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Extension Agent: Fertilize lawn during spring

March 5, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 4, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.

Peter McGuill

By Peter J. McGuill

Warmer days have provided many of us with the encouragement needed to venture outside and assess our lawns and landscapes to spruce up outdoor spaces for spring.

March weather in South Texas can be - and most years is - a mixed bag. Weather varies from day to day or week to week with wide, ranging swings in temperature. It is now that we must realize that winter is still upon us and won't change to spring until the vernal equinox March 20 this year.

This marks the date when the time of day and night is each 12 hours long. From this point through the summer, the days in the northern hemisphere will be longer than the nights.

Many of those long-held spring activities, such as lawn fertilization, should continue to be placed on hold until the dawn of spring or later. This is a great time, however, to collect a soil sample to determine the nutrient needs of your lawn.

It has been demonstrated time and again that most managed lawns are overfertilized, resulting in an overabundance of some nutrients, which weakens the grass plants, allowing disease and insects to invade and also leads to nutrient runoff into ditches, creeks and storm drains.

Soil testing is the best way to prevent such losses and keep money in your pocket. This soil test will determine the nutrients that are presently in your soil and will give a recommendation for the amount and type of fertilizer that your lawn will need to fill the gap between what the soil has and what the turf grass needs.

The ideal timing for fertilizer application, especially nitrogen, is at the time that the plant can utilize the nutrients to their fullest. This means that the grass is actively growing because the soil temperatures are warm enough and there is adequate soil moisture to sustain the needs of the turf.

The optimum time for spring fertilizer application in the Victoria area is typically the last week of March but can extend into April if soil and air temperatures fall below normal. As a general rule, Easter is the best time for the first fertilizer application of the year.

To find out more about soil testing, go to soiltesting.tamu.edu or call the Victoria County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Peter J. McGuill is the Victoria County extension agent-ag and natural resources. Contact him at 361-575-4581 or pjmcguill@ag.tamu.edu.

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