When is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn?
Most of my friends have been homeowners for a few years now, and they see a beautiful lawn as a point of pride. They absolutely want their neighbors, visitors and other passersby to do a double take when seeing an emerald green lawn in front of their homes.
But they don’t know much about lawn care. Most of my friends hadn’t cut grass since high school. They have tons of questions, the most common of which is: When is the best time to fertilize your lawn?
There’s an easy answer to that question: Right now. Right now is always the best time to fertilize your lawn, because your lawn needs food year round — not just in spring, which is when most people assume they should fertilize.
Feeding your lawn throughout the year creates powerful root structures, and these powerful root structures help your lawn withstand harsh conditions — winter freezes, summer droughts and foot traffic during your kid’s backyard birthday party.
Beyond the question of when is the best time to fertilize your lawn, you need to know how to fertilize your lawn in different seasons. Here’s a look at facts about lawn fertilization, as well as a lawn fertilizing schedule that you can tweak to meet your needs.
The technical answer is this: Start fertilizing when the soil temperature hits 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But soil temperature is different than air temperature, and measuring it isn’t always easy. So look for this instead: When your grass starts to grow again, you need to do your first fertilizer application.
Your lawn is just waking up from winter, and it’s going to be hungry for breakfast. My recommendation: Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer With Lawn Food. It includes a pre-emergent that’s perfect for fighting back the crabgrass that can plague so many lawns this time of year.
This application should come in April for most homeowners in the United States, though it may be earlier for sunbelt states. The great thing about this Scotts product is that it performs through late spring freezes, rain and other inclement weather. It gets your lawn green quickly, and you need not worry about dips in temperature.
If you have a late spring freeze, rain or other inclement weather, it’s not a problem. This product keeps on performing. Get the fast green-up that your lawn deserves.
Late Spring / Early Summer
Once your lawn does start waking up, weeds are going to become a problem — they’re waking up, too. So, about 6 to 8 weeks after your first application, it’s time for application No. 2. I recommend Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed.
This product from Scotts does 2 things: 1) It begins to thicken your lawn after it’s woken up from winter slumber, and 2) It begins to crowd out weeds.
These 2 objectives work hand-in-hand: The best weapon against weeds is a thick and healthy lawn. Dandelion and clover are 2 of the most common trespassers in your lawn, and this fertilizer zaps them.
Weed are waking up, too, so hit them with a broadleaf controller like Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed. It’s time to thicken your lawn and crowd out the weeds. This solution is perfect for that.
Bonus: For Southern Lawns Only
I live in Texas, and one of my favorite products is Scotts Bonus S Weed & Feed, a fertilizer specially formulated for southern lawns. You can only get it in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Why? Because southern lawns are different. They wake up earlier in the year because the soil rarely freezes. And they move more quickly from rainy season into summer drought. I’ve found that Bonus S helps prepare my lawn to withstand heat and a lack of rain, and it also helps protect against dollar weed and other southern-specific infiltrators.
This product is only for St. Augustine grass. I recommend St. Augustine because of its strong roots. Bermuda grass looks great, but it doesn’t have the powerful root structure that I prefer in a lawn.
I love the way my lawn looks in spring after it’s woken up and starts turning from yellow to green again. In fact, lawns often look great — until mid-July. The heat ramps up, the rain slows down, and the grass start thinning out. It needs more water this time of year, and it needs another feeding, too.
If you’re not in the sunbelt where Bonus S is available, try using Scotts Turf Builder With SummerGuard. It provides much the same benefit, including building up and protecting your lawn against heat and drought, while also fighting back against the bugs that can harm your lawn in summertime. This product won’t burn your lawn either, which is nice bonus.
Most homeowners think spring is the most important time to fertilizer. That’s not right, though. Fall is the absolute most important time to fertilize, which is a shame because so few homeowners think to do it.
See, your lawn starts to grow again in fall. The weather cools down just slightly, and the rain ramps up again. But while your lawn grows, the roots are starting to lessen in anticipation of winter. You need to feed them.
Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Lawn Food is just what you need. It encourages your grass to grow again while also strengthening the root system. This fertilizer helps repair damage from the heat and drought of summer, and it gives your lawn nitrogen to store over the coldest months of the year.
If you want your lawn to bounce back and be ready to go in the spring, this fall fertilizer application is absolutely essential.
Other Things to Know About Fertilizer
You could write a book about fertilizer. That is, there’s far more information than will fit into just one post. But here are some additional tips and informational nuggets to help you get the knowledge you need to properly fertilize your lawn year round:
Check the Numbers
Every bag of fertilizer should have 3 numbers on it. These number represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium present. For example, a bag of 30-0-4 (like Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer With Lawn Food) has 30% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 4% potassium, while a bag of 29-0-10 (like Scotts Turf Builder Bonus S Southern Weed & Feed) has 29% nitrogen, 0% phosphorous and 10% potassium. You probably noticed that these percentages don’t add up to 100. The rest is filler materials that help with even application.
You can hire professionals companies to come and fertilize your lawn on a certain schedule. When you do, they pull up in a truck, hop out and spray your lawn. They’re gone in less than 10 minutes. They do it so fast because sprays let you do it fast.
But sprays can be tricky, too. They are hard to apply evenly, and they require advanced equipment. Almost all homeowners should stick to using granules and spreaders, which allow for fast and even application.
Fill Carefully With the Right Amount
Two things here. First, fill your spreader over the driveway. If you spill on the lawn, that spill will most likely burn the spot where it landed. And, second, don’t fill to the amount recommended on the bag.
Let’s be honest here: Fertilizer companies want you to use as much fertilizer as possible so that you need to go and buy more fertilizer. But you can often get away with 75% and sometimes even just 50% of the recommended application amount. Better to start small and find out than to apply too much and need more — or worse, to see it burn your lawn. If you’re hungry for more tips, I highly recommend this piece from Popular Mechanics.
Final Thoughts on When is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn
Where you live matters. I tried to provide some weather specific guidelines above, but know that your geographic location will have more of an impact on when you need to fertilize and what products you need to use than any other factor. When in doubt, seek guidance at a hardware store that sells fertilizer or at a nursery. You can always chat up a friendly, knowledgeable sales rep at one of those places.
Where do you live? And how do you fertilize your lawn? Let us know in the comments section below, or you can reach out to us directly by sending a message through our contact form.