extension Educator - Horticulture
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.

Contact John at:
Douglas/Sarpy County Extension
8015 W Center Road
Omaha, NE 68124-3175
(402) 444-7804

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