Do I need another lawn fertilizer treatment this month?

I have a lawn care company that does four treatments per year. They did a fertilizer treatment in September. Now they are calling me to sell me an additional winter fertilizer treatment. I don’t know the exact proportions but it is a nitrogen/potassium fertilizer. I have never had this done before.

I live in Northern Virginia with a temperate climate. I am not sure what kind of grass I have but I am betting fine fescue.

I happen to believe they are selling me something I don’t need, but I’m open to discussion if you have a different opinion.

The use of winterizer fertilizer is debated and disputed; some say it helps, some say no.

Personally, I would say September is a bit early to consider it winterizer and December is probably too late – better to apply it shortly before the grass will be going dormant, probably mid October. The theory is that the grass is preparing to survive the winter by gathering nutrients and building the root system; the energy stored in fall will provide a boost when the plant reactivates in spring.

I’d go to a local nursery or other store that sells farm/garden supplies – not a big box place, but more like a mom & pop. There’s a grain elevator in my central Michigan town that has much better information about this kind of stuff. They recommend a urea (all nitrogen) treatment for our cool-season turfgrasses after Thanksgiving, since roots continue to develop after the blades seem to have gone dormant.

Also check the Virginia Cooperative Extension office/website; answering these questions is what they do.

Are they asking you to pay extra for the treatment, or is it included in a set price you already paid?

They want an extra payment. That is why I am skeptical. They operate like my car dealer–they offer all this work you don’t need. They really do perform the work, but it’s high-margin and I don’t really need it. Who needs a deodorizer sprayed into their air vents for $79?

This is great advice–they have entire papers on lawn fertilization. They recommend fertilization early November for cool-weather grasses; I’m not sure what kind I have but my conclusion is that they are too late for this to be helpful.

My old man, especially after eating a lot of dairy.

If you are trying to grow something that your lawn cannot feed, maybe you should take a step back and review the situation from that point of view.

California’s drought has brought the issue into fine focus.

The State passed a law invalidating any and all local laws requiring irrigation.

For instance:
In Sacramento, even the most humble of homes have sprinkler systems in the front yard.
Sacto’s law required that front lawns “Must be planted and irrigated”. It was a $750 fine.

Many people are going for mulch or xeriscaping.

But yes, they are trying to raise money for the Holidays.

Live on the edge - do NOT feed the lawn and see if it can survive a winter all by itself.

“Need” is probably not the correct word. The theory of a late fall fertilization is to apply a fast acting urea type nitrogen when lawn shoot growth has ceased almost entirely, but before the soil has frozen, with the belief the nutrients will be incorporated into root growth and storage as opposed to shoot growth. It would need to be watered in. Once you drill down into what lawn care companies charge it makes sense for homeowners (unless a big lawn) to do these things yourself, or at least some of them. You can tailor the application times prior to a rainstorm for example, and hold off during times of plant stress, something the lawn care companies don’t always do. Once you start trying to grow grass seed in the fall, control for weeds, apply pre-emergents, crabgrass control, it can get complicated as to what treatments and chemicals will interfere with others.

Bluegrass lawns benefit from say 3 to 5 applications yearly, with one in late spring, none in the summer typically. So a very late fall application (around Thanksgiving or so) works.

There is a question of perspective here. I do not fertilize my lawn yet it is very healthy. I don’t rake up or otherwise remove grass clippings. I don’t rake up anything but large accumulations of leaves. I don’t give the lawn a crew cut when I mow. My lawn doesn’t look like a golf course either. It supports a lot of life, insects, worms, all sorts of critters, but unfortunately mice who are ingrates and don’t understand their place is outside. If you want your lawn to look like a golf course, and I understand based on the OP’s location the pressure to do so, then you’re going to need to go through the extra effort and expense of providing nutrients. But I do think that it’s largely a waste of time and money to use expensive treatments when only some additional seeding in the early spring is necessary. I grew up not far from the OP and from a young age mowed lawns for as little as $5 an acre. They weren’t typically the kind of manicured putting greens that are common now, but they were plenty healthy, looked like real lawns and rarely required supplements. The homeowners that wanted simple maintenance planted Zoysia-like grass, most used Kentucky blue grass and similar plants to get that horse farm type look. It’s all up to you what you want to put into it but IMHO there is a point of diminishing returns.

Agreed. I’m paradoxically stepping up to my “A” game lawn care, because I don’t want to mess with it so much. The best way to keep a lawn healthy is to have a healthy lawn, in the sense that a thick turf is naturally resistant to weeds and drouth. And mowing a bunch of weeds and bare patches is a special kind of futility. 3 to 5 fertilizations might be a bit much, but a fall application or two isn’t a bad plan to keep things thick.