Top Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn: Choosing the Right Lawn Fertilizer
Table of Contents
- What Is a Lawn Fertilizer?
- Why Is Lawn Fertilization So Important?
- When Is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn?
- Conduct a Soil Test for Your Lawn
- How to Choose the Right Lawn Fertilizer
- Choosing the Best Lawn Fertilizer
- Which Is the Best Liquid Fertilizer for My Lawn?
- Applying Your Granular or Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
- Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn: A Few Final Thoughts
As we’re entering spring, you might wonder when the best time to fertilize your lawn is. Or perhaps, you’re more concerned about picking the right lawn fertilizer for a green and vibrant lawn. After the colder winter months, your lawn emerges from its winter dormancy. The milder early spring weather means your soil temperature will warm to around 55 º Fahrenheit.
This is the perfect time to fertilize your lawn because your grass is ready to germinate. You can use a soil thermometer for accuracy or look for visible signs like new grass growth and budding flowers.
Spring is a pivotal time for your lawn. During the winter, your lawn experiences extreme drops in temperature which “shock” your turf, weakening it considerably. This is a key seasonal transitional period, and giving your grass the best lawn fertilization headstart will save you time, money, and energy long-term.
Remember, before you start lawn fertilization, do your other spring lawn-care tasks like dethatching and scalping and then move on to core aeration and topdressing. Core aeration, in particular, will improve the uptake of lawn fertilizers and herbicides.
Give your turf a fighting chance and learn all the top tips for fertilizing your lawn and how to choose the right lawn fertilizer.
Related: The Best Lawn Fertilizers to Use This Spring
What Is a Lawn Fertilizer?
Any substance or material that’s added to soil to promote grass growth is considered a lawn fertilizer. Most bags of lawn fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — the holy trinity of nutrients your turf needs to flourish. Some nutrients your lawn needs in lesser amounts include boron, copper, and iron. Products like NutriSolve and other biostimulants for lawns can correct micronutrient deficiencies. Lawn fertilizers fall into three categories. Firstly, mineral fertilizers are naturally sourced, processed, and chemically treated before application. Industrial fertilizers are entirely manufactured through chemical reactions. Lastly, organic fertilizers for lawns are made from completely natural materials. Organic fertilizers can be sold commercially or take a different form — like manure and compost.
Related: The Best Types of Organic Fertilizers for Your Lawn
What’s the Difference between Organic Lawn Fertilizer and Compost?
So let's get one thing straight. Compost is a type of organic fertilizer, but you can also buy organic fertilizers which are made from natural materials in stores. You can make compost in your backyard, as it’s decomposing organic matter like dead leaves and vegetable peelings. Bags of organic fertilizer that have been professionally formulated, like Mirimichi Green’s Premium Organic Fertilizer and Biostimulant, can provide your lawn with instant nutrients. It’s also eco-friendly and safe for pets and people, so you don’t need to worry about runoff harming nearby ecosystems. Conversely, compost is slow-release, which means it might take weeks or months for nutrients to seep into your soil.
Why Is Lawn Fertilization So Important?
Using a lawn fertilizer is a reliable method to ensure your turf gets the nutrients it requires to stay healthy and vibrant. Providing you use them properly, lawn fertilizers can keep your lawn in quality condition, encouraging your grass to become dense and strong. Why does this matter? Well, it’s simple. Like having a strong immune system, resilient grass will recover faster from harsh weather conditions and are less susceptible to lawn diseases. By getting your lawn fertilization program right, you’ll save on costly lawn-product expenses in the future to correct the issues weak grass creates. Also, patchy and thin grass is far more likely to succumb to a weed invasion — as weeds compete for nutrient availability.
Here are some other reasons why lawn fertilization is so important:
Replace and replenish — High quality soil is the number one rule for achieving a healthy lawn. Over time, your soil loses vital nutrients. Lawn fertilizers replace and replenish the nutrients the soil has lost to achieve a deep green lawn.
