Many Aussie lawn owners will see lawn fertilisation as less of a routine, and more of an emergency option. You may only apply fertiliser when your lawn looks in particularly bad shape, or as a treat to get it super green before an event. But rather than being a cure, fertiliser is best used as a prevention; something that you apply out of habit rather than necessity. And no other time of year epitomises this more than autumn.
A transitional time of year, autumn is a season of great change in Australia, and indeed throughout the world. Many plants will turn to hibernation, losing their colour, flowers and leaves along the way. But while you can’t affect the change of season, you can affect how your lawn deals with it. And fertiliser can prove to be the key.
So, without further ado, let’s look at four things to think about before fertilising your lawn this autumn.
1) Warm Season vs Cool Season
Your autumn fertiliser routine will be entirely dependent on the variety of lawn on which it will be spread. Handily, most lawns can be placed in one of two categories – warm season or cool season. Australia, by and large, is home to warm season grasses. These grasses enjoy higher temperatures and are generally a little more drought tolerant, although they quickly wilt if subjected to cold and frosty conditions. Cool season are essentially the opposite – they prefer the cold, usually need a steady supply of water, and will wilt in the heat.
Warm season grasses such as Couch, Kikuyu and Buffalo experience their peak growing period in early autumn, while cool season grasses such as Ryegrass and Bluegrass will usually struggle during this period, having come off a hot summer. But as the season rolls on, cool season turfs will get stronger while warm season grasses tend to become weaker. This will affect the respective fertilisation regimes.
2) Slow or Quick Release
Slow and quick release fertilisers are exactly what you’d imagine – one releases nutrients into the soil slowly, the other quickly. Solid organic fertilisers would be classed as slow release, while liquid fertilisers would be classed as quick release.
Slow release fertilisers are great for building your grass’ strength over an extended period of time (on warm season grasses in the lead up to winter, for example), while quick release fertilisers can be great for getting tired lawns to bounce back (like on cool season turfs after a long, hot summer).
3) The Chemical Makeup
Lawn fertilisers will generally come with their chemical makeup clearly listed on the outside of the bag in the form of NPK, which stands for Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium (because we all learnt in chemistry class that K is for Potassium).
Essentially, the higher the number, the greater the concentration of the nutrient in the fertiliser. Each nutrient helps the plant in a different way – nitrogen assists with blade growth, phosphorous with root growth and potassium with the plant’s internals. For those hoping to get their cool season lawn looking better, a nitrogen-heavy fertiliser may be wise. To get your warm season turf as healthy as it can be before winter, a phosphorous-heavy fertiliser may be a better choice.
4) When and How to Apply
For both warm and cool season grasses, mid-autumn represents a great time to fertilise. For cool season grasses the worst of the summer heat has passed, so they will respond well to a meal in order to mend themselves. Warm season grasses will be coming out of their peak growing periods and will be starting to wind down towards winter. It’s important that they get as healthy and happy as possible before the inclement weather hits.
If you only have a small patch of turf, applying by hand is fine. For those with a greater area to cover it may be worth investing in a purpose-built spreader to get a perfectly even application.
For any other tips and tricks on autumn lawn maintenance, contact the friendly McKays team today.