Can you apply weed and feed in the summer? The short answer is yes. But you must be careful when you apply as summer heat and drought will take its toll on your lawn.
Feeding your lawn, especially in the early summer helps strengthen the lawn so it can better withstand heat and drought conditions that commonly occur. Applying summer weed and feed releases nutrients slowly over time, making it a great fertilizer for all grass types.
A more common problem in the summer is insect control, which I will discuss later in this article
Summer is tough on grass, thanks to heat, drought, foot traffic, and insects. As the warmer temperatures of July and August come around, a much more common problem you will see are insects. Both Scotts and Sta Green have a summer fertilizer with insect control.
Apply The Correct Summer Weed and Feed Product
If you are going to fertilize in the summer, use the correct product. Do not apply a fast release fertilizer. Always look at the three numbers on the bag. You want to look for something that says “summer” on the bag. Years ago, people used primarily fast-release agriculture-grade fertilizers on their lawns.
These products often applied too much nitrogen at one time, and the microbes in the soil couldn’t break it all down. The excess nitrogen in the fertilizer in the soil caused the grass to dry out. This made the lawn look burned. But you can still apply a weed and feed fertilizer in June, July or August. Just use caution as the temps increase.
Most fertilizer today uses a slow-release product which means nutrients are released slowly to the lawn. Microbes in the soil break down the nitrogen in the particles over time, thereby releasing nutrients slowly and steadily over a 6-8 week period, which means no lawn burn.
Summer Lawn Care Tips
Through June, most weeds continue a very active growth phase. As the summer progresses, this changes. In July and throughout August, most weeds are slowing down or even stopping their growth. The combination of less water available and light levels dropping back from their June peak will cause weeds to reduce any new growth.
A mixture of weed and feed with 2,4-D, dicamba, onto leaves can take care of your weed problem. Weed and feed products for broadleaf weeds are mixed products, though. They also contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to promote a healthy lawn.
Here’s what a typical weed and feed product contains.
Nitrogen (N), the first chemical listed, helps with plant growth. Nitrogen does a great job of promoting the green leafy growth of foliage, and provides the necessary ingredients to produce lush green lawns. Lawn fertilizers will frequently have a high first number for this purpose. Weed and Feed generally has a high nitrogen level such as 28-0-3.
Phosphorus (P), the middle number, is very effective at establishing growth below ground, in the form of healthy root systems. It is also mostly responsible for flower blooms and fruit production.
You’ll notice that these fertilizers are usually for flowers, plants and trees, not for your lawn and have a high middle number. You will generally see this product listed as 15-30-15.
Potassium (K), the last number listed, is for overall plant health. This is primarily due to its ability to help build strong cells within the plant tissue. In turn, the plants withstand various stresses, such as heat, cold, pests, and diseases. For example, fall fertilizers can have a high component of potassium with ratio of 26-2-12.
The general rule is to use weed and feed early in the summer. Usually you want to apply by July 4th. Avoid using any fertilizer from mid July through August. Unless you have a serious weed problem late in the summer, avoid using weed and feed and wait until fall.
The results will be dramatically better in September or October rather than July or August.
Apply weed and feed in the summer but do so with caution.
Summer Weed Control
The best time to apply fertilizer is in the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate and grass and weed plants are actively growing. The timing of a weed and feed application will depend on your geographic location.
In northern parts of the United States, fertilize your lawn in late spring, early fall and/or late fall (such as late May, early September and early November). However, if you live in an area with long, cold winters, then late May, late August and the end of October may be best.
In most central and northern climates, late fall tends to offer better results than summer because that’s when weeds transfer energy to the roots, taking the herbicide to the roots along with it, killing them. If you live in the south, fertilize your lawn in early summer and again in late summer or early fall.
You can add one more treatment in midsummer, but avoid fertilizing when the temperature is too hot, particularly when it’s 90 degrees or above.
For most locations, weed-and-feed products should be applied to a wet lawn on a calm day and left on the surface for 24 to 48 hours, to help particles stick to the blades of grass and the weed leaves. To ensure that the particles have the best chance of doing their job, don’t water the lawn for 24 hours after application. Also, don’t apply the product if rain is expected within 24 hours.
Note: Southern weed and feed should be applied to a dry lawn with a product specific for southern grasses.
Weed Life Cycles
The many different types of broadleaf weeds are categorized by their life cycles. The best weed control is a healthy, dense lawn. A thick lawn will crowd out weeds. Weed seeds need light to germinate and a dense lawn will prevent light from reaching the surface of the soil.
Hand-pulling weeds may make sense when there are few weeds, especially if the weeds are annuals, however, even the best protected lawns can have broadleaf weeds. Hand pulling weeds will often result in re-growth as it is very difficult to remove the weeds root.
