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Southern Gardening: Postpone Lawn Fertilization, Protect Bees

Escambia County Extension

Despite this week’s winter-like temperatures, spring is here and residents have begun to beautify their yards. For expert advice on what to do and when, we’re continuing our occasional series on gardening with Jonathon Heidi Escambia County horticulturalist Beth Bolles, hosts of WUWF TV’s Southern Gardening.

Credit Escambia County Extension
Dormant Grass

Lawn Fertilization:

Despite ads encouraging you to "get a jump on spring,” Bolles says it’s far better to hold off for a bit when it comes to lawn fertilization and nitrogen.

“We want to wait until that grass is completely greened up; it’s actively growing, before we even consider putting any nitrogen on that lawn.”

Bolles says residents should resist fertilization until mid-April, which is the best time. “Realize that even though that grass may be green, it’s not actively growing. And, research from the University of Florida has shown that many of those nutrients leach right through, and you’ve lost it,” she says. That means a loss of the money you spent on the fertilizer. Bolles adds that runoff of the fertilizer contributes to pollution.


There’s new information from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the protection of bees and pesticide use that homeowners can utilize to make environmentally-friendly choices when considering the purchase of insecticides. “We have some great data that says pesticides may be one of the contributing factors to colony collapse,” says Bolles, adding that it’s important to do everything we can to protect the bees.

From the EPA:

Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. Once thought to pose a major long term threat to bees, reported cases of CCD have declined substantially over the last five years. The number of hives that do not survive over the winter months – the overall indicator for bee health – has maintained an average of about 30 percent since 2008. While winter losses remain relatively high, the number of those losses attributed to CCD has dropped from roughly 60 percent of total hives lost in 2008 to 26 percent in 2012.

Bolles says it’s important to read the labels of any insecticides, and if it says it’s toxic to bees, don’t apply it while plants or in bloom and avoid applying it to plants that may be visited by bees during the growing season.

For more information, call 850-475-5230 or visit the Escambia County Extension Service website at  https://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu.