Lawn Fertilizer Schedule | When To Fertilize Your Grass For The Best Results?

When it comes to creating a lush, green lawn and ensuring that it stays that way, fertilizer is a critical element. Unfortunately, most homeowners avoid lawn fertilization because they are unsure which products to use and how and when to apply them. The problem is made even more complicated by the fact that if lawn fertilizer is not spread on the grass in the right way or at the right time, it can actually cause more harm than good. In this article. let’s talk about lawn fertilizer schedule.

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Lawn fertilizer schedule

Photo Credit A good lawn fertilization schedule is necessary to grow a healthy and lush lawn.

Fertilizing your lawn is among the most vital things you can do for its overall health and appearance. Healthy grass has a more robust root system that can better withstand the effects of weather, mowing, foot traffic, and other challenges. The condition of your lawn will improve if you fertilize it once each year. However, feeding your lawn every quarter throughout the year will make it even healthier and more appealing.

You may make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood by fertilizing it according to a good schedule. But what is a good lawn fertilizer schedule?

A good lawn fertilizer schedule involves feeding the grass multiple times a year. In general, however, the best time to fertilize is in the spring, when soil temperature (not air temperature) hits 55º Fahrenheit. However, you might also want to fertilize your lawn other than in the spring. For instance, experts suggest feeding the grass right before the fall so that grass can collect nutrients for its winter nap.

Continue reading to learn more!

The Traditional Quarterly Lawn Fertilizer Schedule

Companies such as Scotts advise their customers to follow a plan that involves four distinct applications of different chemical formulas, starting in the spring and continuing through the fall. This is what they advise in their lawn fertilizer schedule, specifically:

1. Fertilize The Lawn In Early Spring

Early spring fertilizer

Photo Credit Fertilizing grass early in the spring helps the grass get off to a good start.

The quarterly lawn fertilization schedule starts with feeding your grass early in the spring. According to the quarterly fertilization schedule, the grass is famished when it finally emerges from hibernation in the spring. It is essential to fertilize it at this time because doing so fortifies the roots and ensures a healthy start for the grass. 

Therefore, apply an early spring fertilizer to your lawn between February and April, when your grass begins to green up and actively develop. The early spring products not only nourish the grass but also protect it from crabgrass and other grassy weeds

If you live in the South and weeds are an issue, you should feed your grass with a feed and weed product. In contrast, if you had a problem with crabgrass the previous year in the North, you should apply a crabgrass preventer along with lawn food.

Related: What Is The Best Lawn Fertilizer Ratio? A Comprehensive Guide To N-P-K Numbers

2. Next, Fertilize The Lawn In Late Spring

Late spring - lawn fertilizer schedule

Photo Credit Fertilizing the grass in late spring helps it grow more eagerly and maintain vigor.

The late spring fertilizer should be applied to the lawn between the months of April and June, about six to eight weeks after the initial spring feeding. 

At this moment, your grass is active and expending its stored energy, so it is imperative that you continue to provide it with adequate nutrition. 

The herbicide in the fertilizer also effectively combats the most prevalent types of grass weeds. Thus, it meets a requirement for more stringent weed management. 

Companies such as Scotts offer different late summer foods for different areas (South and North) that can be easily found on their website.

3. Then, Once Again, Fertilize The Lawn In The Summer

Summer lawn fertilizer schedule

Photo Credit Fertilizing the grass during the summer helps it withstand the effects of heat better.

After you have finished feeding your lawn in the late spring, give it a single application of summer fertilizer somewhere between June and August. 

The summer season presents a number of challenges for grass, including high temperatures, dry conditions, high foot traffic, and insects. Thus, the application of fertilizer during this time assists in preserving and enhancing its health. 

Using fertilizer in the summer not only makes the grass more resistant to the heat, but it also makes it more equipped to deal with a wide variety of extreme seasonal hazards, such as insects and drought. In the South, lawn care companies like Scotts recommend fertilizing the grass with summer lawn food while using less water. 

Whereas, in the northern regions, where there is a greater likelihood of lawn pests such as chinch bugs, they recommend using a lawn food that also contains insect control.

4. Finally, Fertilize Your Grass In The Fall

Grass in the fall

Photo Credit Fertilizing your grass in fall helps it recover from the summer damage and prepares it for winter sleep.

Six to eight weeks after the last feeding of the summer, apply a single shot of fall lawn fertilizer sometime between August and November, just before the onset of winter. 

If you fertilize your lawn in the fall, you will be able to strengthen the roots and increase the amount of nitrogen that is stored for a healthy, green lawn in the spring. 

In addition to that, it will assist the lawn in recovering from the harm caused by the summer and getting ready for its dormant period. Scotts also recommend that you use a weed and feed product for winter feralization. 

This is due to the fact that while the grass is dormant or not actively growing, there is a greater risk of weeds completely taking over the lawn.

