How to Fertilize Your Lawn
Time Required: 2-4 hours
Your lawn needs to be properly nourished in order to stay green and full. A healthy lawn will fight off invading weeds, be more resistant to disease, and require less watering due to its deep root system.
Before you can begin, you must determine whether you have warm season or cool season grass. Knowing this will allow you to pick the appropriate type of fertilizer for your lawn.
For more information about lawn fertilizer and to determine which variety will be most effective for your yard, refer to our Lawn Fertilizer Buying Guide.
Warm season grasses thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the Southern United States. It is best to feed warm season grasses in warm weather as they grow most actively during the heat of summer.
Popular warm season grasses include:
- St. Augustine: Broad dark green blades with a rounded tip
- Zoysia: Prickly, stiff and narrow blades form a carpet-like lawn
- Centipede: Pointed blades with a notch that grow to be dense and soft
Cool season grasses do best with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those found in the North, Northeast and Pacific Northwest. In the North, where cool-season grass types are popular, lawns need to be fed four times a year and each feeding should be spaced six to eight weeks apart. If your lawn is still green and actively growing in the summer, you can continue to feed it throughout the summer months at the same rate. However, if your grass turns brown during summer heat and drought, temporarily stop feeding until it starts to grow and turn green again in the early fall.
Popular cool season grasses include:
- Kentucky Bluegrass: V-shaped and pointed blades, dark green and soft
- Perennial Ryegrass: Pointed blades with visible veins
- Tall Fescue: Dark green, coarse, wide pointed blades with visible veins
Learn more about the different types of grasses and when to fertilize them in this guide.
- To determine the amount of fertilizer you need to properly fertilize your lawn, calculate the square footage of your lawn space. You don’t need to measure areas without grass, such as flower beds and walkways.
- If your lawn is rectangular, multiply the length and width to get the total square footage. If you have an irregularly shaped lawn, or one containing a lot of islands, divide the space into rectangular sections. Multiply the length and width of each section, then tally the sums to get the total square footage.
- Check the instructions on your fertilizer bag for the recommended spreader setting. This determines the amount of fertilizer that will be distributed. The higher the setting, the larger the hole size in the hopper and thus, the more fertilizer spread on the lawn. Adjust the setting on the spreader accordingly.
- Before you fill the spreader with fertilizer, make sure that the hopper hole is closed. Fill the hopper on a hard surface, such as a driveway or sidewalk. This will prevent a potential spill from damaging and saturating a spot on your lawn.
- Be careful not to overfill the hopper or the lawn spreader may become hard to maneuver. Your lawn spreader may come with an edging feature to help you avoid dispensing fertilizer onto your driveway, sidewalk or walkway. If so, turn it on before you begin fertilizing that area. Follow all other instructions provided by your manufacturer for operating your lawn spreader.
- When applying the fertilizer, make header strips around the edge of the lawn. These header strips provide convenient starting and stopping points for each pass.
- Always push the lawn spreader, never pull it, and walk at a moderate pace. Your speed affects the rate that the fertilizer is laid.
- If your lawn is irregularly shaped, make header strips around the entire perimeter. Then, work your way inward. Go up and down the lawn with parallel strips.
- Keep the hopper chute open as you make your passes. Close the hopper chute when you come to the end of a strip, stop, or make turns. This will prevent you from creating saturated spots and wasting fertilizer.
- Be careful when maneuvering the lawn spreader on slopes to avoid tipping it over.
- After you’ve covered the lawn, check for any fertilizer that may have scattered onto your driveway, sidewalk or walkway. Use a broom and dust pan to clean these areas. Fertilizers contain minerals that can stain concrete. You can sprinkle any leftover fertilizer back on the lawn after you have scooped it up.
- Rinse off the lawn spreader with a garden hose over the lawn. This allows you to make use of fertilizer that’s stuck in and around the spreader. Clean the hopper plate and wheels thoroughly. Allow the lawn spreader to dry before storing.
- Water the lawn thoroughly. This will mix the nutrients from the fertilizer into the soil.