Skip fertilizing in spring. Fall is the best time to fertilize northwest lawns, but only if they really need it. When you do fertilize, be sure to use slow-release nitrogen. (Organic fertilizers are almost always slow-release.) And choose a fertilizer with little or no phosphorus - our local soils already have plenty.
Fertilize naturally - with your lawn clippings. Grass clippings are the perfect organic, slow-release fertilizer already. Just leave them on the lawn where they'll slowly break down and feed the soil.
Get a soil test to find out if you need fertilizer. Using lawn fertilizer is a bit like taking vitamins. We're usually not sure if our bodies need vitamins, but we take them anyway because we want to be healthy. When we take more than we need, our bodies flush it out as waste. Similarly, your soil and plants may not need the nutrients in your fertilizer. When you fertilize, extra nutrients get flushed away in rain runoff and end up in the lake. A soil test will tell you what your lawn really needs, so that you're not wasting money and time. Not to mention polluting the lake!
This spring and fall, we're partnering with the WSU Shore Stewards to offer FREE soil testing to Big Lake residents. We do all the work, you get the results! Contact Cristina Ocana Gallegos at 360-395-2369 or firstname.lastname@example.org for your free test!
Follow the directions if you choose to fertilize. Every bag of fertilizer will have instructions on the back for how to apply it at the correct application rate. (Your soil test might suggest a different application rate. If so, follow the soil test recommendations.) If your lawn is near a ditch, catch basin, or the lake, leave a 10 to 15-foot strip of unfertilized area as a buffer. And never apply fertilizer 24 hours before a rain event - otherwise it'll wash right off your lawn and into the lake!