Related: How to Read Fertilizer Numbers? What Is The NPK Ratio? A Comprehensive Guide

Issues With the Traditional Fertilizer Schedule

Traditional lawn fertilizer schedule

Photo Credit Using an intensive lawn care schedule can also promote the growth of weeds on a lawn.

Despite its long-standing popularity, this fertilization schedule for lawns goes against the recommendations of many turf-science professionals. 

Even though nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three primary nutrients found in lawn fertilizers, do not provide a significant danger to humans or animals, a problem can develop when these elements are applied in excessive quantities. 

Additionally, some of these lawn care products combine fundamental fertilizer nutrients with additional chemical herbicides and pesticides that are very toxic and detrimental to both animals and the environment. That is not all, though! 

This intensive feeding also nourishes weeds, which means that increasing amounts of weed killer will need to be applied to keep up!

Fertilizing Home Lawn

Photo Credit Most home lawns only need three pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. of the yard in a year.

When it comes to fertilizing home lawns, how much to apply and when to use are two of the most critical considerations to make. 

In general, lawns that receive full sun should be fertilized with around three pounds of nitrogen per one thousand square feet during the growing season. Whereas, for shaded lawns, approximately one-half as much nitrogen is recommended. 

However, you shouldn’t put all of the nitrogen down at once. Nitrogen should be applied in two or three separate applications, with each individual application containing approximately one pound per one thousand square feet.

Related: Do Brand New Lawn Mower Blades Need To Be Sharpened? A Beginner’s Guide

How To Calculate How Much Fertilizer You’d Use?

The following is a formula that you can use to determine the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that should be spread throughout your grass.

Divide the required rate of nitrogen by the percentage of nitrogen in the bag (the first number of N-PK ratio on the bag, using decimal form). Multiply the resulting square footage by 1,000, then divide the result by the answer.

Example:

We have a  30-10-20 fertilizer and a 14,000 square feet lawn, and we want to administer 1 pound of nitrogen every 1,000 square feet.

One pound multiplied by 0.30 equals 13.32, and 13.32 times 14,000 equals 186,340. This divided by 1,000 equals 186.34 pounds.

So, you will need around 185 pounds of fertilizer with a ratio of 30-10-20 to cover an entire 14,000 square feet lawn.

Lawn Fertilization Tips & Tricks

Lawn Fertilization Tips & Tricks

Photo Credit Do not fertilize your lawn on a particularly hot day.

It is essential to fertilize your grass regularly. However, fertilizing it the right way is even more critical. If you fertilize your lawn at the wrong time of year or in an inappropriate manner, you can potentially be doing more harm than good. So, here are a few easy-to-follow lawn fertilizer guidelines that will help you get the most out of your fertilizer.

Sweep Up Stray Granules

After you have finished fertilizing your lawn, you should empty any unused fertilizer from the spreader and place it back into the bag it came in. 

Keep the bag sealed and put it away somewhere cool and dry. Moreover, regardless of how careful you are, the spreader will throw fertilizer into your sidewalk or patio. 

If that occurs, you should sweep it up rather than allowing the rain to wash it away.

Apply, Don’t Over Apply!

Many homeowners make the common mistake of spraying fertilizer with an open spreader. Please do not do this. It could easily result in over-fertilization of the grass.  

Also, check the weather forecast before you go out and fertilize. If you apply the fertilizer just before it rains heavily, then a large portion of it will be washed away. 

Apply fertilizer in a radial pattern, beginning at the outside and working inward. Then, spread it again while moving perpendicularly. This arrangement ensures significantly better coverage and helps prevent over-fertilization simultaneously.

Close The Hopper & Fill The Spreader

Park the spreader on the driveway or patio before you begin loading it with fertilizer. If you can’t, at least cover it with a tarp. This will prevent spilled granules from gathering in one location on the lawn and burning and killing the grass. 

For residential use, homeowners should purchase a broadcast spreader rather than a drop spreader. Spreading fertilizer with a broadcast spreader is more effective and much simpler. 

Nevertheless, use a steady, regular speed when spreading fertilizer, no matter what kind of spreader you’re using.

Remember To Water

Read the fertilizer label carefully to determine if you should water the grass before or after applying the fertilizer. Granulated fertilizers require moisture to break down. However, some other fertilizers need you to wet the grass before applying them. 

Moreover, in contrast to the beliefs of some people, the more you water your lawn, the greater the amount of fertilizer it requires. You are recommended to fertilize your grass approximately once every two months if you have an automatic sprinkler system. 

If you do not have a sprinkler system, you can extend the time between feedings by two weeks.

Go With Granular Fertilizers

When hiring professional landscapers to apply fertilizer, they will typically arrive in a tanker truck and sprinkle your entire yard efficiently and effectively. 

However, since professionals conduct this kind of work daily, they know how to account for the presence of wind and ensure that the yard is covered evenly.

