Answer: You can put your lawn on a regular watering, mowing and feeding schedule to help it grow lush and thick enough to crowd out weeds. Applying fertilizer at the right time is as important as knowing what fertilizer to apply. Generally, spring and fall fertilization with a complete fertilizer (contains N, P and K) is recommended for the warm-season grasses. The spring application should be made about the time the grass begins to green-up and grow. The fall application should be made about 6 weeks before the average first frost date. Normally, the first frost date ranges from the latter part of October in the piedmont area to the end of November on the coast.
In the absence of soil test recommendations, the complete fertilizer used can range from 16-4-8 to 10-10-10 and 5-10-15, etc. Most of the warm-season grasses require 3 to 7 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year to remain hardy and attractive. This fertilizer is usually applied in 3 to 5 applications during the growing season. A typical example would be 10 pounds of 12-4-8 per 1000 square feet in early spring when green-up begins, 10 more pounds in mid-summer, and 6-8 weeks before the average first frost date. This gives a total of 3.6 pounds of nitrogen.
Proper fertilization of centipedegrass is very important to its survival. Most people tend to over-fertilize centipede. One pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year is ample nitrogen on most centipede lawns. On sandy soils in high rainfall areas, 2 pounds per 1000 square feet per year may be needed. Apply 5 pounds of 12-4-8 per 1000 square feet in early spring. If a second application is needed, apply 5 pounds of 12-4-8 per 1000 square feet in early August. Never apply lime to a centipede lawn unless soil tests show that the pH is extremely low. If the grass shows signs of iron chlorosis, which is observed by the yellowing of leaves, apply ferrous sulfate at the rate of one tablespoon per 3 gallons of water to each 1000 square feet of grass.
The cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, normally should receive the majority of their fertilizer requirements in the fall. An example of cool-season grass fertilization would be 10-15 pounds of 16-4-8 per 1000 square feet in early September and April. Additional nitrogen or complete fertilizer may be applied in November if desired.
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