If you want to transform your patchy brown lawn into a lush green one, you must fertilize it at the right time.
The best part?
Fertilizing your lawn is not a difficult task.
Along with some tips for a lush lawn this season, I will also share some fertilizer recommendations.
So, when to fertilize lawn in Ohio? Here’s everything you need to know.
When To Fertilize Lawn in Ohio?
How often you fertilize your lawn depends on different factors. For example:
- Grass Type
- Type of fertilizer
So, let’s dive straight into this topic with this step-by-step guide.
Overview: The first (spring) application is between March 15 and 25 (mid-March) when the soil temperature is above 32 degrees. The second spring application is around mid-May (May 10 to May 20). Then, the summer application is divided into two parts (July and August). You will carry out the Fall application in September (after lawn aeration) and mid-October.
Let me explain this in detail.
Growth Pattern for Cool-Season Grasses:
First of all, I want you to look at this growth curve for cool-season grasses:
What do you notice?
Yes! Cool-season grasses grow the most in spring and Fall.
So fertilizing properly at these stages is essential for a perfect lawn. Here’s what you need to do.
Stage 1: Spring Application (Mid-March)
My first fertilizer application takes place between March 15 to March 25.
Now the question is, how do I know that my lawn is ready for this application?
For that, we are going to take the soil temperature. You can perform your first fertilizer application if your soil temperature is above 32 degrees.
A tip is to check the forecast for the next two weeks for soil temperatures.
This is also a good sign if temperatures fluctuate between the 40 and 50s (morning). To check your soil temperature, use a soil thermometer.
Insert it 3-4 inches into the ground (it will enter the root zone). Then let it sit for 2 minutes.
In this way, you can check your soil temperature. You should always check the temperature at 2-3 different spots on your lawn.
At this stage, slow-release nitrogen is what your lawn is looking for.
You do not want to force your lawn to wake up. So the slow-release nitrogen will ensure that your lawn “wakes up” at a nice pace.
I recommend a soil test to determine the best fertilizer for your lawn.
It will help you identify what nutrients your soil needs. With that being said, let’s move on to the second stage.
Stage 2: Eliminating the Weeds
This stage is crucial before our next dose of fertilizer.
This process takes place between April 5 to April 15. Here’s the problem.
When the soil temperature hits 55 degrees, the weeds (seeds) germinate. If you have a thinner lawn, more weeds will grow.
Over time, these will grow and push into your roots through the turf. That’s not what we want.
Here’s when the pre-emergent comes in.
The pre-emergent acts as a barrier and prevents the weed seeds from growing. So if your soil temperature is around 55 degrees, you are ready to add the pre-emergent.
This takes us to the third stage.
Stage 3: Second Spring Application
Our second fertilizer application will occur around mid-May (May 10 to May 20).
Some people do this on the memorial day as well.
The lawn is growing actively at this stage. This application will give your lawn the strength it needs for summer.
It is time to move on to the next step when you are done.
Stage 4: Summer Fertilizer | Good or Bad?
I want you to examine the growth curve for cool-season grasses (above).
What do you notice?
Yes! The growth slows in the summer, and the grass turns straw-colored brown (dormancy).
The question is, what should I do?
If you want your lawn in Ohio to do well in the summer heat, here’s what you need to do.
You should add a small dose of fertilizer between July 1 to July 10. I like to do this on exactly July 4.
A quick tip is to divide this application into two parts:
- Half (1/2) between July 1 – July 10
- Half (1/2) between August 1 – August 10
This will ensure that you are not pushing your heat-stressed lawn.
Now what fertilizer you use at this stage is important.
You do not need to push the top growth too much. The best nutrient for your lawn in the summer is potassium.
Remember that potassium helps to strengthen the plant overall. But phosphorus is not something that your lawn needs at this stage.
This is because phosphorus is good for root growth.
What’s the case with nitrogen?
Nitrogen is okay to have as well. But this should be in a low to moderate dose. So organic slow-release nitrogen works fine at this stage.
Now, let’s talk about the fall applications (my favorite time of the year).
Stage 5: Fall Application
After the peak summer heat, your lawn is ready to grow again in the Fall.
This fertilizer application will be around September 1 to September 15.
This is the time when you will also aerate and overseed your lawn. So a starter fertilizer will work at this stage (with slow-release nitrogen).
This is because we do not want to “force” the growth. The phosphorus in the fertilizer will boost the root growth (that’s what we want after overseeding).
Now, the last dose of the season will go around mid-October.
Now here’s something that I want you to know. The lawn is starting to slow down a bit at this stage. So, I use organic fertilizer (Milorganite) at this stage to prepare my lawn for winter.
The best part?
In the upcoming spring, your lawn will be the first to green up, as the remaining nutrients from this application will come into action.
