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Winterizing Your Lawn And The Benefits Of Phosphorus

  1. Why Should You Winterize Grass?
  2. When Is The Best Time To Winterize Your Lawn?
  3. What Is The Best Formula For Lawn Winterizer?
  4. How To Apply Winterizer
  5. The Benefits of Phosphorus
  6. Before You Apply

Properly winterizing your lawn requires an understanding of the three elements that make up the NPK ratio. We’re going to focus on the benefits of the second letter, “P”, because it plays a key role in the health and growth of your lawn. However, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding its use and the correct application practices. We’re no strangers to harsh winters here in the Midwest (we have store locations in both St. John, IN, and Frankfort, IL). Providing your lawn with the right nutrients will prevent damage or stunted growth during this dormant period, so it will grow nice and lush once the temperature warms back up.

Why Should You Winterize Grass?

Just like squirrels store away food for when they’re hibernating, plants store nutrients in their roots over the winter to keep them fuelled and strong, so they’re ready to spring to life once the snow melts. Applying a winterizer formula in late autumn will set your grass off on the right trajectory for a healthy, vibrant year ahead. 

When Is The Best Time To Winterize Your Lawn?

The key to correctly applying winterizer is timing—you need to make sure your grass has stopped growing for the year, or else it will eat up all those nutrients and keep growing instead of going dormant for the season. Mid-to-late November, when the grass isn’t growing, before the ground freezes and the snow arrives, is an ideal time to apply. Once the lawnmower is packed away for the season, you can go ahead and apply a winterizer formula. 

What Is The Best Formula For Lawn Winterizer?

The best lawn winterizer formulas have higher concentrations of nitrogen (the first number in the NPK ratio), and smaller concentrations of phosphorus and potassium. The nitrogen should be a water-soluble, quick-release formula, instead of a water-insoluble slow-release formula. An ideal NPK ratio for winterizing your yard is 16-4-8. Lots of winterizer formulas have a zero P number, but a fertilizer with a small P number can actually make a big difference in the growth and vitality of your lawn.

How To Apply Winterizer

Much smaller concentrations of fertilizer are needed to prepare for winter—about ⅓ the average amount you’d use to fertilize. So, if the fertilizer bag says it covers 3000 square feet, you could actually cover 9000 square feet for winterizing grass. Apply it with a drop spreader, not a spinner spreader, while the lawn is dry, and then lightly water it in afterward. Make sure you don’t apply it too close to any ponds or waterways, to prevent the solution from leaching into the water.

The Benefits of Phosphorus

For years, people assumed that winterizer formulas should have a zero P number because it affects root growth and flower production, which isn’t a concern in late fall and winter. However, if there are small amounts in a winterizing fertilizer, it will not only help with root production the following spring. However, it will also help improve the necessary processes and inner workings of your grass at the chemical level. Grass will grow thicker and denser by stimulating shoot production, and this will help prevent water runoff. 

Phosphorus facilitates energy transfer in plants, so a lot of the basic functions of plant growth, such as photosynthesis, rely on the presence of that chemical. If there is a deficiency in the soil, the grass growth will suffer, and the lawn will lose its green color; turning yellow, or even reddish-purple in severe cases. Many signs of deficiency also mimic the signs of a pest infestation. If you suspect a nutrient deficiency, check to see if there are any invaders in the grass before you reach for the fertilizer.

Before You Apply

There are some important things to keep in mind before applying fertilizer because improper application could end up doing more harm than good. Here are some basic guidelines for applying fertilizer safely and efficiently:

  • Conduct a soil test before using any fertilizer to determine the soil’s pH levels and the concentration of phosphorus. If you already have considerable amounts in the soil, it can be dangerous to add more. The excess could leach into groundwater and pollute waterways, leading to increased algae. Too much algae can pollute lakes, and in severe cases, it can decrease oxygen levels and harm fish populations. 
  • Maintain a lawn pH between 6.2-7. If your pH is higher than this, apply some lime. 
  • Make sure your soil isn’t compacted, and your grass dethatched. When your soil is packed down, it can’t soak up nutrients properly, and this will increase the risk of water runoff, which could contaminate waterways. 

If you need help selecting the correct winterizer, or if you’re unsure of how to properly apply it, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our experts at either of our locations in St John, IN, or Frankfort, IL. We’ll be happy to help you tackle this last lawn-care endeavor before it’s time to kick back and enjoy the winter holidays.