When to Fertilize your Lawn - Timing and Frequency

Fertilizing your lawn is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy yard. You may experience brown patches in your grass or even dead spots without it. It’s also possible for weeds to take over and choke out the other plants in your garden if they aren’t kept at bay with enough fertilizer. Lawn fertilizer is similar to food for your grass, giving it the nutrients to grow and maintain its healthy, green appearance. Each fertilizer employs a distinct combination of nutrients, though most contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These ingredients produce a vibrant lawn that resists weeds such as crabgrass while also providing an ideal environment for beneficial microorganisms and worms.

While fertilizing your lawn is essential, applying these nutrients at any time of year will not help your grass reach its full potential. Instead, before deciding when to fertilize, consider the type of grass you have and the environment you live in.

Let’s see how to fertilize a lawn:

What Is the Best Time to Fertilize the Lawn?

It’s critical to identify your grass type and tailor your lawn care schedule to its specific requirements. The type of grass you have will influence the best time to fertilize your lawn. Most of the country is covered in cool-season or warm-season grass, with some areas combining the two for a more versatile yard. 

Spring

Early spring is an excellent time to boost your cool-season grasses before entering the warmer months. This treatment should be applied with a spreader before the temperatures rise and the grass dormant. Perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and other turfgrasses require a small amount of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to get through the summer.

Warm-season grasses, such as centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and zoysiagrass, should be fertilized in late spring or early summer before the season’s high temperatures. This helps the grass fill out during the peak growing season and gain strength.

Summer

Warm-season grasses, as previously mentioned, can be fertilized in early summer before the onset of high temperatures. Furthermore, the second-round fertilizer should be applied in late summer as the heat dissipates, preparing the plant for the cooler months ahead. Slow-release granular fertilizers can be used to keep your warm-season grass healthy throughout the season without the need for reapplication.

Fall

Fall is an important time to fertilize your lawn, no matter your grass type. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized in late fall with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that will help them grow through the winter months. This application will also help keep your lawn healthy and thick as it enters dormancy.

Warm-season grasses should also be fertilized in late fall with nitrogen-rich fertilizer to help them remain healthy as the temperatures drop. This will boost your lawn as it enters winter and helps prevent dormancy.

Winter

During the winter, most grasses go dormant, rendering fertilizer ineffective. However, if you live in an area with a mild winter, you may want to fertilize your lawn once in late fall and again in early spring. This will help keep your lawn healthy and jump-start as it enters the growing season.

See also: Different Types of Grass for Your Lawn

Signs that Your Lawn Needs to be Fertilized

It may appear that determining when to fertilize your lawn is a guessing game, but your grass is constantly giving you visual cues about what it requires. The following signs that it’s time to fertilize your lawn may appear obvious, but don’t dismiss them.

  • Slower growth: If you know it’s the season for your grass type to grow, it could be a sign you need lawn fertilizer.
  • Yellowing blades: Some grasses can turn yellow or brown due to insufficient watering, but it could also signify that the grass lacks nutrients, specifically phosphorus.
  • Seasonal changes: It may be time to fertilize if you know the growing season is approaching. Typically, the first feeding occurs in the springtime for cool-season grasses and late spring/early summer for warm-season grasses.
  • Brown patches: If you have an area of your lawn that is browning, it could be several reasons, but inadequate nitrogen levels are the most common cause.
  • White thread: A fungus is known as “dollar spot” can cause a white thread to form on the grass blade. This fungus thrives in areas where the grass is weak and lacks nitrogen.
  • Lawn disease: If you see any signs of lawn disease, it’s time to call a professional and get your lawn evaluated. Fertilization is not always the solution to lawn diseases, but it is one potential treatment.

See also: Why is My Grass Brown And Dying?

Make & Follow a Lawn Fertilizer Schedule

Making a schedule keeps you on track to fertilize at the appropriate times. Please include it in your overall lawn care plan, including watering, weed control, and determining how low or high to mow the grass. Make a plan for the entire year and divide it into seasons. It’s also essential to review and adjust your lawn fertilizer schedule every year because some general rules may not apply to your specific lawn.

How Often Should You Fertilize?

The frequency with which you fertilize your lawn is determined by your climate and the type of grass you have. In general, fertilize your lawn during its peak growing season, in the fall for cool-season grasses and the spring for warm-season grasses.

While one application may be sufficient, refer to the instructions on your specific fertilizer for more detailed information. Some fertilizers suggest applying it every eight weeks, while others only a few times per season. Regardless of the application method, it’s critical to avoid over-fertilizing, harming your grass’s root system, and causing poor drainage.

The Most Effective Fertilizers to Use

Slow-release fertilizers are the best to use. Slow-release fertilizers make the grass green without causing it to grow too quickly. 20:5:10 (nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium) mixtures in the spring are appropriate. You can also conduct a soil pH test before beginning the process. Then, you can base the mix on your findings. For example, if your pH tests show that you have a high potassium level, you can look for a combination that has a lower potassium level.

Types of Fertilizers

  • Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers are made of materials from plant or animal sources. The most common types are manure, bone meal, and blood meal.
  • Inorganic fertilizers: Inorganic fertilizers are made of synthetic materials such as ammonium nitrate, potassium sulfate, and superphosphate. 
  • Slow-release fertilizers: Slow-release fertilizers are made of organic or inorganic materials that release nutrients slowly. This reduces the chance of fertilizer burn and helps maintain a healthy lawn.

