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How & When To Fertilize Your Lawn

Have you ever wondered what goes into having a lush, green, and gorgeous lawn? The type of soil you have is the foundation for healthy growth in your gardens and your lawn. Finding out what your lawn soil’s nutrient profile is and applying an appropriate fertilizer can go a long way to growing the lawn you have always dreamed of. There are many fertilizers on the market, and it can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to begin.

Follow our guide for tips on choosing the right fertilizer and how and when to fertilize a lawn so that you too can have the luxurious, vibrant lawn that you’ve always longed for.

close up of lawn with a home and children playing in the background

Perform A Soil Test Before Fertilizing Your Lawn

The type of soil you have and where you live can profoundly impact how and when to fertilize your lawn. Many people are not aware that each State Department of Agriculture has offices set up within local counties, sometimes in partnership with local universities, to help gardeners and farmers on many topics, including how and when to fertilize a lawn.

Extension offices are a great place to start your quest for reliable information specific to where you live, which is something the back of a fertilizer bag simply cannot match.

  • Good lawns begin with good soil. Get started by obtaining a soil sample and bringing it to your local county office.
  • It can take up to two weeks to get your results back, but it will tell you the pH of your soil and what your soil is lacking before you fertilize.

When to Fertilize A Lawn?

Once winter comes to a close, the ground starts to wake up, and any snow melts away, it’s time to start thinking of your lawn. We all want lush, green lawns that are the envy of the neighborhood, but where do you start?

Let’s begin with when you should be fertilizing your lawn:

  • Grab a soil thermometer to check the temperature of the ground. Look for temperatures that are a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to signal lawn fertilization time!
  • Don’t have a soil thermometer? This temperature reading is traditionally reached in the range of early spring or mid-to-late April for most regions.
  • Feed your lawn in mid-to-late April with a balanced lawn fertilizer.
  • Plan to do subsequent lawn feedings as well throughout the growing season for optimal results. The second application should be made four weeks after the first and every six to eight weeks after that through the month of October.
  • If you’d like to extend your lawn’s growing season a little bit longer, consider closing the season with a winter lawn fertilizer.
Fertilizer pellets spraying from spreader

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

Now that we have touched on when to fertilize a lawn, let’s discuss the process of how to go about applying it.

  1. Fill either a handheld spreader or a traditional lawn spreader with fertilizer granules. Note that if you opted for liquid fertilizer, follow the directions on the bottle. It is usually attached to a sprayer along with the hose and sprayed on.
  2. Evenly distribute fertilizer around the edges of your lawn and gradually work your way to the center.
  3. Then, continue to apply fertilizer in a row-like fashion, crisscrossing the lawn to cover the area thoroughly.
  4. When it comes to fertilizing, you want the granules to be evenly distributed across the lawn surface area, but it is essential not to over-fertilize. If using synthetic fertilizer, over-fertilizing a site will not only be a costly venture, but instead of feeding your lawn, it can burn it out from too much nitrogen. You won’t have this issue with an organic fertilizer.
  5. If you were a little bit overzealous along walkways, be sure to sweep up any excess fertilizer so that it does not wash away into the water supply.
House exterior with landscape

Synthetic vs. Organic Lawn Fertilizers

As you learn how and when to fertilize a lawn, it’s important to think about the types of fertilizers available. There is an essential difference between synthetic and organic fertilizers that is worth noting. Oftentimes, the lower cost of synthetic fertilizers may be appealing at first glance, but when you look a little deeper, you’ll find that the benefits of using an organic fertilizer far outway the chemical option.

Unlike synthetic lawn fertilizers, organic fertilizers are eco-friendly and safe for gardeners, their families, pets, and the environment. Organic fertilizers help to build the soil and contain beneficial soil microbes plus mycorrhizae.

As you peruse the bags of fertilizer on garden center and nursery shelves, each bag has a number sequence on it that shares key information about what the fertilizer supplies by way of nutrients. These numbers refer to the levels of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) that it contains. Refer to your soil test results to determine which bag of fertilizer is best for your grass variety.

Organic fertilizers are derived from living things or the earth. Examples of these components can include mushroom manure, compost, aged poultry or cow manure, kelp meal, blood meal, and bone meal. When applied to lawns, they act as a slow-release fertilizer would, feeding your turf over a longer duration. Look for the OMRI logo on the fertilizer bag, ensuring the product you choose is proven organic. There are many benefits to using organic fertilizer instead of synthetic.

  • Works to correct nutrient imbalances in the soil
  • There is no danger of over-usage of nutrients
  • Harmful residues do not build-up
  • Does not produce pollution from runoff
  • Improve soil structure and water retention

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