lawn care

Lawn fertilizer schedules vary from one state to the other, partially due to the soil types and weather conditions. If you’re looking to fertilize your lawn in Ohio, this will be the most important piece of content you’ll read.

Keep in mind that the lawn is one of the largest features in and around your home. There are many things that can be done in order to keep it looking its best, and one of those things is providing proper nutrients for it. 

Lawn fertilizer should be applied at least 2-4 times a year in order to promote healthy growth, reduce weeds and help restore the health of the grass.

Let’s look at a typical Ohio Lawn Fertilizer schedule.

Ohio lawn schedule

Source

April 10th 

Late March through April 15th often brings chilly weather with frequent rainfall or snow. This can delay lawn fertilization until late in April or early May.  

If you are past these dates then immediately begin the below steps on any new seedlings or recently planted grasses. If it has already greened up, then skip to step 4 for us lazy people:

Step 1: Soak moisture into dry soil (you may need to water with a hose for 15-20 minutes)

Step 2: Weed the area of any grass or weeds. Make sure you get all the weed so there aren’t any surprises later.  A pre-emergent herbicide is suggested if you have had trouble with crabgrass in the past.

Step 3: Rake and remove debris from the lawn’s surface, including sticks and rocks that may harm your lawn mower.

Step 4: Fertilize your new seeding at this time by applying up to 1/2 pound actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet over a 2’x2′ area. I suggest using a granular fertilizer such as Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass because it also contains starter fertilizer which gives your new seedlings a boost.

Step 5: Water thoroughly and as needed to help new seedlings grow. Keep the grass about 1/4″ – 1/2″ deep with your watering so keep those sprinklers going.

April 20th 

You have two types of fertilizer on the market today, quick release and slow release. I recommend a slow-release type, such as Scotts Turf Builder Osmocote Flower & Shrub food. 

Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients for up to 3 months after application through chemical reactions that produce their own heat within the soil (thermogenesis). The nutrient particles attract moisture until they dissolve and gradually become available to plants over time.  

The advantage of using a slow-release fertilizer is you only need to fertilize once a season compared with quick-release which you will apply 3-4 times during the growing season.  

This may save some money as well as time and frustration of applying too much or having to come back later.  Slow-release also helps keep them weed-free, because we all hate pulling those weeds, don’t we?

May 10th 

Repeat what you did on April 20th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to May 30th below.

May 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet this time using Scotts Turf Builder Winterizer. This is a great time to fertilize because your grass will be growing slowly due to the cooler weather and this time of year crabgrass really can’t compete with.

June 20th 

Once again it’s Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass or any slow-release type fertilizer. You may need more than 1 pound per 1,000 square feet if you have lots of trees, large lawns, roundabouts, etc. I recommend a drop spreader so it’s a little more accurate on what you are applying.

You should only need about 1/4-1/2 cup per 1000 square feet depending upon your soil type, weather conditions, and age of lawn.

July 10th 

Repeat what you did on May 10th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to July 30th below.

July 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1,000 square feet this time using Scotts Turf Builder All-In-One Lawn Food. This time of year is good for fertilizing because the soil is really warm during the day which helps promote root growth, but cool at night so it doesn’t burn your lawn.

I use Scotts Turf Builder All-In-One Lawn food, for this reason, it has a nice 3-way blend with fertilizer, crabgrass preventer, and weed control. Trust me if you have problems with weeds, this product will take care of them.

August 10th

Repeat what you did on June 20th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to August 30th below.

August 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1,000 square feet this time using Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed.  I use this one because it contains fertilizer but also herbicides for weed control too.  This is a great way to fertilize your lawn while getting rid of those pesky broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clovers, etc.

September 10th 

Repeat what you did on July 10th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to September 30th below.

September 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet this time using Scotts Turf Builder Fall Lawn Food. This is the last fertilizer for the season, but not too late in the fall to put some fertilizer down after it starts cooling off!  Many of us will continue to do chores until frost hits, which is ok too.  

This time of year crabgrass seeds can really be stimulated into growing with all this extra moisture, so if your lawn is problematic with them then you might want to consider using Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed.  Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your lawn since the fertilizer is on the bottom side of the granule and so is the herbicide.

October 10th 

Repeat what you did on August 10th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to October 15th below.

October 15th 

Wait!  Do not fertilize until after you mow your grass this time (at least 30%), but if it’s gotten really bad or started growing like crazy then cut it high!  Let me explain why…   Grass will cycle, grow, go dormant, etc depending upon what time of year it is.  

If you cut your grass when it’s growing quickly (like early spring) then the top growth will start to curl up since you just took nutrients away during cutting.  Lawns do not grow in the fall, if they did we wouldn’t have this problem since all our lawns would be 2 feet tall going into winter.

October 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet using Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass or any slow-release type fertilizer.  You should only need about 1/4-1/2 cup per 1000 square feet depending upon your soil type, weather conditions, and age of lawn.

October 30th 

Continue to mow your grass until it stops growing at all, then you should fertilize again around December 10th!  This is really important if you fertilized late because the fertilizer will burn your lawn since growth has stopped and it’s cold out.

