when do you fertilize the lawn?

Half of the sources I read (and that includes TV ads, too :) say in fall, the other half - in spring. What would you guys recommend and is there really a universal answer or should I look for some signs of it actually needing the fertilizer? And by the way, I just use a dispensing attachment for the water hose. Is this a good way to spread the fertilizer?
Thanks!
Reply to
ken
Well, the companies selling fertilizers would have you believe that you need to do it 4-5 times a year :) I am not a biologist but it does make sense to me to fertilize the grass just before the season with the maximum growth so the nutrients are there when the grass needs it. That time will depend on your location  and the types of grasses on your lawn.
There are two types of grasses:  cool-season and warm-season grasses. You may live in the area  where only one particular type will survive but a large swath of US territory (south of PA, north of SC and all the way west around those latitudes) can have both. Warm-season grass would turn brown in winter if it grows far enough to the north. Cool-season grass can be green all year round in the north and would have a tendency to wilt in summer in the transitional zone and would probably not survive summer in the southern states.
Cool-season grass needs early fall fertilizing most, when the summer heat has subsided and the grass is still growing. You can also fertilize in early spring before the summer heat comes and it stops growing again.
Warm-season grasses need fertilizing in the spring when they're becoming green after the dormant winter. 
Make sure the fertilizer is gone (if it was in soluble granules) by the time the grass stops growing - it should be all consumed by the time the summer hear or the winter cold comes.
I'm mostly dealing with cool-season grasses myself and fertilizing is usually not during the time when watering is needed, so I don't use the liquid dispenser like you do. I have one of those push-type spreader carts. But if you're living in the region with warm-season grasses, I imagine the liquid dispenser can do the job just as well. If you have pets, using the liquid dispenser may be preferred so they don't pick up the granules.
Reply to
homeowners
Cheapest, least polluting, best looking lawn for least chemicals and work: SOD program.  10-10-10 in September, October and December.  Lime if needed.  Grass is putting down root system during this time.  Usually there is enough moisture that the fertilizer doesn't stress the grass.  My lawn gets so thick and lush that the weeds are choked out.
Reply to
Momsy2
The SOD program was a development out of Virginia Tech. They also had developed grasses that did well in the Piedmont of Virginia. SOD is just a handy way to remember which months to apply the fertilizer.
Also, since the fertilizer is granular, a broadcast spreader is used for application. They can be had for < $25. Washed out and hung on garage wall, they will last for an eternity.
Reply to
Momsy2
 It took me awhile but I finally got it :) <strong>S</strong>eptember - <strong>O</strong>ctober-<strong>D</strong>ecember! I am curious if the schedule can be applied to places further north than VA without needing any adjustment. Since we don't know where the original poster of this question lives.
Thanks for your input!
Reply to
homeowners
Well, I was raised in Michigan.  Interestingly, putting fertilizer down over a thin layer of snow was not unheard of.  If the ground is rock solid frozen, not so much, 'cause the nitrogen would dissipate rather than be taken into the soil.  
Even farther north, the root system is working during the cooler months.  Of course, the cooler north is relative these days!
Reply to
Momsy2

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