Give Your Lawn Love in February

Give Your Lawn Some Love

If you have a fescue or other cool season lawn**, February is the time to give it some love in the form of fertilizer. Turfgrass experts at NC State University recommend applying 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn. If you have the results of a recent soil test, use those recommendations instead.


The following example calculations from demonstrate how to use the label on your bag of fertilizer:

To determine the amount of product required to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag.

Example 1:

A 16-4-8 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 16 = 6.25 (100/16 = 6.25) pounds of product applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Example 2:\

A 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 10 = 10 (100/10 = 10) pounds of product to be applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Cool season lawns should be fertilized on or around three holidays – Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Do not fertilize tall fescue after March 15.

If your lawn has an abundance of annual weeds such as chickweed or henbit, an herbicide labeled for controlling these weeds in fescue can be applied as well. A weed and feed product can be used prior to March 15. After this date, herbicides without fertilizer should be used if weed control is needed.

If you have a warm season lawn, do NOT fertilize this month. Fertilizing can begin once the lawn turns green.

** Not sure what “cool season” and “warm season” mean? Cool season grasses grow best in temperatures between 65 – 80 degrees F (spring and fall in NC). Examples of these are the fescues, perennial ryegrass, and bluegrass. Cool season lawns stay fairly green during our winters. Warm season grasses, like zoysiagrass, bermudagrass, centipedegrass, carpetgrass, and St. Augustine grass grow best in our summer temperatures between 75 – 90 degrees F. These grasses turn brown when dormant in winter.

-Ann Barnes

Time to Reseed Cool Season Lawns

If you have a cool season (fescue) lawn, it may be looking a bit tired, weedy, or bare in spots by September. Fortunately, this is also the perfect time of year of overseed or even renovate your yard. The temperatures in September are generally ideal for fescue germination, and the new seedlings have many months to grow and develop a strong root system before the stresses of the next summer arrive.

First, control any large patches of weeds. Mow and remove clippings. If your lawn has excessive thatch or bare patches, rake. Core aeration is also beneficial, as it reduces compacted areas in the soil and provides more seed-to-soil contact. Fertilize at a rate of 1 lb nitrogen per 1000 feet. NCSU publishes lists of recommended fescue and Kentucky bluegrass cultivars for our area (see links for the 2013 recommendations). The seeding rate is generally 5-6 lbs of seed per 1000 feet. Keep your lawn moist until seedlings are established and mow at the recommended height of 3.5 inches.

If your lawn is very sparse or weedy and needs extensive renovation, please see this article by Durham Co. Extension Agent Michelle Wallace, published in this blog last September:

For even more information about caring for lawns, you can download Carolina Lawns here: The TurfFiles website is also an excellent source of information.

Homeowners with warm season lawns: Your lawns should NOT be seeded in fall. Sod can be laid in fall, but there is greater chance of winter kill if sodded at this time. Waiting until spring is recommended.

-Ann Barnes