December 15th 

Repeat what you did on October 15th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to January 1st below.

January 1st 

Wait… don’t fertilize until after a good frost or even better after a hard freeze.  Fertilizing while it’s warm can promote unsightly winter weeds such as henbit, chickweed, etc.

January 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet using Scotts Turf Builder Spring Green Up or any slow-release type fertilizer.  You should only need about 1/4-1/2 cup per 1000 square feet depending upon your soil type, weather conditions, and age of lawn.

February 10th 

Repeat what you did on January 10th and water thoroughly and as needed. If you missed that date then stay on course and move on to March 1st below.

March 15th 

Don’t fertilize until after a good frost or even better after a hard freeze.  Fertilizing while its warm can promote unsightly winter weeds such as henbit, chickweed, etc.

March 30th 

Once again fertilize at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet using Scotts Turf Builder All in One or any slow-release type fertilizer.  You should only need about 3/4 cup per 1000 square feet depending upon your soil type, weather conditions, and age of lawn.

Table lists

The following table lists average percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) found in common types of lawn fertilizer. Our example shows a common 3-1-2 ratio which contains approximately three pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft; one pound phosphate; two pounds potash per 1,000 sq ft.

lawn care fertilizer table

Source

For comparison purposes:

100 lbs/1000 sq feet = 3 pounds N, 1 pound P2O5, and 2 pounds K2O

75 lbs/1000 sq feet = 2 pounds N, 1 pound P2O5, and 2 pounds K2O

50 lbs/1000 sq feet = 1 pound N, 1 pound P2O5 and 2 pounds K2O

25lbs/1000 sq feet = 1/2 pound N, 1 pound P2O5 and 2 pounds K2O

All numbers listed in the chart below are for 100% dry fertilizer. Numbers in parentheses represent the amount of nitrogen released over time, depending on soil temperature and moisture levels. The table assumes a 3 month release period before another application is applied.

For example: If you apply 8 ounces per 1000 square feet in March (when soil temps are in the 40s), that application will release approximately 2 pounds of N/month.

If you then follow with another 8 ounces per 1000 square feet in May (when soil temps are in the 60s), this second application will release approximately 3-1/2 pounds of N/month.

If fertilizing cool-season grasses:

Apply fertilizer in late March through early April, when soil temperatures are at least 40 degrees F and rising — but no later than 4 weeks before your first expected average daily temperature of 55 degrees F.

If fertilizing warm-season grasses:

Apply fertilizer in early to mid-April, when soil temperatures are 50 to 60 degrees F. Apply again after 4 months, when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F and growth is active.

If fertilizing cool-season grasses:

Apply fertilizer in late August through mid-September, when soil temperatures are at least 40 degrees F and rising — but no later than 4 weeks before your first expected average daily temperature of 55 degrees F.

If fertilizing warm-season grasses:

Apply fertilizer in early to mid-September, when soil temperatures exceed 60 degrees F and growth is active. Apply again after 4 months, when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F and growth is active. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of fertilizer and how many times they should be applied throughout the year.

Winterizer Fertilizer

This type of fertilizer is designed to help “winterize” your lawn, intensifying its cold-weather hardiness by supplying a combination of nitrogen and phosphorus. It should be applied 4-6 weeks before winter sets in, from September through October. 

If you have just had your soil professionally tested, it may be suggested that you use this fertilizer instead of regular fall fertilizing. You can expect to apply it 1 time during September or October according to the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Service.

Summer Fertilizer

This fertilizer is also designed to give your lawn a needed boost in the middle of the summer. Again, it combines nitrogen with phosphorus for stronger growth. It should be applied early in June or after your lawn begins actively growing again in July. You can apply once at that time according to Ohio State University.

Winterizer/Summer Fertilizer

This type of fertilizer is usually combined with both summer and winter nutrients in one bag – which makes things easier for you. You can expect to apply this 3 times during the year, beginning in March or April with 1-2 applications per month until August according to Ohio State University. 

Note: If using this type of fertilizer, it’s best not to use another type at the same time.

Pre-emergent Fertilizer

This fertilizer is used to control crabgrass when applied before the weed becomes visible in May or June. According to Ohio State University, you can expect to apply 1 time during this period. 

If you plan to reseed your lawn, use a pre-emergence fertilizer with herbicide included. You can also purchase separate pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides from your local garden center for controlling weeds as they appear throughout the summer.

Fall Fertilization

With all of these other types of fertilizer, why would you need another type? Well, fall fertilization helps prepare your lawn for winter by giving it one last boost of nutrients that will keep it healthy during the cold months. 

You can expect to apply for fall fertilization 1 time according to Ohio State University. Usually, it is applied in September or October, but you should check with your specific fertilizer to determine exactly when to use it.

Conclusion

Depending on what type of fertilizer you choose, you could be applying it 1-4 times a year.

After reading this article, if you are still unsure about what you should buy and how often to apply it, consult with your local garden center for advice before purchasing anything. 

The more active ingredients there are in the bag, the more often that application may be needed. For example: If using pre-emergence herbicide alone, only one application every several months will be necessary since this includes both fertilizer and herbicide.

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