As our gardens begin preparing for winter, many plants may appear dead or dormant. However, underground there is much happening that we cannot see in our gardens. When the cooler temperatures of fall set in, a plant’s top growth is reduced or halted, it’s energy is focused to it’s roots. Plants are stimulated to produce higher concentrations of amino acids and sugars to help the plant resist freezing over winter. Plants are hungry this time of year, preparing for winter dormancy and fertilizing in fall will strengthen plants’ roots to be better prepared when the temperatures drop. Fall is for fertilizing, the ideal time to feed your lawn and garden to promote a beautiful, healthy gardenscape in the spring. Read on for some fertilizer basics to feed your gardens.
When looking at a container of fertilizer there are many ingredients to decipher. Keep it simple and focus on the three primary macronutrients all plants require, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
- N = Nitrogen the first number, represents the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer. Nitrogen promotes the growth of the foliage.
- P = Phosphorus the second number, represents the amount of phosphorus in a fertilizer. Phosphorus is what stimulates root growth in plants and promotes blooming.
- K = Potassium the third number, represents the amount of potassium (or potash) in a fertilizer. Potassium is important for proper cell function, absorption of trace elements and overall plant health.
When to Fertilize
Fall provides more consistent temperatures and rainfall. With fall’s additional rain, plant’s roots will absorb more nutrients. Begin fall fertilization six to eight weeks before the average first frost. Apply fall lawn fertilizer before the ground freezes, generally mid-October.
- Perennials benefit from a high phosphate fertilizer with low nitrogen content.
- Applied in the fall, it supports stronger plants in the spring with greater flower production.
- A high nitrogen fertilizer with added potassium supports enhanced rooting, cold hardiness, and disease resistance.
- Fall fertilization helps lawns recover from heat-induced dormancy from the summer.
- Fall fertilization promotes the storing of carbohydrates which help grasses resist winter injury and disease.
- Late September thru Mid-October is generally the best time to apply fertilizer, 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes.
- For more information on seasonal lawn care, refer to the University of Minnesota’s Lawn Care Calendar.
TREES & SHRUBS
- Fertilizing trees in the fall is important particularly for deciduous trees, as many key nutrients are used up earlier in the year, producing leaves and fruit.
- Only fertilize in the fall when the soil is around 55 degrees fahrenheit to prevent unseasonal growth that can damage the tree, generally in late fall after they have lost their foliage for the year.
Large, established trees do not require fertilization unless the tree exhibits symptoms of a deficiency.
- Fall Bulbs (Bulbs planted in September/October that bloom in the Spring)
- Bulbs need phosphorus applied at the root level to help them get established before winter sets in. Phosphorus is best applied while planting the bulbs.
Now that you see (don’t see) your gardens are very much alive in the fall, feed them! GrowHaus carries a wide selection of organic fertilizers for natural, worry-free results. Fall is for fertilizing, a well fed garden going into winter will be a beautiful, healthy garden come next spring.