What is the Right Summer Fertilization Plan to Avoid Burnt Plants?

Hank Kerfoot - Thursday, October 27, 2011

It is a common idea that summer fertilization can damage or burn plants, but realistically the right summer fertilization program can keep plants and lawns healthy if properly applied. The key is to apply the correct amount of fertilizer and follow the application with watering to dissolve the product and quickly deliver it to the roots to promote healthy plant growth.


Choosing time-released summer fertilizers is another way to avoid burning plants. Time-released products are user-friendly and work especially well when there is regular rainfall or a consistent watering. A lighter application of fertilizer is best during the warm summer months.


Summer Fertilization to Meet Specific Grass, Turf Needs

A common turfgrass, Bermuda tends to require more nutrients as the temperatures rise. Most Bermuda grasses especially benefit from the addition of phosphorus, a nutrient that is often overlooked but plays a vital role in the health and growth of the grass. Phosphorous is identified on a fertilizer product packaging as the middle number in the list of numbers.

Your grass may need more phosphorus as part of the summer fertilization program or it could need nitrogen and/or potassium. In order to know exactly what your turf or lawn needs, conduct a soil test to get an accurate picture of what your grass requires to flourish.


Other types of grasses, such as St. Augustine, tend to benefit from nitrogen application during the summer months, which will enhance color and create a beautiful lawn or turf. An important tip is to choose slow-release or organic nitrogen sources to keep the grass as healthy as possible.


You may be able to detect nutrient deficiencies by analyzing the grass. For example yellowing, drooping or stunted growth are all signs of a deficiency in nitrogen. However, for the most accurate analysis, it is best to send samples to you local agricultural extension office or obtain assistance from a landscape professional.

When it comes to fertilizing turfgrass areas, fertilizing prior to heavy rain or heavy watering can wash away the fertilizer product, wasting the product and resulting in downward leaching, potentially polluting nitrate into nearby rivers and streams.

If there is significant shade over the grass or turf, take this into considering when determining the right summer fertilization program. For some types of grasses in shade, fertilization should be avoided to prevent disease.


There is no need to avoid any and all summer fertilization. While an inexperienced landscaper can over-apply and risk burning the plants, a light application of the right products can provide the nutrition support necessary to maintain a beautiful and healthy lawn or turf year-round. Often, homeowners and golf course superintendents find it helpful to seek professional landscape assistance in order to develop and perform the ideal summer fertilization plan.