When Is The Best Time To Fertilise My Buffalo Lawn | The Buffalo Grass Review Site

When Is The Best Time To Fertilise My Buffalo Lawn | The Buffalo Grass Review Site

1. What effect does fertilising your Buffalo lawn in Autumn have on winter colour and spring green up of your Buffalo lawn?

2. Slow release versus a chemical fertiliser. Which is Best?

3. Does Spring fertilising help? What about mowing height?

By Todd Layt

It’s a question I’m always being asked, ” When is the best time to fertilise my buffalo lawn?”

Fertilising your Buffalo lawn in Autumn with a good slow release fertiliser and again in spring with any good lawn fertiliser is best . (slow release, chemical or organic).

In April 2007, a study commenced to determine what the effect of three different fertiliser applications had on six different turf types. Each was replicated 6 times at Windsor, NSW, including 3 Buffalo types.

All the plots were evaluated in winter, and then in spring to determine which fertiliser combination was the best for winter colour and for spring green up. The combinations were: no fertiliser in autumn (19th of April), Scotts Lawn Builder slow release fertiliser, and Shirleys No. 17, all applied as recommended. In spring, another application of fertiliser was applied to another subset of the plots, this time half were with no fertiliser and the other half Shirley’s No. 17. Also, 10 days prior to evaluating the spring green up, half the plots were mown short, whilst the other half were mown taller.

This meant by the end of the trial there were 108 sub plots to evaluate, with each combination having three replicated plots, randomly spread as per best practice. Scotts Lawn Builder and Shirley’s No. 17 were chosen as they are well known brands, easily available to trade and the general public.


The winter evaluations were interesting to say the least. Three people evaluated the plots for winter colour in July 2007. Ian Paananen, a consulting Agricultural scientist, Henry Locock, a lawn manager, and Nathan Dutschke, a horticulturist. The overall result showed little difference between the plots in respect to fertiliser application.

On average, over 6 plots of 6 different  varieties, the average score out of 10 for winter colour for non fertilised plots was the best at 3.3, with the Shirleys No. 17 scoring a 3, and the slow release a 3.2. Based on statistical analysis, the differences are not significant. Interestingly, the varieties that stayed the greenest in winter had better scores for the slow released fertilised plots in winter, and the quick release and no fertiliser averaged out the same.

Speculation could suggest that the Kikuyu and the Palmetto Buffalo types kept actively growing in winter, and benefited more from the fertiliser than the less winter active types. The less winter active types such as Sir Walter, Shademaster Buffalo and Couch turf varieties showed a bigger difference to fertiliser applications. In fact the no fertiliser gave better winter colour results for those turf types.

Amongst Buffalo types, the difference in winter colour retention was pronounced. Palmetto had a winter colour rating of 5.6 with slow release fertiliser, whilst Sir Walter only had a rating of 3.3 and Shade Master 2.1. Empire was the odd man out, as its winter colour was similar to Shade Master, but it had a better result from slow release fertiliser compared to no fertiliser, but only just. Not enough to make the result significant.

The spring green up ratings were again out of 10, but this time they were evaluated over 3 different weeks in 3 separate evaluations. The results for the three applications in autumn showed that using a slow release fertiliser is much better than no fertiliser, and better than normal fertiliser. On average, the plots with no fertiliser had a rating of 4.38 out of 10, whilst the slow release had an average of 6.1, and the Shirley’s No. 17 had a rating of 4.9.

So based on these results, the best way to achieve a quick spring green up on your Buffalo lawn is to use a slow release fertiliser in autumn. The shorter mown plots (5.2 out of 10) had only a slightly better rating than the longer grown plots (5 out of 10). The average of the plots fertilised in spring were 5.6 as opposed to 4.7 for those not fertilised in spring.

Finally, to really show what effect fertilising can have on spring green up, the best results were compared to the worst results. The plots that were fertilised in autumn with Scotts Lawn Builder slow release fertiliser, mown short, and were again fertilised just prior to spring with Shirly’s No 17, rated an average spring green up of 6.9, whilst the worst rating of 4, was for the no autumn fertiliser, and no spring fertiliser, for both long and short mowing.


For a quicker spring green up it is best to fertilise in autumn and in spring. Using a slow release fertiliser in autumn will give better results than a standard type fertiliser or no fertiliser for spring green up. Fertilise your Buffalo lawn in autumn with slow release and again in spring with any good lawn fertiliser.

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