When you think fertilizer you probably think green, but any master gardener will tell you that fertilizer goes far beyond the green.

By applying the right ratio of fertilizer components at the right time, you can keep that beautiful neighbor-envying green later into the fall, have earlier and stronger green-up in the spring, and reduce the chance of summer turf diseases.

Look at any fertilizer bag and you will see the standard 3 numbers (ex. 13-13-13 , 0-0-60, 12-0-0). These numbers represent the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium in that particular bag of fertilizer. These three components offer your turf three different things, which is why timing is so important.

Nitrogen: Probably the most familiar fertilizer component, nitrogen is responsible for the beautiful deep green color we are all looking for in mid-summer. Nitrogen is important for turf health. If you are experiencing slow growth or thin turf, a nitrogen deficiency may be at fault. But more often, excess nitrogen will be your issue. Putting too much nitrogen on your turf can cause poor root growth and increased susceptibility to some diseases.

Phosphorous: While not as glamorous as nitrogen, phosphorous is essential to your turf. Phosphorous encourages strong root growth and gives young plants the power they need to survive. Too much phosphorous can cause runoff which can have a negative impact on water quality.

Potassium: The third, but arguably most important fertilizer component. Potassium helps your turf run efficiently. Without potassium, your turf won’t even have a chance to use the nitrogen its been given. If your turf were an engine, potassium would be the oil, running through the whole system to keep everything working at top efficiency.

The ideal time to fertilize your lawn is mid-spring through late fall/early winter. At first glance it is hard to understand what good fertilizer does for a dormant lawn, but remember that green is only one part of the picture.

If you fertilize too early in the year, you can cause root weakness and can invite disease issues. But by applying phosphorous and potassium-rich fertilizers during the late fall and early winter months, you can strengthen roots and prepare your turf for an amazing spring green-up.