November Lawn Fertilization – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

November Lawn Fertilization

Up until about two weeks ago, autumn 2004 was for the most part a fairly dry season. This means that if you fertilized your cool-season lawn in early September and were unable to regularly irrigate, the nitrogen that was applied probably was not used very effectively by the turfgrass plant. If you missed that fertilizer timing that is okay too, there is still time to get your turf healthy! A nitrogen application right now will still enable your turf to take advantage of what is left of the growing weather for 2004. A good rule of thumb is to apply within a week or two of your final mowing, which makes the application in early to mid-Nov in most of Indiana.

How much should you apply? An application of 1 lb. of N/1000 ft2 from a water soluble, quick release nitrogen source like urea or ammonium sulfate will do quite a bit of good. Urea is available from most nurseries as well as at farm coops. Since soil moisture is finally available again turfgrass roots should have no problem taking up the nitrogen and allocating energy toward food storage rather than shoot growth. What this means is that you will see a greening response without top growth and perhaps a small increase in shoot density. Additionally, the turf will retain a green appearance much longer into December compared to turf that does not receive nitrogen at this time. What you do not readily see is probably what is most important. Since the turf is not producing leaves it is storing plant foods that help improve winter hardiness, and are used for growth next spring. This late season fertilization is very beneficial and will result in reduced nitrogen needs next spring. However, avoid applying more than 1.5 lbs N/1000 ft2 in this application because recent research suggests that annual late fall applications at this high of rate may result in some N leaching beyond the root zone.

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