What is Fertilizer Burn?

Fertilizer burn is a condition that can occur when you apply too much fertilizer at one time. The grass blades turn yellow or brown, and the roots may be damaged. If this occurs, flush the lawn with plenty of water. Do not fertilize for at least two weeks, and then gradually increase the amount you’re applying. Fertilization is required only when the grass is actively growing to prevent further damage.

How Does Weather Affect Fertilizer Application?

It is critical not to apply fertilizer during drought or heavy rainfall, regardless of the type of fertilizer used. Because many fertilizers require multiple waterings to soak into the soil, applying them during a drought exposes your grass to surface burns and slow growth. Furthermore, many areas have watering restrictions during seasonal droughts, so you won’t be able to water your lawn manually.

Heavy rains can cause your lawn to become waterlogged, eroding the soil and harming the grass. Fertilizer application will be ineffective during this time because water runoff will carry the fertilizer away and stop t it from receiving the proper nutrients.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Fertilizing Your Lawn

Now that you know when, what next is, how often, to fertilize your lawn, here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Select the Appropriate Fertilizer

You will need to conduct some research. Fertilizers contain three primary ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other compounds that may influence how nutrients are delivered to your grass. There are slow and quick-release treatments and liquid, pellet, and organic fertilizers.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Like any other job, you’ll need to know what tools you’ll need to apply your grass fertilizer. It may depend on the size of your lawn and the type of fertilizer you use. See below for a list of the tools you’ll need to finish the job.

  1. Spade or shovel
  2. Rake
  3. Hose with a spray nozzle
  4. Lawnmower

Step 3: Water the Lawn Before You Fertilize

Fertilizer will not work as well if the soil is dry. Wet the soil to the point where it’s moist but not muddy, then apply fertilizer.

Step 4: Check the Weather Forecast

Check the weather now that you’ve chosen the appropriate fertilizer for the season and purchased the necessary tools. Look for days with moderate temperatures and brief periods of no rain. Some people do not mind fertilizing right after rain.

Step 5: Water for a Few Days Before Fertilizing

You want the grass to be damp before fertilizing but not so wet that it dilutes and washes away nutrients and promotes fungus growth. This is required so that the soil will have the ability to absorb the fertilizer.

Step 6: Apply Fertilizer in a Two- or three-foot swath

If you’re using a broadcast spreader, walk normally and evenly distribute the product over the lawn. If you’re using a drop spreader, adjust the rate so that each drop of fertilizer falls within two to four inches of the next. Be sure to overlap fertilizer applications as you go. 

Step 7: Fertilize the lawn every six to eight weeks

The frequency of using fertilizer will depend on the type of fertilizer you’re using, the size and condition of your lawn, and your climate. Once you’ve started, continue applying fertilizer at regular intervals to keep your lawn. 

Step 8: Review your schedule

After completing all your climate and grass-type research, your year-long schedule should be in place. Begin planning for the next round. Please list what you’ve learned and include it in your lawn fertilizer schedule for the following year.

Step 9: Make any necessary adjustments

There are many general rules for warm and cold weather grasses, but some people live in transitional areas of the country where both types of grass can be found. Look for visual cues and adjust your lawn fertilization schedule and processes.

Conclusion

Fertilizing your field is an integral part of your lawn maintenance because it encourages healthy root growth and keeps your lawn looking lush and green. However, choosing the right fertilizer for the job and applying it at the right time is crucial.

If you have cool-season grass, apply it briefly in the spring before applying it heavily in the fall. Apply warm-season grasses as directed on the bag as frequently as possible during the spring. If you’re not sure how to treat your lawn correctly, many top lawn care providers can help tailor a plan to your yard’s specific needs.

Also Read: What to Consider When Purchasing a Lawn Mower?

Frequently Asked Questions

How to know when it is the right time to fertilize the lawn?

This can be determined using a soil thermometer; when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to fertilize your lawn. You may determine the same by watching the springtime plant lilac bloom.

Is it better to fertilize my lawn before or after it rains?

To control the application from being washed away, fertilize your lawn after a light rain or a sprinkler. The moisture dampens your soil, allowing it to absorb nutrients without becoming waterlogged. Fertilizer should not be applied before or after heavy rains.

When is the most appropriate time to fertilize my lawn?

The best time to fertilize the lawn is determined by the grass type and climate you live. Homeowners with cool-season grasses often start their lawn fertilizer schedule in the fall, while those with warm-season grasses begin in the spring.

 

What is the distinction between organic fertilizer and synthetic fertilizer?

Organic fertilizer differs from synthetic fertilizer in that it is extracted from living organisms, such as plant or animal-derived products. On the other hand, synthetic fertilizers are made from nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Is it okay to use grass clippings as fertilizer?

Grass clippings can be used as fertilizer. Leave the clippings in the grass after mowing to help reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you use throughout your yard. You can also add them to your compost pile to create nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

What are the benefits of fertilizing my lawn?

Fertilizing your lawn has many benefits, including a lush, green lawn that is healthy and attractive, Reduced weed growth, and Thicker grass.