Fertilizing your lawn and garden is not a steady, year-round process. Laying down fertilizer in winter is useless as plants are not actively growing and don't need the nutrients. The latest application should be in early fall to help ensure the plants are healthy when they go into hibernation. Once winter's over, applying fertilizer in spring is crucial to ensure your lawn and garden get a healthy start. This is particularly important as native weeds often germinate earlier than cultivated plants, making competition for vital nutrients all the harder.
Take Your Time
Fertilizer will do no good until your lawn and garden are ready to begin growing once winter is done. Perform a soil test to see if fertilizer is even required. A value of more than 5 percent nitrogen in lawns means your grass does not need any more help. The same goes for phosphorous and potassium in vegetable and flower gardens respectively. If the soil tests show substandard nutrient values, only fertilize once the ground has dried and reached a minimum substrate temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It is only above this temperature that most plants and grasses start to germinate.
Don't Over Fertilize
Unlike fall applications, spring fertilizer applications are meant as a quick boost to help early growth. Using too much fertilizer while grass shoots and seedlings are just beginning to grow can burn and kill them off. Likewise, it will promote the growth of fungal and bacterial diseases while your plants and lawn are still vulnerable. For these reasons, apply no more than 0.75 lbs fertilizer mixture for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. Garden beds require more fertilizer at 5 lbs fertilizer for every 100 square feet.
Use the Right Fertilizer for the Job
All-purpose plant fertilizers can do more harm than good. For example, too much nitrogen in a flower garden will only promote the growth of leafy, green weeds. Fertilizers formulated for lawns will have a detrimental effect on vegetable gardens and flower gardens because they have insufficient amounts of phosphorous and potassium respectively. For lawns, use a 21-3-3 NPK fertilizer. For vegetables, use a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer. For flowers, use a 10-20-20 NPK fertilizer.