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Green Thumb: Fall lawn care

Lawn with fall leaves on the ground

What a wonderful fall season it has been in the Utah. The changing leaves, cooler temperatures and shorter days even have me thinking about hibernation. But before I take any long winters nap I’ve got one very important turfgrass management task to take care of and recommend that you do the same.

The timing may seem strange but now is the time to apply one last round of fertilizer to your lawn ahead of winter. You may wonder “why should I do that now? Isn’t the grass going dormant and stopping growth soon?” The answer to that question is yes, but there are still good reasons to fertilize your lawn this fall.

One obvious benefit is an immediate though subtle improvement in the growth and color of your lawn. Less obvious are increases in both leaf and root density and growth. Grass plants will also use fertilizer at this year to build and store energy reserves through the winter months supporting active growth and color in the spring.

While these are all positive responses the most important reason for fertilizing your lawn at this time of the year is that the growth and energy responses I’ve mentioned give the grass more drought tolerance next summer.

It all ties back to water conservation and plant water use efficiency. How do you know when to apply this last round of fertilizer? It’s simple. After you’ve completed your last mowing of the year, it’s time.

The grass will still be green and able to take up the nutrients but instead of growing taller it will store the energy generated for growth and health next year. More information on this and other topics is online at

This is Kelly Kopp, USU Extension Water Conservation and Turfgrass specialist wishing you a happy fall and healthy turf.