Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Work Like Hell and…. wait for it….. WINTERIZE!!!

If you’re following any of my fertilizer tenets/protocols/schedules for lawn care, you should know how important the Winterizer Fertilization is. It’s also called the Fall Feeding. But whatever you call it, please know that in some turfgrass research facilities, the winterizer/fall feeding is considering the most essential of all the fertilizations in the year.

I’ve told the story in the radio show for years about a nursery owner, nearly 25 years ago, who used to berate me for calling it “winterizer” because for our dominant grasses, it doesn’t say “winterizer” on the label. He is no longer in business to beat me over the head with that anymore, and I’m such a creature of habit (aren’t we all) that while he was technically right in that “winterizer” was originally meant for northern turfgrasses, I have no problem with the fall feeding for everything from St. Augustine to Zoysia to Bermuda still being defined as “the winterizer.”

Simply stated, the fall feeding, or winterizer, is supposed to be designed to slow down the growth of the grass prior to any freezing weather and more importantly “beef up” the levels of Potassium (the “K” in the NPK formulas) needed for the winter.  So, if you look at all the different fall fertilizers or winterizers out there, you’ll hopefully now understand why I’ve been a long-time proponent of one in particular called Nitro Phos Fall Special 8-12-16.

As opposed to the spring and summer fertilizers such as the 19-5-9s or 19-4-10s of this world, you can obviously see that the last number – the Potassium or K in the 8-12-16 – is that “beefed up” number. I consider that heavier-than-normal dosage of Potassium an attempt to toughen up the plant tissue for any potential freezing weather, a lot like we would use antifreeze for a car’s radiator.  But here’s a big warning, and why I’m really diving into the numbers of what a “winterizer” should be for the Gulf Coast – you can’t just go by the words winterizer or fall fertilizer on any old bag of fertilizer out there.

First, you have to make sure it’s especially designed for southern turfgrasses – St. Augustine, Zoysias and Bermudas – because many of the winterizers from national lawn fertilization companies are, in my opinion, anything but a true winterizer. I’ve seen supposed winterizers with ratios like 30-0-5. Yikes!!! That is way too much Nitrogen (the N in the NPK) and actually very little Potassium.

Too much nitrogen in our humidity, coupled with too much moisture, either by Mother Nature or your sprinkler system, will be an open invitation to Brownpatch. Actually, it’s almost like adding fuel to the fire when it does come to Brownpatch explosions. I’ll link you to my Brownpatch tip sheets and it could be a weekly blast sometime down the road. If I can, at the very least, leave you with one absolute – avoid any supposed winterizer for this area where the first number (the Nitrogen) is over 20.

I’ll leave you with one more thought about using any type of “organic” fertilizers as a fall feeding. (Notice, I did not use the term winterizer in this realm) Always think of the use of organic fertilizers in terms of fall feedings, as just that; A FEEDING!!! Organic fertilizers for the most part, are great for adding organic matter to the soil and giving a small feeding to the grass, but they are not formulated with those higher-than-normal Potassium levels for freeze protection.

That doesn’t mean in any way I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth; it simply means that organic fertilizers are always first and foremost a means to add organic matter to the soil while lightly feeding. And that kind of consistency is, in and of itself, a great way to prepare the turf and its soil for the winter months as well.