The table below summarises this:
|When to Fertilize||Details|
|1. Spring Application (Mid-March)||This takes place between March 15 to March 25 when the soil temperature is above 32 degrees.|
|2. Second Spring Application||This takes place around mid-May (May 10 to May 20).|
|3. Summer Application||Divide this into two parts (half in July and the other half in August).|
|4. Fall Application||This takes place between September 1 to September 15. The last dose of the season will go around mid-October.|
Note: Never fertilize on frozen ground.
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Now, let’s talk about some grass types.
Cool-season grasses for Ohio include perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and fine fescue.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
The soft feel and fine texture make it a popular grass type in Ohio.
This grass type flourishes in areas with moderate summers and cool winters. The best part is that it is one of the darkest cool-season grass.
The perennial ryegrass tolerates low to medium height of cut. Generally, it performs best at a mowing height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
However, this can vary as well. In the warmer season, you can let it grow taller.
The other thing I like about the perennial ryegrass is the stripes. These are due to its shiny leaf blades. Plus, it can also tolerate some shade.
If I talk about its cons, it’s not the most drought-tolerant grass type. It performs well with irrigation.
The other thing is that ryegrass can be vulnerable to fungus issues. So, you have to be careful about that.
It would be best to fertilize your ryegrass regularly (following the schedule shared earlier).
Generally, 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet during the (active) growth period is required. As cool-season grass, it has to be fertilized throughout the year.
Now let’s talk about tall fescue.
As the name suggests, this grass type is ideal for a four-inch yard.
The idea is that it performs well when mowed tall. The other thing that I like about tall fescue is its heat drought tolerance.
This is due to its extensive root system. This helps it to stay green for a longer time (comparatively).
Tall fescue is a good choice if you are looking for a good color. Plus, it does well in some shade as well.
Now, let’s talk about some cons.
Its texture is not as fine as ryegrass or bluegrass.
Moreover, the humid areas in Ohio make it prone to fungus and brown patches. Now you might be wondering when to fertilize tall fescue.
The tall fescue needs around 3-5 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet (a year). You should follow the fertilizing schedule shared earlier.
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It is a good idea to use slow-release fertilizers (whenever possible).
This grass has a soft texture and is self-spreading and sod-forming.
What I like about the Kentucky bluegrass is its great green color. Plus, it stripes well.
The Kentucky bluegrass has a great ability to self-repair. It recovers quickly from dormant periods with irrigation or rainfall.
But there are some drawbacks as well.
This grass prefers full sun and DOES NOT tolerate shade well. If the temperature rises too much and the Kentucky bluegrass does not receive enough water, it will quickly go dormant.
You should remember that this grass type requires patience to grow. It germinates more slowly than other cool-season grasses.
For a healthy green lawn, you must fertilize the Kentucky bluegrass with four to six pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet (a year).
You can divide these applications using the yearly plan I shared earlier.
The table below summarises all this:
|Perennial Ryegrass||– Soft feel and fine texture|
– Dark green color
– Stripes well
|– Drought tolerance|
– Prone to fungus issues
|Tall fescue||– Ideal for a four-inch yard|
– Heat and drought tolerance
– Stays green for a longer time
|– Texture is not as fine as ryegrass or bluegrass|
– Prone to fungus and brown patches
|Kentucky Bluegrass||– Self-spreading|
– Soft texture
– Great ability to self-repair
|– It does not tolerate shade well|
– It requires patience to grow
Now, let’s take a look at some questions.
Related Questions About Ohio Lawn:
Here are some frequently asked questions related to fertilizing lawns in Ohio.
When to aerate lawn in Ohio?
Fall is the best time to bring your cool-season lawn back to life.
This is because of the cooler temperatures. So, this usually happens between September 1-15.
Now the question is, why does aeration matters at this time?
If you want to get rid of hard (compact) soil, aeration will increase moisture and softness by improving access to water.
Similarly, compact soil can lead to poor drainage. The improved absorption of water (and nutrients) will ultimately improve drainage.
When to overseed lawn in Ohio?
I like to overseed my lawn after aeration (early September).
As mentioned in the fertilizing guide above, I throw down starter fertilizer once done with aeration and overseeding.
This will push the root growth. That’s exactly what we want.
So let me summarise what is happening in the Fall.
Step 1: Lawn aeration
Step 2: Overseeding the lawn
Step 3: Throwing down some starter fertilizer
Is it better to fertilize before or after rain?
If only light or moderate rainfall is expected, you can fertilize before rain. In this case, the light rainfall will “water in” the fertilizer.
It’s better NOT to apply fertilizer before heavy rainfall because it will get washed away.
Generally, it would be best to wait at least one day after rain because the grass should dry before fertilizer application.
If you want a lush and healthy lawn, you must fertilize it at the right time.
So, when to fertilize lawn in Ohio?
Fertilize in spring (Mid-March) and then around mid-May. You should divide the summer application into two doses:
Half between July 1 – July 10 and half between August 1 – August 10.
For the Fall application, fertilize in September (after aeration) and mid-October.
Now I turn it over to you. Which part of this topic did you enjoy reading the most?
Do let me know. And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. Stay tuned for more.
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