Ask many people when the best time of year to fertilize lawns and gardens is, and most will reply ‘in the Spring’. But what does nature say about this? What does nature do when it fertilizes the abundant mass of the gardens of the earth? Does nature fertilize the soil and plants in the Spring, or at another time altogether?
The fact is that there is no such event as nature fertilizing its gardens in the Spring.
Nature always fertilizes its gardens in the Fall, as the leaves of the trees shed their splendid colors, to fall to the soils of the earth. These leaves and other decaying organic matter then protect and insulate the soil from the coldness of winter, all the while these leaves are rotting down and naturally fertilizing soils. Nature fertilizes in the Fall, never in Spring.
Copy Nature And Always Fertilize Lawns In The Fall
So many more turf studies have been done in recent years about this very topic and practice. All of which are proving and achieving the same results. That lawns being fertilized in the Fall, before Winter arrives; survive Winter much better, and return to full greenness and health at greater speed once Spring arrives (when compared to lawns not fertilized in the Fall), and therefore these lawns stay greener, stronger and healthier for longer throughout every year.
While nature uses its own resources to fertilize soils, plants and trees, we almost exclusively rely on chemical fertilizers for this task, so there is still a difference between these two systems. Nature doesn’t grow lawns or anything like them, lawns are our own invention of taking a part of nature (grass) and controlling it in a way to make a lawn.
So lets see what we can do to copy nature and fertilize our lawns in the fall.
Fertilizing Lawns In The Fall
Apply a Slow Release lawn fertilizer in the Fall, at the same time nature fertilizes, this should suffice for what we want to achieve. Which is to allow the lawn to receive nutrients before and during the Winter to keep it at its strongest and healthiest before the harsh cold weather arrives.
Before Winter allows the lawn to strengthen itself before Winter arrives. While during Winter, the lawn needs fewer nutrients because it’s not actively growing, and Slow Release lawn fertilizers are perfect for this task. Whereby we fertilize just once before the onset of winter and at about the same time as the leaves start falling from the trees.
How Can We Mulch Our Lawns To Copy Nature
Once again, if we want to copy what nature does, we notice that nature not only fertilizes in the Fall, but mulches and protects soils throughout the Winter. So how can we do likewise?
Once again the answer is a simple one. Let’s mulch mow our lawns in the Fall.
Mulch mowing copies exactly what nature does, using the growth of the plants themselves to then fall down to fertilize and insulate the soil. So we can do exactly the same, and mulch mow our lawns in the Fall. Leaving the lawn clippings to fall back into the lawn to fertilize and insulate the soil.
Should We Still Fertilize Lawns In Spring
Absolutely. Fertilize lawns again in the Spring. Why not. Give the lawn a boost of nutrients as it once again springs back to life. Looking back to nature once more for our cues, a good idea would be to look at the trees and when they start producing leaves again; this tells us exactly when nature is beginning to grow its plants - and our lawns - and it’s at this exact time that our lawns will benefit most from another application of lawn fertilizer. After all, there’s no point in applying fertilizer to a lawn if the lawn is not actively growing yet and is still semi-dormant from winter.
Spring fertilization should not be the primary focus of our lawn care fertilization routines.
Autumn (Fall) is our highest priority for lawn care, when it comes to surviving Winter the best, greening up quickest in the Spring, and having a healthier lawn for the longest periods throughout the year.
Plants, lawns and trees are always healthiest throughout their lifespan when they receive their proper care in the Fall season. Exactly as nature does.
Applying The Same Process To Gardens
This is a lawn site, with no focus on other aspects of gardening.
However, it does seem right to finish this post with flowing these same ideas over into our gardens too.
Lets copy nature in our gardens as well.
Mulch gardens in the Fall, protect and insulate garden soils, just like nature does.
Great sources of mulch would be things like shredded Fall leaves from trees, where nature gives us everything we need to have healthy gardens, and gives it to us for free!
Other plant prunings can also be used, just as nature uses the same.
Lawn clippings, if lawns are being not mulch mowed, can also be applied to the tops of garden beds in Fall to protect soils over the winter months.
We could also ask a neighbor or local LCO for their lawn clippings too, if they're not using them themselves, and apply these to our garden beds as insulation, compost and fertilization.
There are likely many other sources of organic matter in the area where you live, think about different ways to mulch and fertilize those garden beds with nature’s free abundance from your local region. The best fertilization in the world doesn't cost nature a cent... why should we pay either? Use nature's free abundance for the best lawn health and garden health too. It's all around us, and so often absolutely free.