There is something about the arrival of spring that makes many of us want to grab a bag of fertilizer and begin broadcasting it over anything we think will speed the greenness of spring along. Maybe it is the excitement of blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth; shrubs such as forsythia and quince; or maybe the maple trees showing their swelling red buds. Whatever it may be, we need to resist the urge to fertilize our warm-season lawns for a few more weeks. Fertilizer put out now will more than likely only feed winter weeds that will compete for space for a lawn that is still dormant.
My suggestion is wait until you have mowed the lawn at least twice before applying your spring fertilization. By that time the turf should have a canopy of green leaves that can utilize the fertilizer to manufacture carbohydrates that will replenish the depleted reserve used to produce that first flush of spring growth. The mowing will also eliminate or reduce the size of the winter weeds. With too early fertilization you may also be setting your lawn up for cold injury from a late season freeze.
A better use of the first nice weekend of spring would be to mow the lawn and take a soil sample to determine what the fertilization and lime needs may be rather than just applying fertilizer at random.
Published February 27, 2012
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org