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When to Apply Winter Fertilizer

Learn the best time to fertilize your lawn in winter

By
Jake Perry | Updated January 21, 2023
fertilizing a lawn in the winter

Although you may not give much thought to your lawn during the winter months, fertilizer is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a green, healthy lawn come spring. 

But with many products available, it can be tricky knowing when and how to fertilize your lawn during winter.

Winter fertilizer (or Winterizer) is a fertilizer applied in late fall after the grass has gone dormant for the winter. The primary purpose of winter fertilizer is to give the grass a boost of nutrients that will help it survive the winter and green up quickly in the spring.

Here’s a quick guide to help you out on when to apply winter fertilizer and the other factors you need to think about to keep your lawn looking lush. 

The Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn in Winter

The best time to apply winter fertilizer is in the late fall, before the first frost. This gives the fertilizer ample time to seep into the roots of the grass, providing much-needed nutrients that will help the grass survive the colder months. 

During the winter, grass goes into a dormant state, so choosing a low-phosphorus fertilizer is essential. 

Phosphorus helps to build strong roots, which are essential for a healthy lawn, but during the dormant state, you don’t want to activate the growth process, so low phosphorus is critical.  

What To Do If It’s Already Been The First Frost?

If you missed this window or live in an area with no frost, don’t worry – you can still apply fertilizer until the ground freezes. Just keep in mind that it will be less effective since the roots of the grass will already be dormant.

You don’t want to apply much fertilizer in this case, as it can cause the grass to come out of its dormant state on the next hot winter spell, which will then cause it to die when the ground freezes over again.

If you’ve missed the timing window of fertilizing before the first frost, try to fertilize the grass during a spell that isn’t freezing. This allows the mixture to reach the roots. Apply around 1/3 the amount it says on the package’s recommended amount to start with. 

Other Factors

A good rule of thumb is to fertilize around November, but this is a one size fits all approach and doesn’t consider a number of variable factors. These include:

  • Where you live – If you live somewhere further north or are prone to a cooler climate, then earlier than November might be worth considering. The same goes for if you live somewhere hotter, you might not even get frost, so you don’t need to take as much care with timing. 
  • How your lawn looks – If it is already looking a little sorry for itself, give it a little extra help. Remember to stay within the recommended amount on the packaging though!
  • Types of grass – some types of grass are heartier than others and can withstand more harsh weather conditions. If you need help determining what kind of grass you have, a quick Google search should help you.

How Often Should You Fertilize Your Lawn in Winter?

You should only need to fertilize your lawn once (or twice at most) during the winter months. Applying too much fertilizer can do more harm than good, so following the package directions carefully is essential. 

It depends on the type of fertilizer as some are slow release and some are quicker acting. A slower-acting fertilizer is better for winter, so keep that in mind. 

How Much Fertilizer to Apply

When it comes to fertilizer, more is not always better. Applying too much fertilizer can do more harm than good, leading to brown patches and bare spots and even destroying your grass entirely. 

A general rule is to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. However, it’s always best to follow the directions on the fertilizer package since different products contain different levels of nutrients. 

Pro Tip: NPK of 16-4-8 contains 16% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 8% potassium. All lawns need these three elements for proper growth, although the ideal proportions may vary depending on the type of grass.

What Fertilizer Ratios to Use in the Winter?

The ideal fertilizer ratio for winter is 3-1-2, which means it’s low in phosphorus and high in nitrogen. This is because phosphorus is vital for root growth, and since the grass is already dormant, there’s no need to encourage new growth.

The Best Type of Fertilizer for Winter

When it comes to fertilizer, the best type to use in winter is a slow-release fertilizer. 

This type of fertilizer slowly releases nutrients over time, which is ideal for winter since the roots of the grass are dormant and not actively growing. 

Best Winter Fertilizers

Here are a few options you can use this winter for your grass. Ensure to consider the above information when choosing what’s best for your unique lawn. 

Best Slow Release Andersons Professional PGF Complete 16-4-8

Best Spray Fertilizer Advanced Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer 16-4-8

FAQs

When should I fertilize my lawn in the winter? 

A good rule of thumb is to fertilize your lawn around November, but this obviously doesn’t consider a number of variable factors. These include where you live, average temperatures, the state of your current lawn, and what type of grass you have. 

How often should I fertilize my lawn in winter?

You should only fertilize your lawn once or twice during the winter months. Applying too much fertilizer can do more harm than good, so following the package directions carefully is important. 

How much fertilizer should I apply in winter? 

A general rule of thumb is to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. However, it’s always best to follow the directions on the fertilizer package since different products contain different levels of nutrients.

What is the best type of fertilizer for winter?

When it comes to fertilizer, the best type to use in winter is a slow-release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer slowly releases nutrients over time, which is ideal for winter since the roots of the grass are dormant. 

Fertilizing Your Lawn in Winter

Fertilizing your lawn in winter may seem like a lot of work, but trust us – it’s worth it! 

By taking care of your lawn now, you’ll ensure a lush, green lawn come springtime. Just be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer package and stop fertilizing once the ground freezes over.

Written by Jake Perry

Jake Perry

Jake Perry is a writer from the United Kingdom. He travels the world while working from his laptop, learning about new gardening and agriculture trends from gardeners around the world.