April is an ideal time to start your lawn-growing season, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
You didn’t fertilize last fall (to avoid brown patch disease and freeze damage), and you didn’t fertilize in the winter, because warm-season grasses are dormant. So, by now, your lawn could use some mineral nutrients to sustain healthy growth of the sod.
"I always like to wait until I have mowed the lawn at least twice before I fertilize," Koske says, explaining, "Then you know it’s ready to grow, and a late frost probability is low."
Fertilizer will strengthen the root system as it re-establishes each spring and will bring out the green. Heavy spring growth is not expected, since the soil temperatures are far from the ideal 70-plus degrees, favored by our southern grasses.
Different turf types need different levels of fertility. Koske says, "Yes, I know you’re thinking, ‘If I feed it, I will have that much more to mow.’ That’s true, but such is the way of turf grass."
If you don’t want to mow, you might consider paving the yard. "Mowing is good for the heart and good for the soul, and a healthy lawn in more sustainable to pest problems."
Don’t over-feed, however. Bermuda and St. Augustine would do well with three to four fertilizer applications per season - the first now and the last in early September.
Each application would ideally be based on an annual soil nutrient analysis available through your parish AgCenter office.
For those who assume they have an average base soil fertility, Koske says to choose a fertilizer with an analysis of high first number (N – nitrogen), low second number (P - phosphate) and medium third number (K - potassium). Apply about 1 pound of nitrogen with each application for moderate growth.
For zoysiagrass or centipede lawns, the horticulturist says to use about half as much material to accommodate those grasses needs for less fertility. They need no more than 2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per season. Three half-pound nitrogen applications should be fine, also starting now and ending early September.
Another inexpensive approach is to apply 4 or 8 pounds of 13-13-13 per thousand square feet in spring and early fall and some plain nitrogen once or twice in between.
For information on related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.