Checking out the feeding schedule

First, you need to know when not to fertilize your lawn. For example, don't bother in the winter or off-season. Let a sleeping (or dormant) lawn lie. And don't feed in especially hot weather. Grass plants respond to the stress of blazingly hot days by slowing down their growth, and a jolt of fertilizer during this time isn't a good thing. That pretty much leaves spring and fall. You may also feed during the summer months, depending on the weather and the type of grass.

Here's a cool-season grass feeding schedule:

1 The minimum: Once in the fall; this schedule keeps the grass plants growing longer, encouraging root growth and thus providing the reserves the grass needs for quick green-up when spring rolls around again.

1 A little better: Once in the fall and again in late spring; the late-spring feeding jumpstarts the new season (don't go too early, because you get overly lush top growth at the expense of root growth, plus you may inadvertently fuel a burst of young weeds).

1 Pampering: Start in late spring and repeat at regular intervals into fall, perhaps every six to eight weeks during active growth; hold off in midsummer if the weather's really hot.

And here's your warm-season grass feeding schedule:

1 The minimum: Once in late spring; this feeding sends the grass into the height of the growing season well-fueled.

1 A little better: Once in late spring and again in late summer/early fall; the second, later feeding is intended to send the grass into winter in good condition.

1 Pampering: From late spring through late summer/early fall, every six to eight weeks during active growth; suspend fertilizing in midsummer if the weather's really hot or you're having a prolonged drought.

See "Warm-season and cool season grasses," earlier in this chapter, for details about the types of grasses these schedules apply to.

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