It’s not just photosynthesis — Yes, sun and water are the essentials for any plant’s survival, but there are other elements your grass needs to thrive:
All these essential nutrients can be found in a bag of lawn fertilizer — look out for these three nutrients in your soil test results. We’ll go into that more later.
Faster growing grass — This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. More nutrients = healthier grass which, in turn, grows faster. However, be mindful not to fertilize too much, as this can promote weak grass and more weeds.
Cut your lawn-care costs — If your lawn is strong and healthy, you’re far less likely to splash out on insecticides and weed killers. Following fertilization treatment, you can focus on essential lawn-care maintenance.
Now we’ve convinced you about why lawn fertilization is so essential, it’s time to get stuck in preparing yourself for a fertilization application. Let’s get into it.
When Is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn?
The best time to fertilize your lawn is in the spring when soil temperatures reach 55 º Fahrenheit (around March to mid-April), but this isn’t the only time lawn fertilization is essential. Before your lawn goes into dormancy during the winter, you’ll need to apply a lawn fertilizer one last time. Why? Because your grass needs to be healthy and strong to withstand harsh weather conditions. Your turf will store carbohydrate reserves in the winter to resist illness and exist as an energy source your grass can draw from to green up come spring.
For fall fertilization, potassium fertilizers are your best bet. They can help your grass better manage environmental stress, drive deeper root growth in drought-like conditions and protect grass roots from frost. A product like Sulfate of Potash is an ideal fall lawn fertilizer choice due to its potassium content, but it can also be used at different times of the year.
How often you fertilize your lawn depends on your fertilizer choice, grass type, and environmental conditions. Generally, we recommend fertilizing your lawn monthly when it is actively growing. The first application is in spring, followed by monthly applications from May to September. If you want to stimulate extra turf root growth before the winter sets in, you can also add another application at the end of October or the beginning of early November.
Stop by our step-by-step guide on achieving a golf course lawn if you’d like a more detailed month-by-month lawn care breakdown.
Related: The Best Lawn Fertilizers to Use This Fall
Conduct a Soil Test for Your Lawn
Once you're happy that it's the right time to fertilize your lawn, you must test the soil to see which essential nutrients it lacks. Testing the nutrients in the soil is vital because it will provide the recipe you need to choose the right lawn fertilizer, as well as:
- Cutting your future lawn-care costs on fertilizers, biostimulants, and other lawn-care products, as your lawn is getting exactly what it needs.
- Improper or over-fertilization of the wrong fertilizer could kill your grass (and encourage weak, shallow root growth). Soil testing allows you only to apply the amount of fertilizer required.
- It’s more environmentally friendly to use only what you need — avoiding excess fertilizer, which can harm pets, people, and the environment.
Measuring pH is a way to determine the amount of acidity or alkalinity in your soil. The pH scale ranges from 0-14, with highly acidic 1-6 and more alkaline 8-14. The ideal pH range you’re looking for is 6 -7, neutral soil. Depending on where you’re based in the States, you might have more naturally acidic or alkaline soil. For example, soil in the East and South tends to be more acidic. In contrast, the soil in the Southwest and West is more alkaline. If you live in the Midwest — you’re lucky, as this is where soil tends to have a neutral pH.
To understand which grass type might suit your area and soil, look at this article.
Applying the right combination of nutrients is important for creating a thriving, healthy lawn. Lawn fertilizers typically have different ratios of the essential nutrients your grass and soil need.
To learn which nutrients your soil lacks, purchase a Soil Test Kit. We prefer this Test Kit from MySoil. The kit will test for 13 plant available nutrient levels, including Nitrogen (Nitrogen (N) (Nitrate & Ammonium), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Sodium (Na). The MySoil test kit will also provide your soil pH, vital for maximizing nutrient uptake. If your soil’s pH level is higher or lower than you’re anticipating, use MAG-I-CAL® PLUS from Jonathan Green to raise or lower your soil’s pH.
