Give That Cool Season Lawn What It Needs

— Written By Dustin Adcock
en Español

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Growing a beautiful, lush lawn in the south can be a frustrating task, especially with cool-season grasses (Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, etc.). The heat and drought can be a major stressor on cool-season grasses. However, with deep roots and dense foliage growth, a lush lawn is definitely possible. How do we accomplish this—with careful and sufficient nutrient applications in the active growing season.

Lawn with striped mowing

Lawn photo property of N.C. Cooperative Extension

Calculated and timely fertilization during the active growing season of the grass can improve the lawn the rest of the year by producing deep healthy roots and dense foliage that can utilize deeper water reserves and cool the plant in extreme heat. As the soil becomes saturated and cooler, these grasses have their best opportunity to develop a deep and effective root mass. Also, these plants are at their greatest point of growth for the year, so the nutrient uptake is maximized.

For a gradual release of nutrients to the grass as it is growing, three applications of fertilizer are necessary. It is always best to work with your local County Extension Agent to get a soil test and develop a plan to improve the fertility of your soil. I recommend individuals remember three dates for fertilizing cool-season grasses: Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day. First, apply a starter fertilizer (something like 18-24-12) at reseeding/sowing. A second application of a Nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as 12-4-8) is made near Thanksgiving. Finally, a last application of Nitrogen (30-0-0) in the month of February. Be careful not to apply it too late. Fertilizing too late can cause an increase in disease pressure. The rate of fertilizing a lawn is always based off the Nitrogen content and should not exceed 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Read more on Carolina Lawns Guide.