Lawns in Florida enter a period of dormancy during the winter months, regulated by the number of daylight hours and temperature. As the days grow shorter and temperatures go down, turf requires less fertilizer. This really holds true for any plants in your yard – as growth slows the plant’s need for water and fertilizer decreases. Any fertilizer applied during this period of dormancy or reduced growth tends to either leach through our sandy soils or run off into nearby waterways.
You can still fertilize lawns during the early fall, but the University of Florida recommends that the last application of lawn fertilizer take place before early October in central Florida. Hernando County has a lawn fertilizer ordinance that prohibits application of fertilizer by homeowners from January 1st through March 31st, but in reality, your lawn doesn’t need much fertilizer after October 1st. During colder weather, lawn roots are less dense. Unused fertilizer leaches down through the soil beyond the root zone. Fertilizing lawns during the winter wastes money and contributes to pollution of groundwater at the same time. Store your fertilizer spreader until spring.
Mowing frequency is dependent upon how fast the lawn is growing. Hot weather with plenty of water and fertilizer combine to make a lawn grow more quickly. Dormant lawns grow very slowly or not at all during the winter. Of course, this is on a case by case basis- yours may need to be cut depending on the weather and rainfall. Mow turf with sharp blades at the highest setting recommended for your type of grass. Never remove more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at any one mowing. Cutting off too much of the leaf will stress the turf and open your lawn up to insects and disease. Small lawn clippings left on the lawn break down and return nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Cutting turf too short encourages weeds to germinate in the lawn and exposes the turf’s roots.
For more information about lawns or anything else in your landscape or home, stop by or call Hernando County UF/IFAS Extension weekdays from 8 to 5. Our office is in the airport industrial park at 16110 Aviation Loop Drive, Brooksville, 34604; (352) 754-4433. In addition, Master Gardeners are available to assist you at the Master Gardener nursery from 9AM to noon every Wednesday and Saturday (depending on the weather). Our nursery is located behind the Hernando County fairgrounds at 19490 Oliver Street, Brooksville.