Wait to Fertilize Your Warm-Season Grass!

Janet McLeod Scott
Extension Agent - Horticulture

As the weather warms and after a long winter break, people understandably want to get back outside and work in their yards. If you have a warm-season lawn, however, there are some chores that you will want to postpone for a while. At the top of the list is fertilizing. Warm-season grasses that are coming out of dormancy are sensitive to the application of fertilizer and can be damaged by it.

The rule of thumb is to wait until they have come out of dormancy completely before applying fertilizer or post-emergent herbicides. The question is, "How do you know if they are completely out of dormancy?". Once you have had to cut your grass three times, it is safe to assume that your warm-season grass is completely out of dormancy. Keep in mind that cutting your winter weeds does not count as one of the three mowings. Typically in South Carolina, warm-season grasses are completely out of dormancy by late April to mid May, but it depends on whether we have a cool spring or not, and which part of the state you live in.

To learn more about fertilizing lawns, see HGIC 1201, Fertilizing Lawns. For detailed maintenance (including fertilizer) information on different warm-season grasses, see HGIC 1215, Centipedegrass Maintenance Calendar; HGIC 1216, Bermudagrass Maintenance Calendar; HGIC 1217, Zoysiagrass Maintenance Calendar and HGIC 1218, St. Augustinegrass Maintenance Calendar.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.