When to Fertilize a Lawn

When To Fertilize A Lawn

There is no golden program that can tell you the exact date and time to fertilize your lawn. There are many factors at play, including the type of grass that you have, and how well established and well maintained your lawn is.

Many people do not stick to a regular feeding schedule, and subsequently overfeed their lawn. Knowing when to fertilize your lawn, and how often to do so, will help you to maintain vibrant and healthy grass that will have your neighbors green with envy.

Considerations About How To Fertilize Your Lawn

  • The first step to fertilizing your lawn, if you have not done already, is to have your soil tested. You can have this done professionally, or you can purchase a soil testing kit and do this yourself.
  • Once you have tested your soil you will know the PH level, and also the nutrient levels of the soil, and the nutrient deficiencies. This information can help you to choose the right fertilizer for your lawn. Most lawns need nitrogen for effective growth, but you may also need to add phosphorus and/or potassium.
  • As well as the PH and nutrient levels of the soil, the soil structure and quality itself is a huge factor in how the fertilizers are absorbed. Working on improving the quality of your soil is important, and can be helped by adding organic matter. See this article for an explanation on how top soil quality effects fertilizer uptake.
  • It is possible to spread dry lawn fertilizers by hand,but is incredibly difficult to do so evenly. Itis therefore recommended that you buy a high quality drop spreader or broadcast spreader to help you to feed your lawn most effectively.
  • Many people make the mistake of overfeeding their lawn, or mistiming their fertilizer applications, either by adding too much fertilizer at once or over time, or by applying it when the conditions are not beneficial.
  • The key is to fertilize at the right time, with the right amount, and distribute the fertilizer evenly across the lawn. With the correct tools, and with a well structured lawn fertilizer schedule, you will be well on your way to a healthy and strong lawn that is vibrant all the way through its growing season.

Here is a very informative video of the Lawn Care Nut showing how to evenly spread the fertilizer:

How Often To Fertilize Lawns

How often to fertilize a lawn is also something of a matter of choice. Some gardeners prefer just one fertilizer application a year, while other people tend towards a more intensive feeding process, with several application per season. However, overfeeding your lawn is not wise.

Fertilizer will not benefit your grass beyond a certain point, and can be damaging to the environment when over-applied. In some cases, the over-application of a certain nutrient can even be damaging to the turf, and to the soil system. For most lawns, once or twice a year is often enough. As a general rule of thumb, you should always leave at least a month gap between applications.

For maximum appearance of your lawn, you can apply fertilizer every 6-8 weeks during the most active period of your grass' growth. To do this you can break up the yearly requirements of nitrogen into an even spread over the course of the applications.Little and often tends to work more effectively than slapping a year's worth of nutrients on your lawn in one sitting, so try to aim for an even spread.

For a low maintenance approach to fertilizing your lawn, you can apply fertilizer as infrequently as once a year. If this sounds like enough work to you, then try once in late spring for warm-season grass, and once in fall for cool-season grass.

Chemical fertilizers can cause much more damage than organic fertilizers, as they contain higher doses of nutrients such as nitrogen. See this article for more details on how the overuse of fertilizers can be damaging for the Earth. It is therefore a lot more difficult to do any sort of damage when you feed your lawn organically. One way to do this is to leave your grass clippings on your lawn after mowing. This adds a nutritionally balanced feed back into the mix.

See below for a seasonal lawn fertilizer schedule:

When To Fertilize A Lawn – A General Guide

If you are looking for a quick and easy guide for when to fertilize a lawn, late summer and fall are the optimal times for most lawns. This is contrary to the popular belief that spring is the best time to fertilize. The benefits of fertilizing in fall have been stated by many studies, and by the research of universities such as the University of Colorado.

While it is true that applying fertilizer in early spring encourages some luscious top growth in your lawn, this untimely and intense growth spurt can actually deplete the plant's energy reserves in the long run, and cause them to weaken under summer stresses, such as droughts and regular mowing.

Applying fertilizer in late August or early September, however, will add nutrients that help the grass to overcome summer stresses.

Another application of slow-release fertilizer in late October to early November will promote earlier green-up in the spring, without the excessive shoot growth that can be damaging. Specifically, you should make this application when top growth is minimal,but when the soil is still warm enough for nutrient uptake.

Here is a quick summary of why it is generally better to fertilize a lawn in the fall, than it is in the spring:

  • Grass stays greener for longer in the fall.
  • Encourages earlier green-up in the spring.
  • Doesn't stimulate excessive shoot growth, which can weaken grass.
  • Lawn's carbohydrate (energy) reserves remain higher during spring and summer period.
  • Reduces incidences of disease in the summer.

Of course, this general guide does not account for all factors. By using seasonal fertilizers, and understanding your grass type, it can be beneficial to fertilize at different times of the year. However,the method above will work for both cool-season and warm-season grass, without any risk of damaging through over-feeding or bad timing.

When To Fertilize Warm-Season And Cool-Season Lawns

Grass types can be broadly broken down into two main categories: warm-season grasses, and cool-season grasses. When it comes to when to fertilize your lawn, this is the most important factor at playthat determines when the best time is for a feed.

As a guide, lawns usually benefit from added nutrients during the times of their active growth.

Warm-Season Grass: Warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, centipede, and zoysia, and buffalo grass. They grow most vigorously during warm weather, especially in the summer months. Feeding a warm-season lawn in late spring to early summer gives it plenty of nutrients for the most active period.

Applying fertilizer too late can leave the grass less able to combat cold weather, and feeding it too early can cause the rapid growth of cool-season weeds; a nightmare for a warm-season lawn.

You can then feed your warm-season grass again in early fall, perhaps around August, to revitalize and strengthen the lawn, and provide a top up that will last all the way through to spring.

Cool-Season Grass: Cool season grasses are very common turf grasses, and so most people's lawns are likely to comprise of one of them. Examples include, Kentucky bluegrass, Perennial rye grass, bent grass, and fescue.

Fall is by far the most important time to fertilize cool season grasses. Doing so keeps them green longerthrough the fall (and maybe even into the winter), and also allows them an early green-up when spring comes around

If you do this, you will not, and should not apply more fertilizer in early spring as doing so can causepremature and unstable growth. Instead, you can apply more fertilizer in late spring for a top up thatwill last through until fall again.

What Tools Do You Need To Fertilize Your Lawn

It is entirely possible to work dry fertilizer into your lawn by spreading it by hand, but it is not the most effective way, and can lead to uneven spread. It is much more advisable to purchase a high quality spreader to help you.

A drop spreader releases the fertilizer in a strip as you walk. Another option is the broadcast spreader,which releases the fertilizer in a circular motion,covering more ground, but requiring more setup to ensure its accuracy. A broadcast spreader is therefore recommended for larger lawns.

Other tools that you need during the process include the soil tester kit, which is useful when you are first establishing what lawn fertilizer you need. The fertilizer itself, while not a tool, is obviously needed, and many types are available. The type you choose will depend on the results of your soil test,as well as the season and type of grass you have.

In summary, here are the tools you need for fertilizing your lawn:

Drop Spreader

Drop spreader

Soil test kit