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Wheeler: When to fertilze the lawn

POSTED: April 13, 2012 1:30 a.m.

When it comes to common questions asked at the office, the one I hear most often is about lawns and when to fertilize them.

Well, the answer to that question is specific to your lawn type because each type is a little bit different with what it requires.

The best way to know what your lawn needs is to pull a representative soil sample from your lawn using a trowel or a soil probe.

Taking small samples of soil from many places in the lawn will give you a good average of the nutrients in your soil.

The results you get, from our soils lab in Athens, will tell you exactly how and when to fertilize your lawn given the amount of nutrients that are present.

Soil sampling is recommended because it is a sure-fire way to know what you need. Plus, you will get more information about how to fertilize your lawn for phosphorus and potassium.

Without a soil test giving you specific results, general guidelines can be used.

The recommended pH ranges for lawns depend on the type of grass. For centipede grass, the pH range is 5.0 to 6.0. For St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass and tall fescue lawns, the pH range is 5.5 to 6.5. For zoysia grass the pH range is 6.0 to 7.0.

Nitrogen is required for leaf and root production to maintain a green and healthy turf. Again, recommendations depend on the type of grass.

Centipede grass requires 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet annually, while zoysia grass needs 2 to 3 pounds. Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass and tall fescue lawns require 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each year.

Applying fertilizer at the right time is just as important as to how much you apply. The basic rule of thumb is to apply fertilizer when the grass is actively growing.

For tall fescue, that is in the fall and spring. For warm season grasses like bermuda grass or zoysia , it is in the summer.

Once the soil temperatures reach 65 degrees, you can begin to fertilize warm season grasses. To check soil temperatures in the area, go to www.georgiaweather.net.

It is best to apply a fertilizer multiple times in a growing season rather than all at one time. So for Bermuda grass, that would be applying 1 pound of nitrogen three to four times during the summer.

This will allow the grass to use most or all of the nitrogen that you apply, and it will prevent excess nitrogen being leached below the root zone.

If you have questions, please give us a call at the office or go to www.georgiaturf.com for more information about turfgrass management.

 

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

 


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