How to Fertilize Your Lawn
Lawns require fertilizer to remain healthy. Proper fertilization practices will lead to a thick, dark green, uniform lawn that is competitive against weed and disease invasions. The nutrients contained in fertilizers are necessary to support many processes occurring within the plants. If any essential nutrient is limited, the plants will not perform at their highest level.
Why Fertilize the Lawn?
The soil supplies turfgrass with some essential nutrients, but most soils can't provide everything your lawn needs throughout the whole growing season. An actively growing lawn uses a great deal of energy from these nutrients. Lawn fertilizer helps your grass stay healthy by:
- Promoting new leaf and root growth
- Aiding in recovery from foot traffic and pest damage
- Reducing and controlling weeds
- Replacing nutrients lost to leaching, volatilization and grass clipping removal
When Should You Fertilize Your Lawn?
Cool-season grasses should be fertilized well in the spring to encourage deep roots and healthy top growth well before the signs and symptoms of summer stress. Light fertilizer applications made in summer will ensure the turf remains healthy, continues to push new growth, and recover from hot and dry conditions. Fall fertilizer applications remain the most important for plant recovery and storing nutrients before winter dormancy.
Warm-season grasses are fertilized in early spring to encourage new growth and develop a healthy root system. During late spring and summer, warm-season turfgrass thrives and as a result requires more stabilized nutrients to outcompete weeds. Late summer and fall fertilizer applications improve the overall health and appearance of your lawn, allowing the turf to store nutrients before winter dormancy and encourage a rapid spring greening.
How Much Fertilizer Should I Apply?
The soil test measures several important elements, however, it does not adequately measure nitrogen. Nitrogen changes forms in the soil very rapidly so it is difficult to predict its availability to plants with a soil test. Turf growth is highly dependent on nitrogen fertilization, but applying nitrogen at the wrong time or in heavy amounts may severely damage your lawn. A general recommendation is to apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet at any given application.
How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer
There are several ways to apply lawn fertilizer. Using a spreader provides more even coverage than fertilizing by hand. Some people attempt to apply fertilizer by hand, but this is not recommended. Instead, using a spreader for your granular fertilizer ensures proper coverage for your lawn’s needs.
Using a spreader is much like operating a lawn mower, and does require much more than your average walking pace to perform.
Dump spreaders are controlled spreaders that cover a narrow distribution trajectory. Although this coverage is small, it is beneficial for small-to-somewhat-mid-sized lawns. They cover lawn perimeters very well, and can even be used in covering the perimeter for rotary spreaders.
When operating dump spreaders, you distribute the fertilizer by making up and down the length of your lawn. As you proceed along the width of your lawn, you will make a slight overlap on the previous pass, about 6 inches in. This method ensures that there is no space for unfertilized gaps in your lawn.
At the end of each pass, it is crucial to close the hopper before proceeding to the next pass. This step avoids excessive, uneven fertilizer dumping and ensures even distribution. You reopen the hopper once you are ready to make your next pass.
Dump spreaders are typically more expensive than rotary spreaders, sometimes being over 3x the price of its broadcast counterpart. However, this expense can be worth it when considering lawn care for small lawns, avoiding unnecessary cleanup or accidentally spreading fertilizer onto a neighbor’s lawn.
Broadcast spreaders work well in larger yards but are very simple to use. You begin by covering the perimeter of your lawn first with fertilizer. Most rotary spreaders have a side shield which allows the spreader to only distribute from one side of the spreader.
You proceed by having one wheel on the edge of the lawn and one wheel in the grass. Once this is in place, you can begin to apply fertilizer along the perimeter, moving at a steady walking speed.
Once this is finished, you want to fill in the interior of your lawn with the spreader. Disengage your side shield, and proceed to make passes throughout the interior of your lawn. Slight overlap is suggested with this process to ensure even granule distribution.
Additional Fertilizer Tips
Avoid applying nitrogen-rich fertilizer when your lawn is dormant. Nitrogen, a key component of fertilizer, contains a growth stimulant that could increase unwanted weed growth if applied during dormancy. If you’ve endured a long winter and the grass is not yet growing, don’t be afraid to delay your scheduled fertilizing treatment.
Read the label before buying lawn fertilizer to find out how long it is formulated to last. Some time-released brands will slowly distribute nutrients over a two- to eight-month period, so leave sufficient time between applications to avoid over fertilization, which could damage your lawn.
Avoid fertilizing your lawn during periods of drought. Most fertilizers need several waterings to soak into the soil, and allowing the fertilizer to sit on top of the lawn could burn the grass. If you intend to feed your lawn in August and there are watering restrictions in place due to drought, you may want to delay the application until the cooler weather arrives.
What should I fertilize my lawn with?
There are a number of fertilizer types that can benefit your grass growth and health.
Slow Release Fertiliers
Ideal fertilisers as they give you the longest coverage and benefit, our slow release fertilisers give you 12-16 weeks coverage.
Quick Release Fertiliser
Quick release fertilisers are great for providing your lawn with a quick boost. A slow release fertiliser is considered a better approach but if time is against you this is a viable alternative and will provide fast results.
You may want an all natural solution that you can apply year round (apart from when your lawn is dormant) to keep your lawn in good condition. Our REVIVE: Organic 365 does exactly that. It comes in an organic pellet form and needs to be watered to activate its fertilising properties.
You should only use a Feed, Weed and Moss Killer type product on an established lawn (6 months + old). This does four jobs in one by feeding your grass and making it green whilst also removing moss and weeds. This fertiliser is better utilised on the whole lawn as opposed to spots.