I think it would be fair to say that we have seen one of the most unusual April’s on record here in the Southwest (rain and cool temperatures).  It’s been nice to get to experience spring again, but our grass lawns are feeling the effects of the up and down weather.  It is trying to decide when it’s best to start actively growing.  We have talked many times that the soil temperature must be 64 degrees before we will see any warm season grass growth.  We’re just about in the appropriate range now, and with the right fertility over the next few weeks we can make the transition without any hiccups. 

If you haven’t put any thought into your summer fertilization program now would be a great time to start.  Since the average home lawn has right around 1000 square feet it makes buying fertilizer painless and very expensive.  If you have a slightly larger lawn you will be buying fertilizer a couple times throughout the summer.  I know we went over it a couple weeks ago, but I do want to review a typical fertilizer schedule this week so any newcomers to the blog are on the same page.  Keep in mind that all the archives from past posts are available online, and there are many useful tools that can help you through your situation.  These are just basic examples and each lawn will vary depending on soil conditions, location and weather but that is what I am here for.  If you want to send me pictures and ask questions feel free. 

Water – 2 times per week and reduce water by 35% the first week of May for 1-2 weeks to promote bermuda growth.  1 inch of water per week.  Most sprinkler systems will run 15-20 minutes per cycle.

Mowing Heights – ¼ inch to 1 inch

Cultural Practices – Aerify if necessary and lightly verticut to reduce ryegrass turf canopy 


May (Option 1)

Spoon feed ¼ to ½ pound of nitrogen per 1000 SF every 10-14 days to promote bermudagrass growth.  Good products for this application are calcium nitrate, 15-15-15, Milorganite, or Turf Royale 21-7-14.  You will want to make sure your mowing heights range from ¼ inch if you have Tifgreen to 1 inch maximum if you have BOBSod, Sea Spray, or EZ-Turf.

May (Option 2)

Apply ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) at a rate of 5-10 pounds of product per 1000 SF.  This will give you two pounds of actual nitrogen and will give the bermudagrass a kick start to push through the ryegrass.  If you choose this or option 1 make sure you water the fertilizer in right after it is applied and it is best to apply early in the morning.


Turf Royale 21-7-14 at 5 pounds of product per 1000 SF followed by 21-0-0 every other month to ensure good root and shoot growth.  During the summer months after you aerify it is an excellent time to apply Gypsum at 10 pounds per 1000 SF to help loosen the soil and balance out the soil pH.  Some other excellent fertilizers to have on hand depending on your soil situation are 0-0-50, 16-20-0 for root development, 15-15-15 for balanced growth, Milorganite for slow release organic nitrogen, and Ironite.  You will not need all of these products but since only you can see your lawn it is important to know what your grass needs. 

Here is a little check and balance sheet to know what you need for your lawn.  Remember that a bag of fertilizer reads nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium in that order on every bag (ex. 21-7-14). This is the percentage of each that is in the bag.

Some products that I suggest are – Panasea Plus, Ironite, Milorganite (5-0-0), Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0), Ammonium Phosphate(16-20-0), Calcium Nitrate(15.5-0-0), Turf Royale (21-7-14), Zinc/Manganese (can usually find a good mix in the palm tree section), K-Mag (0-0-22), 0-0-50, Gypsum, Lime, 15-15-15.  I am not suggesting that you go and buy all of these products but these are basic checklist of products that will help you find the appropriate nutrients.  Stay away from the weed and feed products at this time of the year and give your grass the appropriate nutrients. 

Now many of the products I list are straight nitrogen so you do need to balance these out with balanced fertilizers at least every other month.  If you over apply fertilizer you will also see some negative effects.                                                                                         

Nutrient Deficiency Checklist

Nitrogen – Grass is yellowing on the older leaves and you start to notice a slowdown in growth

Phophorus – Shallow root system, leaf tips and leaf edges look burned  

Potassium – Excessive water loss through transpiration of the leaves (meaning you are compensating with more water than normal), leafs will go from being dark green in color to having a reddish hue.

Magnesium -Leaves are yellow-green in color with red tinted leaf edges

Calcium – New grass shoots/leaves are small and rust colored

Manganese/Iron – New grass leaves are immediately turning from green to yellow (most products will stain your walks so be careful)

Zinc -Grass leaves start to show a shriveled up look and the new leaves become extremely narrow

If you are asking yourself where you can find products that contain macro nutrients I suggest going to a nursery or a specialty landscape store.  Many of these products are found in various amounts in several of the fertilizers I suggested.  You will have to look on the back of the bag to see what percentage of the macro nutrient is in the package.  If you are a paspalum grower these macro nutrients are your best friend since it is not a fan of excessive nitrogen like bermudagrass.

Remember that transition is upon us and your mowing heights should be gradually lowered until you are to as a low as you can mow without scalping.  As usual you never want to cut more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade at a time and DO NOT TURN YOUR WATER COMPLETELY OFF TO TRANSITION. 

Have you signed up to receive the blog weekly yet?  Put your email address in so you can stay up to date with everything that is happening in the turf world and what you should be doing with your lawn.

I have attached a couple links to some past blog topics for those that have not seen some of the older posts. 

Do you have questions about your prep work?  http://www.westernsod.com/sodblog/147

Want to find out more about paspalum and other grasses we offer?  http://www.westernsod.com/sodblog/239 or http://www.westernsod.com/sodblog/286

As I said you can access all the archives and you should be able to find answers to all your questions, but feel free to ask me if there is something you would like to learn more about.