Lawn Fertilization Tips for Spring and Fall
Lawn fertilization is necessary for healthy, green grass lawns. A well-fertilized turfgrass lawn is healthy enough to withstand stress from pests, foot traffic, and environmental factors. Quite simply, regular lawn fertilization is necessary to maintain optimal health.
Here are some quick tips that will help you maintain a healthy green turfgrass lawn. Then I will give a more in-depth explanation of key lawn fertilization principles. Home, Garden and Homestead receives a small commission (at no cost to you) from product links in this story. Thank you for supporting this website!
5 Quick Lawn Fertilization Tips
- Before you apply fertilizer to your lawn, water the lawn thoroughly. After it dries (in a day or two) apply the fertilizer. Then water lightly. This will help rinse the fertilizer from the blades of grass and deliver the fertilizer into the soil.
- After you have applied fertilizer, keep children and pets off the lawn. This is especially important if you have applied synthetic fertilizer that contains chemicals.
- Once applied to the lawn, keep leftover fertilizer products where your children and pets cannot reach them. “Better safe than sorry” is always good advice when dealing with fertilizers, pest controls, and other yard and garden products.
- The two best times to fertilize a lawn are in the spring and the fall.
- If lawn fertilization sounds too complicated or difficult, ask a local lawn care professional about their services.
Fast-Release and Slow-Release Fertilization
Depending on your lawn’s needs and your preference, you can choose between fast-release inorganic lawn fertilizers and slow-release organic fertilizers. You can even use the blend of multiple fertilizers if you wish. For example, some homeowners use fast-release fertilizers, followed by a top dressing of organic compost.
Fast-release chemical fertilizers are available in granular or liquid varieties. They must be applied more often. But they provide a quick burst of fertilizer to your lawn. Unfortunately, these products can burn your lawn if used incorrectly—especially if too much fertilizer is applied.
But let’s face it, tons and tons of fast-release lawn fertilizers are sold every year. They are easy to use and very popular. Some dedicated lawn fertilizer companies such as Sod Solutions make very high-quality fast-release lawn fertilization products. Lawnifi Foundation fertilizer from Sod Solutions is a high-quality granulated lawn food that is designed for residential lawns. Plus, it can be used in different seasons throughout the year.
Slow-release (organic) fertilizers require less frequent application and last longer. Organic fertilizers break down and release nutrients slowly throughout the growing season. Consequently, they take longer to work—but that’s nature’s way.
Is Organic Lawn Fertilization Better?
Organic lawn fertilizer is natural, and it provides macronutrients to the soil. This tends to improve lawn quality over time. Organic fertilizers contain natural ingredients that will not burn the lawn. Nor will they leach into groundwater. A typical organic fertilizer composition includes rock phosphate, cow or poultry manure, earthworm castings, and bone and/or alfalfa meal.
Because organic fertilizers do not burn the lawn, many homeowners prefer them over synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers can also improve the quality of the soil over time. However, an organic approach can be more difficult, and there is often a learning curve to master it. For that reason, you might want to contact a professional lawn service for advice.
Know the N-P-K Numbers
N-P-K numbers are listed on all packages of fertilizer. N-P-K stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plants need larger quantities of these three nutrients than any other type of plant nutrients. Other nutrients, such as iron, are also important to plant survival. But plants only need small quantities of these other elements. N-P-K are the big three.
A fertilizer’s N-P-K number reveals each nutrient’s weight as a percentage. If a fertilizer is listed as 12-6-6, that means it is 12 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphorus, and 6 percent potassium.
Nitrogen is needed for green growth of leaves. Phosphorus is needed for strong root development and flowers. Potassium enhances the overall growth of a plant.
Because lawn grass blades are the “leaves” of a grass plant, it’s no surprise that a good lawn fertilizer contains a high amount of nitrogen. The N-P-K label of 29-0-5 on the above-mentioned Lawnify Foundation fertilizer means it is 29 percent nitrogen, 0 percent phosphorus, and 5 percent potassium.
Soil pH Level
Soil pH is important for plants. That’s because soil pH affects a plant’s ability to absorb the nutrients that are in the soil. The best soil pH for turfgrass is between 6.5 and 7.0. (That’s slightly acidic.)
If you don’t know your soil’s pH level, getting a soil test is relatively easy. Buy a soil pH test kit from your local garden center, hardware store, or from Amazon. A soil pH meter has a probe that can be inserted into the soil. Or, you can opt for more traditional soil pH test strips that change color to revel your soil’s pH level. You can also take a soil sample to your local County Extension office.
NOTE: In general, lime is added to raise the pH of soil and sulfur is added to lower the pH. Adding compost can naturally create a neutral soil pH level.
When is the Best Time to Fertilize?
Everyone thinks about fertilizing their lawns in the spring. That’s when all the garden centers, hardware stores, and “big box” stores have countless bags of lawn fertilizer on display. And spring is a great time for lawn fertilization.
A good basic rule is to fertilize your lawn when flowers bloom and other signs of plant growth appear in your yard. (I can’t give you a specific date, because that varies based upon your USDA growing zone and local climate.) But fertilizing a lawn in the late spring is great. This gives the grass the nutrients it needs for spring and summer growth.
The fall/early winter is the perfect “second season” for lawn fertilization. Cooler weather and autumn rains provide perfect conditions for turfgrass growth. Feeding your lawn in autumn is a great way to strengthen grass to survive the cold winter months.
Lawn Fertilization Rule: Always Follow Label Instructions!
Always, always, always read and follow the label when applying fertilizer. Applying too much fertilizer can “burn” your lawn and kill patches of your grass.
Lawn fertilization is not rocket science. Homeowners like you can successfully fertilize their lawns and enjoy a healthy, vibrant, and green lawn.