Fall is an especially important time of year for fertilizing both warm season and cool season turfgrasses on your golf course. Both are actively growing and assimilating nutrients for growth and winter storage.
With so many fertilizers on the market, it can be confusing to decide which product is appropriate for a particular situation. Here is a brief checklist to help narrow down the choices and set your golf course up for success this winter.
Start with a Soil Test
Collect soil samples from an average performing area and from a poorly performing area, and submit the samples to a soil testing laboratory for analysis. The report will show which nutrients are sufficient with recommendations for which ones need to be added as fertilizer.
Apply Soil Amendments
Fall and spring are the ideal times to add soil amendments (lime, gypsum, sulfur) if recommended in the soil test report. If the soil test recommends “x” pounds per acre for the year, a good strategy is to apply half the amount in the fall and the remaining half in the spring.
Evaluate Nutrient Requirements
Fall is an appropriate time to apply a “complete fertilizer,” meaning one that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The soil test will report which nutrients are deficient and the amount to be added.
Take a good look at the soil test and only add what is needed. As an example, if phosphorus is sufficient but potassium is deficient, consider applying a product with nitrogen and potassium such as 22-0-22.
Apply Nitrogen as Needed
Nitrogen is the nutrient used most rapidly by turf and in the greatest amount. Although nitrogen may be listed on the soil test, it is best to make light and frequent applications of nitrogen throughout the year based on the desired growth rate (e.g., high traffic vs. low traffic areas).
Nitrogen application in the fall is especially good for strengthening both warm and cool season grasses heading into winter and should be included in any fertilizer that is applied.
For more information, read Turfgrass Fertilization for Golf Courses by the USGA. It includes a collection of articles that provide further details on the subject of turfgrass fertilization. Please feel free to contact us or your local Ewing branch if you have any specific questions on fertilizer selection.