clock menu more-arrow no yes

When to Fertilize Your Lawn: Our Best Tips

Choosing the correct time and schedule to fertilize your lawn is essential to a beautiful yard. Here are the best tips on how to get your lawn in its best shape this year.

A person with gloves holding fertilizer out of a bag, sitting on a green grass lawn Adobe

Lawn fertilizer is like food for your grass, providing it with the nutrients it needs to grow and maintain its healthy, green glow. Each fertilizer uses a unique combination of nutrients, though most include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These ingredients create a vibrant, green lawn that resists weeds like crabgrass while creating an excellent growing environment.

While it’s important to fertilize your lawn, don’t start throwing down these nutrients at any time of the season. It’s important to consider your grass type and the environment you live in before deciding on a time to fertilize. This guide outlines the best time to fertilize your lawn, how often you should do it, and the factors that impact growth.

Best Times to Fertilize a Lawn

The right time to fertilize your lawn is influenced by the type of grass you have. Much of the country has either cool-season or warm-season grass, with some areas combining the two types for a more versatile lawn. It’s important to identify your grass type and plan your lawn care schedule around its needs. Below is a quick overview of which seasons are best for fertilization based on your lawn type.

Spring

Early spring is a great time to give your cool-season grasses a bit of a boost before going into the warmer months. This treatment should go down with a spreader before temperatures start to peak and the grass goes dormant. Cool-season grasses, such as perennial ryegrass, fine fescue tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and other turfgrasses, need a small amount of nitrogen-rich fertilizer to get them through summer.

If you have warm-season grass, such as centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and zoysiagrass, you’ll also want to fertilize your lawn in late spring or early summer, just before the season’s high temperatures roll in. This helps the grass fill out and gain strength during its peak growing period.

Summer

As mentioned above, warm-season grasses can be fertilized in early summer before the onset of high temperatures. Additionally, a second round of fertilizer should be applied in late summer as the heat starts to dissipate, preparing it for the cooler months ahead. Specialized slow-release granular fertilizers can be used to sustain your warm-season grass throughout the season without requiring a reapplication.

Fall

While a spring application is important for cool-season grasses, a heavy fall application is also critical to promote healthy lawn growth during peak months. Additionally, a fall fertilizer helps other grass types recover from the draining summer heat, repairing any brown spots in your lawn.

Winter

Most grasses go dormant during the winter, making fertilizer ineffective. However, some parts of the country have mild winters that allow warm-season grasses to break dormancy in late winter. You can fertilize your grass to give it recovery nutrients from its winter dormancy. You’ll know if it’s time if daily temperatures persist in the 70s.

Some homeowners prefer to have a professional lawn care company such as TruGreen pay regular visits to fertilize and maintain the health of their grass and lawn. TruGreen pays a visit to maintain your lawn’s health with fertilizer, seeding, and other services every four to six weeks. Learn more about the company in our comprehensive TruGreen review.

How Often to Fertilize

The frequency in which you fertilize depends on your climate and the type of grass you have. In general, you’ll want to fertilize your grass during its peak growing season, which is during the fall for cool-season grasses and spring for warm-season grasses.

While one application may be enough, follow the instructions listed on your specific fertilizer for more detailed information. Some fertilizers recommend an application every eight weeks, while others recommend just a few times per season. Regardless of your application preference, it’s important to avoid overfertilizing, which can damage your grass’s root system and lead to poor drainage.

How Weather Impacts Fertilizer Application

No matter what type of fertilizer you use, it’s important not to apply it during periods of drought or heavy rainfall. Many fertilizers need multiple waterings to soak into the soil, so applying them during a drought leaves your grass vulnerable to surface burns and slow growth. Additionally, many areas have watering restrictions during seasonal drought periods, so you’ll be unable to water your grass manually.

Periods of heavy rainfall can cause your lawn to become waterlogged, eroding soil and harming your grass. Applying fertilizer won’t be effective during this time, as water runoff can carry the fertilizer away and prevent it from receiving the proper nutrients.

Our Conclusion

Fertilizing your grass is an important step in your lawn care routine, as it promotes healthy root growth and keeps your lawn lush and green. However, it’s important to pick the right fertilizer for the job and apply it at the right time.

If you have cool-season grass, be sure to apply it briefly in the spring before giving it a good application in the fall. For warm-season grasses, be sure to apply frequently during the spring as directed on its bag. If you’re unsure how to properly treat your lawn, there are many top lawn care providers such as TruGreen that can help tailor a plan to your yard’s unique needs.

Local Lawn Experts

Many homeowners have heard of national brands like Sunday or TruGreen, but would prefer to use a service that’s based out of a local branch. Others would simply like to be contacted by a highly-rated lawn care service provider, rather than going to the trouble of researching companies on their own. To be contacted by a local lawn care expert, fill out this easy form or enter your zip code in the field below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when to fertilize my lawn?

You’ll know when to fertilize your lawn for most grass types when the soil reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be measured by a soil thermometer or by monitoring the blossoming of springtime plants, such as lilacs. For most of the country, this is around mid-April.

Do I fertilize my lawn before or after rain?

You should fertilize your lawn a day or so after a light rain or using a sprinkler. This prevents the application from being washed away. The moisture gets your soil damp and ready to receive nutrients. Do not apply fertilizer before or after heavy rains.

When is the best time to fertilize my lawn?

The exact timing depends on the type of grass you have and the climate you live in. You’ll also want to water your lawn one to three days before fertilization and plan to avoid rain in the weather forecast or using a sprinkler for a few days afterward. Homeowners with cool-season grasses have a lawn fertilizer schedule that begins in the fall, while those with warm-season grasses schedule it for the spring.

What is the difference between organic and synthetic fertilizer?

The difference between organic and synthetic fertilizer can be found in the sources they are made from. Organic fertilizer has been extracted from living organisms, such as plant- or animal-derived products and organic waste. In contrast, synthetic fertilizers are made with minerals, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and inorganic waste materials.

Can I use grass clippings as fertilizer?

Yes, grass clippings are excellent to use as fertilizer. Leave your clippings in the grass after mowing to help reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you use throughout your yard. Grass clippings can provide many of the nutrients your lawn needs.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.