Forego the Fertilizer for Now

Your grass won’t start actively growing until about mid-April. If you fertilize it now you’ll just feed the weeds. What can you do for your lawn right now? Coddle it with compost!

You’ve probably seen them, those shaggy clumps springing up from your lawn. They’re most likely broadleaf winter weeds like beggar ticks, clover and henbit, or rescue grass and Poa annua. Unless you want to encourage more of them to pop up, resist the temptation to fertilize right now.

Even though spring-like temperatures have been hanging around, warm season grasses like St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda won’t be actively growing until about six weeks after the last frost — that means around mid-April.

What you can do for your lawn right now is apply a topdressing of compost. It’s chock-full of nutrients and it helps improve the texture and soil structure of the compacted topsoil.

Before you go spreading it about willy-nilly, there is a right way to apply compost.

  1. Spread it around in piles on the lawn with a wheelbarrow.
  2. Sling it from the piles onto the grass with a shovel.
  3. Then use a push broom to sweep it off the grass blades and down into the turf.
  4. 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 the compost over the entire turf area to an approximate depth of 1/3 inch. That’s about 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.

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. 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.
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