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Still time to fertilize the yard

Q: I’ve been busy this year and never did fertilize my yard. Is it too late to put lawn fertilizer down? And should I add some grass seed now or later?

— Aaron from Poland

A: Aaron, you did miss the best time to fertilize your yard, which was late August into September. But there is still time to fertilizer the yard through the end of November.

A lot of people think spring, when the grass is greening and growing, is the best time to fertilize the yard. It isn’t. The key to a nice-looking lawn is a strong root system for the grass. And fall is when the grass is growing its root system and needs the nutrients from fertilizer. Better root growth in the fall results in a healthier, stronger lawn next spring.

Likewise, fall is the best time to overseed a lawn. The soil is warm in the fall and the seeds will germinate quickly. Weed competition is less in the fall and the temperatures are cooler.

Most Ohio turfgrasses are cool season grasses and grow best in cooler weather. And fall is the best time to aerate cool season grass lawns. Aeration reduces soil compaction which helps the root breath and grow easier. You should aerate the lawn before fertilizing or overseeding. Also, to help your lawn this time of the year, do not let leaves cover the grass too long, and cut the grass short when mowing it for the last time.

Leaves left on top of a lawn will smother the grass. And if the leaves are still there in the spring, they will prevent growth.

Cutting the grass shorter, about 2 inches, when you mow for the last time will help prevent disease from developing.

But before you buy any lawn fertilizer, I have a question. When was the last time you had your lawn soil tested?

Before adding fertilizer or another soil amendment you should know what your soil needs. And the only way to know what is needs is to have it tested.

For now, it will not hurt to give your lawn a low-level nitrogen fertilizer this November. It will help the roots grow and the nitrogen will be gone by next growing season. Nitrogen, unlike the other primary nutrients, does not stay in the soil long.

When applying fertilizer, follow all the application directions. Keep the fertilizer off hard surfaces, like driveways, streets and sidewalks so the fertilizer doesn’t wash into the environment. If you need a soil test, there is still time to have one done. If you do it now, you will have the results back to use next year.

OSU has an excellent, comprehensive publication on an environmentally friendly approach to lawn care that is available at http://go.osu.edu/lawn. The title of the publication is Natural Organic Lawn Care and it includes timing and other information for all lawns.

Sprague is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer. Submit your questions to the Extension office at 330-533-5538. Regular clinic hours are 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays, or visit go.osu.edu/virtualclin ic.

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