Avoid applying when the temperature is over 90 degrees with no rain expected for 24 hours. A better solution may be to treat your lawn with a selective herbicide such as Ortho Weed B Gon, Spectracide Weed Stop or Bayer Advanced Weed Killer for Lawns.
These products provide weed control without any fertilizer. The label on any lawn product is there to give you valuable information on how the fertilizer or herbicide should be used.
Before using any product, read the label to make sure the product does what you want and can be used on your lawn grass. Putting down the wrong product or too much can severely damage even the toughest lawn grass.
Summer Annual Weeds
Summer annual weeds complete their life cycle within 12 months. Summer annual weeds emerge in the spring or early summer, grow during the summer, produce seed in mid to late summer, and are killed by frost in the fall. However, some seeds will germinate again the following spring. These weeds need to be controlled with a pre-emergent fertilizer in early spring.
Annual weeds are generally the easiest to control because they do not produce root structures capable of beginning new plant growth. Annual weeds produce a great deal of seeds at the end of the season, but do not return the following year. Common annual weeds are crabgrass, barnyard grass, foxtail, pigweed and ragweed, groundsel, shepherd’s purse, chickweed, meadow grass and speedwell.
Summer Perennial Weeds
Summer perennial weeds are active for two or more years; plants grow as long as conditions are favorable and frequently die back to soil level with the first hard frost. New growth emerges at the start of the growing season, originating from roots or stem remains; in warmer regions, some perennial weeds can be green year-round.
Summer perennial weeds spread by various means, including seed, stems that root as they creep along or pieces of root. Examples are creeping charlie, curly dock, dandelion and plantain.
Applying weed and feed fertilizer in the middle of summer may give a nitrogen boost that could damage the delicate roots of a stressed lawn. For this reason, applying a broadleaf weed and feed should take place in spring or early summer, when both weeds and grasses are actively growing.
Used properly, weed and feed products are highly effective, but this product will fail when conditions aren’t optimal.
For example, the granules of weed-and-feed products, which must be applied with a spreader, have to stick to the leaves of the weeds to be effective. That requires moisture. The perfect time to apply, is an early morning when there’s a heavy dew on the lawn or turn on the sprinklers to wet the lawn. If the grass isn’t wet, you’ll be wasting your time and money.
Whether you use a granular weed-and-feed or liquid broadleaf weed killer, the weeds must be actively growing for the chemical to work. Treating during a hot, dry spell in summer may yield disappointing results. Spring and fall, when temperatures are moderate and moisture plentiful, are the ideal times.
Summer lawn care is much different than spring lawn care.
Feeding your lawn in the summer protects and strengthens it against insects, heat stress, drought and foot traffic problems. Weeds will be harder to kill in the summer as many have developed a strong root system.
Examples of common broadleaf weeds are dandelions, clover, chickweed, wild violet, oxalis and thistle. Broadleaf weeds are at their most vulnerable in the spring when they are growing fast, using nutrients through their roots and adsorbing water through their leaves. But you can still apply a weed and feed fertilizer.
Spring lawn care is about getting your lawn healthy and green. Summer lawn care is about maintaining it while temperatures rise, insects invade and summer bbq’s and foot traffic wear away at your lawn. Drought-stressed summer lawns are more susceptible to insects like grubs, chinch bugs, cutworms, and sod web worms.
Applying A Summer Insect Control
A more common problem you will see in the summer months are insects.
If you see insects in your grass, use a feeding product that also contains insect control, such as Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard. It contains 0.086% Bifenthrin. Bifenthrin is a pyrethroid insecticide.
It will help control ants, armyworms, billbugs, chiggers, chinch bugs, crickets, fleas, grasshoppers, mole crickets, mealy bugs, sod webworms, lawn moth larvae, spiders, ticks and weevils.
Pyrethroids are synthetic compounds made to act like the natural organic pyrethrins that are found in chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrin is used against a wide range of insects including ants, beetles, Colorado potato beetle, and Mexican bean beetle, cabbage loopers, caterpillars, fruit flies, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, ticks, whiteflies, & more.
For additional insect control try Ortho Bug B Gon granules or liquid around the perimeter of your home. Both contain Bifenthrin. For flying insects like mosquitoes and flies, I recommend Cutter or Deep Woods Off products.
Or try citronella plants or Tiki torches with citronella. One candle probably wont make much of a difference, but several citronella candles burning nearby keeps people safe from the pests when sitting, enjoying a picnic, or just being outdoors or in the garden.
By Victoria Stone
For summer lawn care, I focus on maintaining my lawn. Remember, early spring is when you should apply weed and feed if you are trying to control many summer weeds.
I generally use a summer lawn care product with insect control right around July 4th. This will get you through the summer and the cooler temperatures of September.
Find more information with my Complete Year Round Lawn Care Guide.