Forego the Fertilizer for Now

Forego the Fertilizer for Now

The time to fertilize grass is when it's actively growing, which usually begins in mid-April. If you want to do something nice for your lawn right now, apply a topdressing of compost.

Just because warmer temps have been hanging around doesn’t mean it’s time to fertilize. That would be a waste of time and effort because most of the chemical fertilizer being added to lawns right now won’t be taken up by the grass. Instead it will run off into the San Antonio River next time it rains, or feed actively growing weeds.

The time to fertilize grass is when it’s actively growing from spring until fall. Even though it’s warming up, warm season grasses like St. Augustine, zoysia and Bermuda just aren’t actively growing yet — and they won’t be until about six weeks after the last frost. That means about mid-April.

Those shaggy clumps sticking up out of the lawn right now are likely rescue grass and broadleaf winter weeds like beggar ticks, clover and henbit, not turfgrass.

If you’d like to do something nice for your lawn right now, use a topdressing of compost. It contains nutrients and is an excellent tool for improving the texture and soil structure of the compacted topsoil.

There’s a method to applying compost:

  • Spread it around in piles on the lawn with a wheelbarrow.
  • Sling it from the piles onto the grass with a shovel.
  • Then use a push broom to sweep it off the grass blades and down into the turf.
  • Water it in to activate the compost microbes and wash them onto your soil.

Compost is available in small bagged quantities and it can also be bought and delivered in bulk. You’ll want to spread 1/3 inch of compost over the turf area. Apply compost to grass at a rate of no more than 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet.

And if you’re still planning on fertilizing, save your effort for April when it may really do some good.

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Brad Wier

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Brad Wier

Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation consultant. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.