Related: How Soil Tests for Your Lawn Can Save You Money
How to Choose the Right Lawn Fertilizer
When you’re choosing your lawn fertilizer, you might be wondering which form of fertilizer to use, granular or liquid?
There’s no right or wrong answer to picking the right lawn fertilizer to use, but you might want to consider some important distinctions. If you’re a beginner DIY lawn enthusiast, granular lawn fertilizers are easier to apply, store and distribute safely on your lawn. Granular fertilizers release their nutrients slowly and only need to be reapplied every four to six weeks. You’ll see results between five and seven days.
Liquid lawn fertilizers require more application precision but produce fast, visible results within three days.
The Pros and Cons of Granular and Liquid Lawn Fertilizers
To help you visualize the differences, here are some advantages and disadvantages of liquid lawn fertilizers and their granular counterparts.
Pros of granular lawn fertilizers
✅ Easier to apply
✅ Effective for raising soil nutrient levels
✅ Slow-release nutrients mean your lawn is fed more consistently over more extended periods.
Cons of granular lawn fertilizers
❌ Visible results take longer than liquid lawn fertilizers.
❌ Requires more space to store than liquids
❌ More difficult to customize nutrient program
❌ Increased environmental risk.
Pros of liquid lawn fertilizers
✅ Fast green-up
✅ Results visible a lot quicker
✅ Can be easily mixed with other products like plant growth regulator to save time.
Cons of liquid lawn fertilizers
❌ Results are more short-term due to the immediate release
❌ More likely to burn the grass
❌ Can result in patchy coverage
❌ Requires calibrated sprayer for best results
If you choose to go with liquid lawn fertilizer, avoid overlapping your applications. We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again: too much fertilizer can kill your grass. To avoid overlapping your liquid lawn fertilizer applications, try a turf mark dye indicator. It’ll disappear within 24-48 hours and show you where you’ve made your liquid applications to avoid overlapping.
Choosing the Best Lawn Fertilizer
Now for the fun part — choosing the perfect products to fertilize your lawn. To apply the additional nutrients your lawn needs, you'll need to pick out a drop or broadcast spreader (for granular fertilizers) and a backpack sprayer (for liquid lawn fertilizers).
For application tricks and tips, jump to fertilizer application guidance or see this video:
The Best Granular Lawn Fertilizers
Fertilizer for Potassium & Nitrogen Deficient Soil
Humic Max 16-0-8 Lebanon Country Club FertilizerDuring the cold winter months, many lawns become lacking in valuable nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium. Some of the best lawn fertilizers on the market, like Humic Max 16-0-8 from industry leaders Lebanon Country Club, contain 35% MESA slow-release nitrogen. This is a winning fertilizer that works for a wide range of grass types to achieve a deep dark green color. Loaded with 100% potassium, help your lawn out by aiding in water uptake and retention. Results can be seen within five to seven days, and Humic Max also has 8.9% Humic Acid included — a biostimulant which is needed for optimal for soil health. Help your grass get the most out of available microbes and nutrients in the soil with this exceptional lawn-care product. ORDER NOW!
Fertilizer for a Broad Spread of Nutrients
Complete 14-7-14 Lebanon Country Club Fertilizer
For beginners or soil that requires a broad range of macro and micronutrients, give Lebanon Country Club’s 14-7-14 fertilizer a try. You’ll see fast results within a week, with the 14% nitrogen content working to green up your grass quickly. In fact, this high-performance fertilizer includes slow and fast-release nitrogen to achieve a vivid green color without causing overgrowth. For deeper roots, this formulation contains 7% phosphorous and sea kelp, as well as humic acid to improve fertilizer uptake and overall plant health. ORDER NOW!
