Turf 101: Limit Spring Fertilization – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

Turf 101: Limit Spring Fertilization

Many different strategies exist on spring fertilization, but the one fact agreed upon by all turf specialists is to avoid applying heavy nitrogen (N) rates in March or April. Heavy rates would be anything greater than 0.75 lbs of quickly available N/1000 ft2, which causes excessive shoot growth and results in frequent mowing. Furthermore, excess shoot growth comes at the expense of root growth plus it uses up valuable storage products needed to survive later in the summer.  Most specialists agree that applying a limited amount of N (up to 0.5-0.75 lbs N/1000 ft2) in the early spring will produce quick green-up while not sacrificing long-term performance. The success of this fertilization hinges on accurate application, but these low rates are sometimes difficult to evenly apply when using a fertilizer with a high N percentage (e.g. > 30 %) and are usually reserved only for professionals. If a late October/November fertilizer application was made, the turf will naturally green-up quickly in the spring making the results from a March or April N application less noticeable. That being said some, it may be more desirable to wait until after the spring growth flush and apply 0.75-1.0 lbs N/1000 ft2 in mid- to late May. Currently, almost all preemergence herbicides are now formulated with fertilizer as the carrier to minimize expense and make them easier to apply. Therefore, if preemergence herbicide is needed, fertilizer will almost inevitably be applied too.. To limit the N applied, try to purchase the herbicide/fertilizer combination that contains the lowest percentage of N and one that contains some slow release N like coated urea.


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