A good fall fertilization program is one of the most beneficial practices when managing cool season turf. The importance of having applications done late in the year is contingent upon having a fluid lawn care program with routine applications in the Spring and Summer.
Adding applications late in the year has become more popular with the realization that lawns look better with a full year fertilization program versus only fertilizing in the Spring and Summer.
One main benefit to late season fertilization is it’s ability to help turf grow out of any stressors that may have occurred over the summer months, and it helps provide the necessary nutrients for new seedlings to germinate and mature.
Late season fertilization also ensures there will be better Fall and Winter color, earlier Spring green-up, increased shoot density, improved Fall, Winter, and Spring root growth, getting ahead of winter annuals, and food storage reserves (carbohydrates) within the turf plant.
Lawns with late season fertilization show earlier Spring green-up about 2-6 weeks before those without it. Moreover, the winter color is enhanced for lawns receiving 7 applications vs. only the first 4. In studies across the country, lawns fertilized only during the Spring and Summer are decidedly less appealing than lawns who undergo a full year of these applications.
This means your turfgrass the following year will have better carbohydrate storage and root growth that results in a more stress-tolerant plant during Virginia’s harsh summer heat. Applying late Fall herbicides is a great way to get ahead of the game for the following Spring and go after winter annuals that emerge before and after Fall Overseeding. It helps the soil warm up quicker in the Spring with less weeds in the turf, leading to an overall improved lawn.