Appropriate fertilization is a large part of maintaining a vibrant, green, and healthy lawn. Mowing frequently (three times a week), watering, topdressing, and lawn-leveling also contribute, but sometimes your turf needs a little extra help. The market is saturated with lawn fertilizers, all claiming to be “the best”. This can be off-putting for homeowners who don’t know which products to use or when to apply lawn fertilizer. Furthermore, incorrect lawn fertilizer applications can cause more harm than good. It’s a difficult balance. Let Golf Course Lawn Store be your fertilization guru and advise you on the best time to fertilize your lawn and how to do it properly.
When to Apply Lawn Fertilizer
Before you begin your lawn fertilization program, you might wonder when to fertilize your lawn. The best time to fertilize your lawn is in the spring. This is when the soil temperature reaches around 55º Fahrenheit. Visible signs to look out for include flowers blossoming and grass beginning to grow. But, if you want a more exact measure of soil temperature, invest in a soil thermometer. In most parts of the country, soil temperatures hit 55º Fahrenheit in mid-April. This is the opportune time to start lawn fertilization.
One of the secrets to choosing the best lawn fertilizer is finding out what exactly is happening underneath your grass. In the same way we sometimes need vitamin supplements, your grass needs essential nutrients to thrive. Nitrogen, for example, is a component of chlorophyll, an important food for plants that provides them with their vibrant green color. Nitrogen-deficient grass often looks yellow and brittle — making it more susceptible to disease.
If greener grass is your objective, check out our blog on How to Get a Green Lawn Fast — 3 Easy Tips.
The key macronutrients (nutrients your grass needs in the largest amounts) needed to feed your lawn are nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. You’ll frequently notice on most bags of fertilizer that these three nutrients are abbreviated to “NPK,” with a number above each letter. This indicates how much of each macronutrient is supplemented in a particular fertilizer. Micronutrients are what your soil needs in lesser amounts. To correct micronutrient deficiencies, we recommend using NutriSolve.
All soil is either more alkaline or acidic on the pH scale — dependent on where you’re situated. Ideal soil pH levels should read seven on the scale, a neutral pH. Before purchasing a lawn fertilizer, use a home soil pH test kit to determine which nutrients your soil lacks.
The Application Timeline
As we’ve mentioned, the best time to fertilize your lawn is in the spring when the soil temperature hits 55º Fahrenheit. This is usually around mid-April. Depending on your chosen fertilizer type, you might need multiple fertilizer applications throughout the growing season. Up to four weeks after your first application, try a second feeding around mid-May. After that, fertilize every four to eight weeks through to October.
TOP TIP: When you come to your third fertilization, we recommend using organic material like manure or compost.
When it comes to the fall months, don’t hold back on fertilization. Your grass will continue to grow until winter; their roots need fertilizer. In the fall, you might want to transition to fertilizer higher in potassium and phosphate to encourage better root growth.
The Best Spring Lawn Fertilizer
Our top recommendation for the best spring lawn fertilizer is Stress 12-0-24 Granular Lawn Fertilizer. Granular fertilizers are slow-release, which means that their nutrients break down over longer periods. This means you only have to reapply fertilizers to your lawn every six to eight weeks. What a way to save time and money! Granular fertilizers are also easy to apply accurately using a broadcast spreader.
Stress 12-0-24 fertilizer is the go-to for all grass types. This fertilizer will ensure a consistent green color, especially formulated with immediate and slow-release nitrogen. Stress 12-0-24 contains 24% potassium to aid in water uptake and retention, with a higher concentration than most other fertilizers on the market. With an additional 1.6% iron, Stress can help your lawn achieve a deeper, darker green. It also includes extra nutrients like manganese and magnesium.
Humic acid and kelp is included in every Stress 12-0-24 fertilizer bag, stimulating microbial activity and growth. Stress can be applied at any time during the growing season, though spring is the best time to kick-start grass growth.
If you choose to use Stress 12-0-24, apply to a dry lawn. Granular fertilizers require moisture to break down properly, so water in Stress within the first 48 hours with ¼ of an inch of rainfall or irrigation.
The more you water your lawn, the more fertilizer is needed. Water stimulates grass growth as more nutrients are used up. If you’re going through a drought or rainfall hasn’t been on your side — it’s time to run your irrigation system. It depends on your lawn size, but water will always be a considerable expense. Get the most out of your lawn watering by using efficient irrigation techniques.
Lawn Fertilization Tips
Before pouring your fertilizer into the spreader, ensure you’ve got something underneath it to catch spilled granules. Alternatively, park it on the driveway or patio where loose granules can’t accumulate on plants or grass. Concentrated patches of granular fertilizer can damage and kill your grass.
Ensure your hopper is fully closed before filling up your broadcast spreader so fertilizer won’t fall to the ground. As we’ve mentioned, a broadcast spreader is a better choice for DIYers. They’re easy to use, affordable, and disperse fertilizer a wider distance.
For small backyards, try a handheld broadcast spreader. Even if your lawn is sizable, these smaller spreaders are useful for fertilizing narrow, small patches of grass. These can be grassy areas around trees, behind garages, or along fence lines.
When you’re applying your lawn fertilizer, walk at a steady pace. It’s all about consistency. You don’t want the fertilizer to be spread thinner in some spots and thicker in others. A balance is essential.
How to Apply
Begin your fertilization application by spreading the fertilizer around the perimeter of your yard. If you want to avoid fertilization overlap when using liquid fertilizers, try using a turf mark dye indicator, so you know where you’ve fertilized already.
Next, fill in the middle and walk in one direction — spread in perpendicular directions in a criss crossing pattern. Remember that a little is better than too much. You want to ensure even coverage, and this application method will prevent over-fertilization. If spacing between rows is a problem, look at tire tracks and align each new row to the last track.
TOP TIP: Check the weather forecast! Fertilizer often needs to be watered-in after application, so if you’re able to apply before light rain, you’ll save time and money on irrigation expenses. Also, take a look at the fertilizer manufacturer’s product label. Appropriate application instructions will be listed there.
Despite your best efforts, your spreader will spill loose granules of fertilizer onto your drive, patio, or sidewalk. Don’t let the rain wash it away, as granules can end up in drains, rivers, and lakes. Minimize pollution by sweeping up after yourself and pouring leftover fertilizer back into the bag (waste not, want not!). Another common practice is to sweep or blow granules from sidewalks and driveways back into the lawn. Store your fertilizer in a cool, dry place to maintain its effectiveness and quality.
Following the above advice will take you one step closer to achieving a golf course lawn. But lawn fertilization is just one aspect of lawn maintenance. For a more detailed article on general lawn-care, read our Step-By-Step Guide for Getting a Golf Course Lawn.