However, it might be difficult for a homeowner to apply a liquid product in a uniform and consistent manner across the entire lawn. Therefore, we recommend that you use a granular fertilizer because it is easy to apply and simple to work with.

Use A Slow-Release Fertilizer

The frequency of application is more flexible with slow-release lawn fertilizers since the nutrients are broken down over a more extended period of time.

Slow-release fertilizers allow you to feed your lawn every six to eight weeks rather than every four weeks, depending on how often you water.

Know The Numbers

When you go to purchase fertilizer, you will notice that the label on the fertilizer has three numbers printed on it. These numbers are percentages, which represent nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, respectively, in a fertilizer. These three are the essential elements that are necessary to be provided to the soil to maintain a healthy lawn.

Fertilizers with a high nitrogen content are beneficial for greening grass. On the other hand, fertilizers with a high phosphate content are wonderful for starting new lawns, while fertilizers with a high potassium level are great for making a lawn more resistant to wear and tear.

Fertilizer Schedule For Some Popular Grasses

Type Of GrassSeptemberOct. – Nov. 15thMay-early JuneJune-JulyAugMax. Nitrogen (Annually)
Bermudagrass000.7* – 0.9 lb**0.7* – 0.9lb*****2.7 lbs of N
Fine fescue0.7* – 0.9lb**(any time before Nov. 15th)00.5 lb+001.4 lbs of N
Kentucky bluegrass0.7* – 0.9lb**0.7* – 0.9lb**0.5+ –0.9lb**+002.7 lbs of N
Tall fescue0.7* – 0.9lb**0.7* – 0.9lb**0.5+ – 0.9lb**+002.7 lbs of N
Zoysiagrass000.7* – 0.9 lb**0.5 + – 0.9lb**+01.8 lbs of N

* 0.7 if you use quick-release water-soluble nitrogen fertilizer (not slow-release).

** 0.9 if a combination of water-soluble and slow-release fertilizer is being used.

*** For Bermudagrass, apply between 0.5 – 0.9 lbs. of the optional application in August.

+ Application is optional, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • It lacks vigor, density, or color.
  • Lawn use is very high.
  • The clippings have been removed.
  • There has been an insect, disease, or other damage.
  • There has previously been a significant crabgrass issue.
  • There was a missed fertilization in the fall.
  • Your lawn is just getting started.

Choose Organic Lawn Care

Choose organic lawn care

Photo Credit Organic debris, such as compost, can also be used to improve and fertilize lawn soil.

If you wish to take a more natural approach to care for your lawn, the following are some suggestions you can follow:

  • Utilize a mulching mower so the grass clippings may be shredded and the nitrogen can be returned to the ground where it belongs.
  • Compost can be used instead of chemical fertilizer for at least one of the plant’s feedings. In addition to supplying nutrients, compost can also improve the structure of the soil, making it an excellent soil amendment.

Educated homeowners nowadays favor grassy areas that feature a variety of plants, not just grass, as they require less maintenance. For instance, white clover is an excellent plant for a bee-friendly yard, and it adds nitrogen to the soil, which improves soil fertility. Refer to this guide if you want to learn more!

Conclusion

Now that you know the fundamentals of the lawn fertilizer schedule I’ve discussed in this post, you can provide your grass with the vital nutrients it needs to thrive more effectively. You are also aware of the types of fertilizer you should seek and other essential pointers to keep in mind if you want to keep your lawn healthy, green, and lush.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best lawn fertilizer schedule?

The best lawn fertilizer schedule depends on your region, grass type, soil conditions, weather, and what you aim to do with your lawn. In most of the U.S., you should put down fertilizer between the middle and end of April. In contrast, in the middle of May, the second fertilizer application should be made about a month after the first.

Should I fertilize before mowing or after?

Experts generally advise fertilizing a lawn after it has been mowed —this aids in exposing the soil so that the fertilizer can effectively reach the lawn surface. 

However, if you wish to mow the lawn after fertilizing it, you should wait sometime before doing so. For instance, allow it around 24 to 48 hours.

When should you not fertilize your lawn?

You should hold off on fertilizing the grass for a day or two after a storm that has recently drenched your lawn and made the soil completely saturated. This will give the ground time to dry up a bit before you water in the fertilizer, preventing runoff and wasted fertilizer.

Sources for Further Reading

Lawn Fertilizer Schedule (Table) | University of Maryland Extension. (2022). Retrieved 28 August 2022, from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/lawn-fertilizer-schedule-table

Fertilizing Schedule for Home Lawns – Lawn Talk- University of Illinois Extension. (2022). Retrieved 28 August 2022, from https://web.extension.illinois.edu/lawntalk/planting/fertilizer_schedule_for_home_lawns.cfm

Lawn care calendar. (2022). The University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved 28 August 2022, from https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/lawn-care-calendar

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