How to Fertilize Lawn: Dos and Don’ts

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According to research, “fertilizer carelessly applied on one lawn can be a waste of the homeowner’s money but may otherwise seem insignificant. On hundreds or thousands of lawns, however, careless applications can add up to a major problem for local streams and lakes.”

For most Americans, having a lush green and dense lawn is essential in terms of their status in the community. There is nothing wrong about having such an obsession. Besides status, a healthy lawn adds to both the aesthetic and monetary value of your home. Additionally, healthy lawns are also beneficial for the environment as they filter the rainwater into the soil.

Fertilization is also one of the lawn care practices that help you achieve a strong, healthy, and a thick lawn having roots buried deep under the soil. However, researchers are of the view that improper use of fertilization is not only harmful to your garden, but it also causes water pollution.

With this in mind, we have written a detailed article explaining “how to fertilize lawn: DOs and DON’Ts” so that you can better understand what you should opt for and what practices may ruin your lawn, time, efforts, investment, and our beloved environment. So, read on.

What is fertilizer?

Let’s begin by answering this question. Most of the gardeners know what fertilizer is, but if you are a beginner, don’t worry. A fertilizer is a material that contains at least one of the elements that a lawn requires to grow healthy.

Lawns get their nutrients and essential elements from the air, water, and soil, but fertilizers usually deliver those essential elements that are not sufficiently available in the soil. For example, all lawns need nitrogen, but some need iron or phosphorus in particular.

There are different types of fertilizers available on the market to suit different needs of lawns.

DOs of Lawn Fertilization:

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We are going to share the lawn fertilization DOs below that will help you start right from the very beginning.

Soil Test:

Although some of the lawn owners neglect it, you must consider the fact that your lawn should go through soil testing first. To avoid over-application and improper usage of fertilizers, contact a professional analytical laboratory to test your lawn. You can also buy a soil test kit from a retail nursery center in your area.

The purpose of testing soil before starting fertilization is to know the condition of your lawn and what exactly it needs to grow healthy. The soil test will help you figure out what fertilizers are suitable for your yard and in what proportion.

The testing process takes a little effort, and perhaps, that is the reason some people don’t consider it. However, in the best of all worlds, people would get the soil tested and would do it every year to know if they need to make any changes to their fertilizer program.

Know the Grass:

A homeowner must know the grass he is going to deal with. Some of the grasses grow best in cold weather, and others show growth in warm weather. For example, Kentucky bluegrass grows well in the winter, whereas St. Augustine grass performs better in the summer season.

The manufacturers of fertilizers make their products according to the types and specific needs of the grasses. So, you must know the kind of grass on your lawn before starting the fertilization program to get the best results.

If you have winter-season grass, you should start fertilizing at the beginning of fall when the temperature is still between 50 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It will help the grass to keep the green color in the winter.

On the other hand, if you have summer grass on your lawn, you should fertilize your lawn in its growing period and not when the weather gets hot, which means you should apply fertilizer at least 30 days before the weather gets warm.

Decipher the label:

When you go to a store to buy a bag of fertilizer, you should be able to understand all that is written on the written. The fertilizer companies are required by the state to provide certain information about their product for your good.

Most of the bags mention spring, summer, fall, and winter, and you should choose accordingly. Some of them contain an element or two in a comparatively more substantial quantity than others. However, complete fertilizers are also available so that you can use them all year round following the instructions.

The label of fertilizers provides a ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which you should consider before making a purchase. The complete fertilizers usually range from 24-4-16 (6-1-4) to 24-3-6 (8-1-2), showing the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively.

Aerate your lawn:

It is highly beneficial for your yard if you aerate the lawn before starting the fertilization program. The aeration creates holes in the soil that allows easy penetration of air, water, and fertilizer into the soil, which means fertilizer can easily reach the roots providing a healthy lawn as a result.

We recommend fertilizing right after aeration.

Best way to apply:

It is recommended not to use your hands for spreading fertilizer. Although it seems more natural and useful as you get more control over the process, it fails to apply the fertilizer evenly. As a result, you may end up burning some areas and failing to provide an adequate amount to the others.

If you want each part of your lawn to respond evenly to the fertilizer, you should use a mechanical spreader so that each section can have an equal amount of fertilizer.

Slow-release fertilizers:

We recommend using slow-release fertilizers as they release nutrients slowly as compared to instant chemical fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers do not burn your lawn grass even when they are used at comparatively high rates.

Apart from this, you can also use organic materials like compost and animal manures, etc. They are comparatively bulky and provide a lesser amount of nitrogen. Otherwise, they are more eco-friendly and doesn’t burn the grass.

Fertilize and then sweep:

Sometimes, the fertilizers are sprinkled on the sideways or pavements as well when you are spreading them around. They can float to the storm sewers after rainfall and, eventually, can pollute streams and lakes. So, always sweep the sideways after fertilization.

You may also like: How to Prevent, Control, and Kill Lawn Weeds?

DON’Ts of Lawn Fertilization:

There are certain practices that you should avoid while fertilizing your lawn.

Microorganism supplements:

Don’t waste your money on supplementing your lawn with microorganism fertilizers. Although they don’t cause any damage to your lawn still, the idea is supported by research. The soil naturally achieves the microbial even without supplements, so there is no need to waste your valuable resources.

Shaded grass:

Don’t fertilize much the areas of your lawn with shaded grass. The grass under the sunlight needs comparatively more fertilizer than that under the shade. So, apply a relatively lower amount of fertilizer in shaded areas.

Grass clippings:

Don’t throw out the grass clippings when you mow your lawn. If you have a lawn mower with the mulching feature, you can use the mulched grass clippings as an alternative fertilizer. It not only reduces the cost of fertilization but also serves as an organic and eco-friendly fertilizer.

Hot weather:

Don’t fertilize your lawn during warm weather or any other unfavorable weather that turns grass color yellowish. As per the instructions given above, start fertilizing during the season when the lawn grass starts growing (That season depends on the type of grass) after you have taken the necessary steps mentioned in the DOs section.

Fast-release fertilizers:

Although fast-release fertilizers are nutrient-rich and can enhance the growth of your lawn, they are not eco-friendly and may burn your grass.


Don’t call an expert until and unless it is needed. All the given instructions will help you grow a healthy lawn and don’t call a professional until you find out some severe issues with your garden or grass.


How many times a year should I fertilize my lawn?

The best time to fertilize your lawn is when it grows the most, and fertilization should only be done once a year. You can make it to twice a year, depending on the needs of your grass but not more than that. The nutritional needs of your lawn are dependent on the type of grass and the climate.

What if it rains after I fertilize my lawn?

Always keep an eye on the weather forecasts when planning fertilization for a safe side. If you are not expecting rain in the next 3 to 4 days, you may start the fertilization program; otherwise, we suggest waiting until you have a favorable weather condition.

Can you over-fertilize a lawn?

The grass on your lawn has specific nutritional needs, and feeding it beyond those needs won’t help to achieve a super-healthy lawn. Instead, over-fertilization will burn the grass. So, we recommend using the fertilizer according to the needs of your lawn. Also, follow the instructions given by the fertilizer company, if there are any available.

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