Think of fall fertilization like an invisible shield for your grass and plants.
With the right fertilizer and timing, you can ready plants’ defenses before the chill of winter sets in.
It’s different than spring fertilization, which is all about maximizing healthy growth. Instead, with most grasses, flowers, and shrubs going dormant for the winter, the focus is to repair summer damage, promote root systems, and prepare them to get through the winter stronger than ever.
Wondering where to get started? These fall lawn fertilizer tips for Gainesville and North Central Florida properties will show you what to use, when to treat, and more.
4 Fall Lawn Fertilizer Tips
1. Fertilize Before You Get Your Halloween Costume
With fertilizer, timing is everything. And if you live in Gainesville, now’s the time for your fall treatment if you haven’t done it already. A good rule of thumb is to get your fall fertilizer down while Halloween is still several weeks off.
According to UF IFAS, late September to early October is optimal for fall fertilizing in north Florida to central Florida. During this time, the summer growth spurt has ended but winter chills haven’t set in yet.
That means you won’t be fertilizing dormant grass or plants, which not only wastes your money but can also send excess chemicals into our local waterways.
2. Choose a Fertilizer That Promotes Root Strength
“Complete” fertilizers, which IFAS recommends for the typical central Florida turf in October, consist of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. On your fertilizer label you’ll see three numbers (something like 16-4-8 or 10-10-10), which indicate how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium there is, respectively.
In the fall, look for fertilizers that have a lower ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus and potassium. That’s because nitrogen boosts plant growth—so it’s a waste to overuse nitrogen right before your grass and plants go dormant for the winter.
Unfortunately, phosphorus levels are not consistent in the soil throughout Gainesville. If you live on or near new developments you might have less phosphorus in your soil than historic areas do. That’s why it’s important to get your soil tested so you know you’re fertilizing appropriately.
3. Look for Slow Release Fertilizers
Slow release fertilizers will send out nutrients gradually, rather than all at once.
This means more nutrients are available to your plants over time, and excess won’t leach out into the soil.
4. Give Perennials a Boost Before the Season Ends
Want your perennials to look even more vibrant next year? Don’t leave them out of your fall fertilization regimen.
Keeping the above tips in mind, you can fertilize in early October to strengthen perennials’ roots, so they come back brighter and more resilient next spring.