When to Fertilize Lawns in Texas

lawn fertilizing tool in a lawn

Fertilizing a lawn is a crucial aspect of Lone Star lawn maintenance that can significantly affect the health and appearance of your grass. It is recommended to fertilize your grass during its growing period, which varies based on grass type. To achieve a healthier, greener, and more beautiful lawn, follow these guidelines on the best time to fertilize lawns in Texas.

What Does a Lawn Fertilizer Do?

The main goal of lawn fertilizer is to provide the grass with vital nutrients necessary for its growth and overall health. To remain healthy, grass needs different nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When lacking these nutrients, the grass can become weak, prone to diseases, and look rough.

When to Fertilize Lawns in Texas

a person fertilizing lawn with a spreader
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

To fertilize grass effectively, apply it during the active growing season. Your Texas lawn fertilizer schedule will depend on the type of grass growing in your yard.

A picture showing growth of warm season grass round the year

The best time to fertilize warm-season Texas lawns is in spring, with the option of applying again in early fall. If you live in areas with longer growing seasons, such as southern Texas, you may need more nitrogen fertilizer each year. It is important to wait until the grass is actively growing before applying spring fertilizer.

A picture showing growth of cool season grass round the year

The best time to fertilize cool-season Texas lawns is in September and again in May for year-round appeal. Tall fescue, a cool-season grass, is popular in north Texas. 

Spring Fertilizing By Region

Early to late spring, after the lawns green up, is the best time to fertilize lawns in Texas. This is because the grass is coming out of dormancy and beginning to grow actively. The exact date will vary due to our chaotic weather, but the chart below shows a general idea of when you can start the fertilizer application to your spring lawn.

Region Spring Application Start Date
Rio Grande ValleyMarch 1st  
South TexasMarch 15th 
Southeast TexasApril 1st 
Central Texas “belt” from El Paso to DallasApril 15th – May 1st  
West/North West TexasMay 15th 
PanhandleJune 1st

Fall Fertilizing by Region

To make your lawn thicker and better able to withstand winter weeds, it’s crucial to increase the nitrogen content of your lawn during the fall. Use just a little nitrogen for the best results (1 pound or less per 1,000 square feet). Consider using organic fertilizers, which release nutrients gradually as you winterize your lawn.

Fall is the ideal time of year to fertilize cool-season grasses in the transition zone of North Texas. These grasses grow best in cooler months and need proper nutrients to thrive in winter and spring.

The chart below shows the average cut-off date for fall fertilizing in Texas.

Region Fall Application End Date
Rio Grande ValleyNovember 1st  
South TexasNovember 1st  
Central TexasOctober 15th
West/North West/DFW MetroplexOctober 1st
PanhandleSeptember 15th

Summer Fertilizing

To improve the quality of neglected lawns, apply fertilizer in late spring and summer. Extra nitrogen applications should be spaced out by at least 45-60 days. 

  • Slow-release fertilizers work best during the summer months. 
  • Consider applying starter fertilizer to new lawns. 
  • Avoid fertilizing during droughts.

Factors to Consider When Fertilizing

Environmental factors, such as shade, soil condition, and type of grass, affect the amount of fertilizer needed to deliver nutrients to your turf’s root system effectively. Consider these factors when planning how to fertilize your lawn.

Shade and Fertilizer

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Due to reduced photosynthesis, shaded landscapes require less nitrogen than those in full sun. They need only one-half to two-thirds the amount of nitrogen required by full-sun lawns. Adjusting nitrogen levels based on sunlight can improve grass growth and health.

In addition, shade affects when nitrogen should be applied. Nitrogen is more easily used by grass plants when their leaves are exposed to light, such as when the leaves are falling in fall or have yet to fully leaf out in spring. To avoid damaging the turf, fertilizer should only be applied to grasses that grow in shade in early spring and late fall.

Soil Types in Texas

Texas is home to a diverse range of soil types, each with its own unique characteristics that can impact the health and appearance of lawns. Different types of soil have different nutrient requirements, meaning that the type of fertilizer you use will vary depending on where you are located in the state.  

Texas has four main soil types: sandy, clay, loamy, and chalky.

  • Sandy soil is typically found in coastal areas like Port Aransas.
  • Clay soil is typical in the eastern and central parts of the state, such as around Austin.
  • Loamy soil, a mixture of sand, clay, and silt, is found in the northern region of Texas, from the Lubbock area up through the Panhandle.
  • Chalky soil, high in calcium carbonate, is found in the western areas of Texas around the Midland and El Paso areas.