Fertilizer for Potassium-Deficient Soil
Stress 12-0-24 Lebanon Country Club Fertilizer
For serious lawn enthusiasts and high-maintenance lawns, this is the one for you. If you live in a part of the country prone to extreme weather conditions, Lebanon Country Club’s Stress 12-0-24 fertilizer can aid your turf’s recovery from environmental stress. Why? Because this stress formulation is high in potassium which helps your grass recover from freezing conditions and extreme drought. You’ll see a pop of green color in five to seven days thanks to its 12% nitrogen content, micronutrients, iron, magnesium, and manganese. ORDER NOW!
Micronutrients are the nutrients your lawn requires in lesser amounts. When combined with high levels of potassium, this fertilizer will allow your grass to cope with the stress of adverse weather, all-season-long.
How to Grow Your Grass AND Eliminate Weeds
The other thing you need to consider is how to prevent and kill broadleaf weeds in your lawn. If that sounds like you, then be sure to select a good pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides tackle weeds before they grow. The products below are fantastic fertilizers that also contain pre-emergent weed killers. These will not only feed your grass but discourage any weeds from growing at the same time.
Prodiamine .38% Pre-Emergent
Which Is the Best Liquid Fertilizer for My Lawn?
Using a selection of liquid fertilizers for your lawn lets you play at alchemy by mixing and matching your fertilizers to come up with the ultimate combination. When you get it right, this creates faster growth and richer green color. Below are a few of our favorite liquid fertilizer products:
Release 901C™ - Biostimulant with Fertilizer
We love this liquid fertilizer for lawns from Mirimichi Green. It’s a liquid fertilizer and biostimulant that will improve nutrient availability in your grass and uptake. Release 901C™ is the successor to Release Zero, and will supply 9% nitrogen for greener color, 1% potassium to build resilience, and 10% carbon to drive deeper root growth. Safe for all grass types and an eco-friendly option, Release 901C™ will also enhance the performance of other lawn-care products. ORDER NOW!
TurfPlex (20-2-3) with SeaXtra - Fast Release Fertilizer
TurfPlex (20-2-3) with SeaXtra is high in nitrogen and an ideal liquid fertilizer choice for lawns that experience heavy traffic. This liquid lawn fertilizer will provide excellent turf response, and color, and correct inconsistent growth and micronutrient deficiencies. A great option if you're looking for an all-around base fertilizer, though we recommend mixing this with other products. ORDER NOW!
Nutri-Kelp™ - Liquid Kelp for Lawns
Like a vitamin pack for your lawn, this product contains sea kelp and carbon to assist with nutrient uptake. Nutri-Kelp™ is another lawn biostimulant and liquid fertilizer from Mirimichi Green, using 24% sea kelp vitamins, enzymes, and essential nutrients to promote root growth and thick foliage. This product can help optimize a neutral pH level in your soil with added carbon and potassium to increase disease and stress resistance. ORDER NOW!
Additional Fertilizer Types & Products
Now that you've established which nutrients your lawn lacks, it's a good idea to combine your lawn fertilizer with a few additional products to give it the best chance for consistent growth and deep green color.
Biostimulants for Lawns
A lawn biostimulant is a microorganism or substance that can be applied to your grass to help it cope with environmental stress and boost nutrient uptake efficiency. Lawn biostimulants are like vitamin supplements for humans. They keep the grass strong and resistant but don’t act as a replacement for lawn fertilizer.
Mirimichi Green Essential-G™ - Granular Soil Compost and Biochar
Choose a biostimulant for your lawn that will do the job. Try Mirimichi Green’s lawn-feed product, Essential-G™. You can use this biochar and compost product alongside your lawn fertilizer to enhance the effects. It contains reclaimed coffee grounds, premium organics, humate, and USDA Certified Biobased Carbon — essentially, everything your soil needs to drive deeper root growth, quicker recovery, and a richer shade of green. Did we mention it’s also eco-friendly? ORDER NOW!
Related: What Is a Lawn Biostimulant and Why Are They Important?
Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs)
A plant growth regulator can modify your grass’ natural processes. Also known as “PGRs” plant growth regulators have the unique ability to slow down the grass growth. Why is this important? Well, it allows the grass blades to become strong and healthy first. Shallow-rooted weak grass, which has grown quickly, is far more vulnerable to disease and pests. PGRs will also reduce your mowing requirements and allow your grass to achieve a deeper green color as it matures. Mowing more infrequently allows older grass blades to appear darker in color.
The best plant growth regulator we have discovered is from industry favorite Syngenta. At a convenient 4 oz size, the affordable Primo Maxx will strengthen your grass. Primo Maxx reduces the time spent watering your lawn and makes your lawn more resilient to disease or drought. If you have time, drive deeper root growth and apply this PGR every month. ORDER NOW!
Related: How Plant Growth Regulation Can Make Your Lawn Thicker and Greener
Applying Your Granular or Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
We've recommended many different lawn fertilizer products, but the key is only to apply them in small amounts. Here we'll guide you on how to best use your granular and liquid lawn fertilizers to give your grass the greatest chance of success all year round.
Granular Lawn Fertilizer Application
Apply your main granular fertilizer product about once per month. Always carefully read the product label to fully understand how much your lawn needs. To give you an idea, 3 - 5 lbs per 1000 sq. ft is a good starting point. We recommend using a broadcast spreader and aim to achieve even application coverage across the entire lawn.
Your composting product, for instance, Essential G, should also be applied to your lawn once per month. There's no limit on how much of this you can use, but we'd advise you to use your spreader for the best coverage. To give you an idea, you could use up to five bags of this granular biostimulant over 11,000 sq ft.
You'll find instructions on calibrating your spreader on most granular fertilizer products. Don't be tempted to over-fertilize your lawn. Too much fertilizer will cause excessive growth and light-colored grass and can even promote disease. If you spill excess fertilizer onto the lawn, it's best to remove it as soon as possible. Avoid cross-contamination with your garden ecosystem and nearby water sources.
If you would like more information about the spreader we prefer, take a look at our video here:
Liquid Lawn Fertilizer Application
While your granular fertilizer needs to be applied once a month, you might use your liquid lawn fertilizers twice a month throughout spring. Liquid fertilizers tend to be more fast-acting than their granular counterparts. Your grass will still grow if you apply it less, but you'll achieve a gorgeous color and consistent growth by using it twice monthly.
The good news is that you don't need to use many products. But you'll need to carefully check the fertilizer product label for accurate instructions depending on which grass fertilizer you opt for. For example, Release 901C™ is applied at a rate of 2-7 oz with one gallon of water per 1000 sq. ft.
We also recommend mixing some ByoSpxtrum with your liquid lawn fertilizer to increase microbial activity in your soil. A little goes a long way, with a small bag covering 4-5 acres.
Liquid fertilizers for lawns must be applied using your backpack sprayer for the best results. Hose-end sprayers are not recommended since you can’t control the coverage to the degree required for even application. Instead, use a TeeJet foliar spray tip for even, consistent coverage. You can apply liquid lawn fertilizer from spring through late summer as part of your lawn care program.
Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn: A Few Final Thoughts
Once you’ve selected and applied your granular and liquid lawn fertilizer combination, you should start seeing results within a few days. While we’ve focused primarily on lawn fertilization, regular mowing is also essential for a great lawn. Choosing the right lawnmower and mowing your lawn as often as possible is essential. Most people get great results with a mowing schedule of twice a week.
Begin your mowing program once the grass starts growing in the spring and continue it throughout the growing season. As you enter summer, you may need to mow up to three times a week, often when the grass is growing the fastest.
Along with regular mowing, ensure your lawn is getting enough water. If you live in a dry area, you should water your lawn regularly throughout spring and summer. Most lawns need around one inch of water per week to thrive. If you want to know more about how often you should water your lawn, check out this recent blog post.
If you'd like to learn more about achieving the perfect lawn, applying fertilizer, and getting rid of weeds, sign up for our Golf Course Lawn Academy.