Fall season fertilization is a widely recommended practice for turfgrass. Fertilizer applied in the fall, however, may be subject to substantial leaching losses. A field study was conducted in Connecticut to determine the timing effects of fall fertilization on nitrate N (NO3-N) leaching, turf color, shoot density, and root mass of a 90% Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), 10% creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra L.) lawn. Treatments consisted of the date of fall fertilization: 15 September, 15 October, 15 November, 15 December, or control which received no fall fertilizer. Percolate water was collected weekly with soil monolith lysimeters. Mean log10 NO3-N concentrations in percolate were higher for fall fertilized treatments than for the control. Mean NO3-N mass collected in percolate water was linearly related to the date of fertilizer application, with higher NO3-N loss for later application dates. Applying fall fertilizer improved turf color and density but there were no differences in color or density among applications made between 15 October and 15 December. These findings suggest that the current recommendation of applying N in mid- to late November in southern New England may not be compatible with water quality goals.
Mangiafico, Salvatore and Guillard, Karl, "Fall Fertilization Timing Effects on Nitrate Leaching and Turfgrass Color and Growth" (2006). Plant Science Articles. Paper 14.