A soil test can determine what your grass needs. Using a soil test, you can determine what nutrients should be added to the soil and whether lime, phosphorus, or other amendments are needed to correct the pH balance. Soil tests are cheap and easy to do. Visit your county Extension office or the Texas A&M Soil Testing Laboratory.

Grass Types in Texas

Warm-season grass like Bermudagrass, buffalograss, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and Zoysiagrass are among the best grass types for Texas homeowners. Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that works well in north Texas.

  • Bermudagrass: Grows well all over Texas, but it’s one of the best grass types for Dallas. It has a gray-green color and can handle drought well.
  • Buffalograss: One of the best grass types in El Paso and throughout west Texas, buffalograss is a great low-maintenance grass for people who want to save time and money. 
  • Centipedegrass: If you live in the eastern part of Texas, you’ll often find centipedegrass. This slow-growing, coarse-leaved grass is a good grass choice for Spring, Texas, and surrounding areas.
  • St. Augustinegrass: St. Augustinegrass is well-suited for central Texas. It is one of the best grass types for Austin, grows quickly, and can handle both shade and heat.
  • Zoysiagrass: A popular grass type for Houston, commonly found on golf greens and in parks. Zoysiagrass is weed-resistant and can tolerate low to moderate shade, making it a great choice for transition zone lawns in cities such as Amarillo.
  • Tall Fescue: A cool-season grass that can thrive in the northern regions of Texas. It has a deep green color and is one of the best grass types for Plano. It is known for its ability to handle moderately cold winters but may need more water during our dry, hot summers.

The chart below shows how much fertilizer each warm-season grass type needs. Only use 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application.

Grass TypeAmount of Fertilizer Per Year
Bermudagrass2 to 6 pounds
Buffalograss0 to 2 pounds 
Centipedegrass0 to 2 pounds 
St. Augustinegrass1 to 4 pounds 
Zoysiagrass1 to 4 pounds
Tall Fescue2 to 4 pounds

It’s essential to be careful when using fertilizers. If in doubt, less is more. When fertilizer is over-applied, the amount of contaminated water in Texas’ rivers, lakes, and streams can increase significantly. This damages the ecosystem and can harm your lawn, wasting time and money.

Lawn Problems

If your lawn has issues such as pests, diseases, or weeds, it’s essential to address those problems before fertilizing. Fertilizing a stressed lawn can worsen the problem. If you are unsure how to address these issues, consult a local lawn care professional.

  • Lawn pests: Pests can wreak havoc on lawns, causing damage to grass and other plants. Some common lawn pests in Texas include chinch bugs, armyworms, and fire ants.
  • Lawn disease: Several kinds of lawn diseases affect grass in Texas, such as brown patch, dollar spot, and Pythium blight. Each disease has its own specific symptoms and treatment methods.
  • Weeds: In Texas, many types of weeds can grow in various environments, such as fields, gardens, and lawns. Some of the most common weeds found in Texas include dandelions, crabgrass, and sandburs. Use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring before you fertilize to stay ahead of the weeds.

FAQ: Best Time to Fertilize Lawns in Texas

Is Lawn Fertilizer Needed?

Yes, fertilizing your lawn is an essential aspect of maintenance that can greatly affect the health and appearance of your grass. To achieve a healthier, greener, and more beautiful lawn, it’s important to fertilize your turfgrass during the spring and fall when it’s actively growing and can take advantage of added nutrients.

Can I Overseed My Lawn With Cool-Season Grass in Texas?

Yes, you can overseed Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass if your warm-season turf goes dormant for the winter.

Will Weed and Feed Work on My Texas Lawn?

We don’t recommend weed and feed products for Texas lawns. The timing and rates for fertilization and weed control don’t coincide. That means weed-and-feed formulas can increase the risk of herbicide overdose. If you want effective weed control without the risks, consider organic fertilizer mixed with corn gluten.

When to Call a Pro

No matter where you live in the Lone Star State, it can be challenging to maintain a lush, healthy lawn. Adding fertilizer to your chore list of watering, mowing, and weeding is a hassle. Consult a Lawnstarter lawn care expert near you if you’d rather spend your weekends enjoying your outdoor space than maintaining it.

Are you looking for weed control near you? Lawnstarter has landscaping and lawn care professionals in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Plano, and more.

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Raven Wisdom

Raven Wisdom is a screenwriter from West Texas and a proud mom of two in an autism family. Self-described as "half-feral but mostly harmless," Raven loves houseplants, a good laugh, and furry friends.