Project Guide

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

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Calculate Your Lawn Space
  • First, you must determine how much fertilizer you need to properly feed your lawn. To do this, you'll need to calculate the square footage of your lawn space. You don’t need to measure areas without grass, such as flower beds and walkways. A measuring wheel makes measuring your lawn easier.
  • 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 add up the sums to get the total square footage.
Fill and Prepare a Lawn Spreader
  • Next, check the instructions on your fertilizer bag for the recommended setting to use on your lawn spreader. 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 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 or 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.
Fertilize the Lawn
  • 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 at which 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 or when you 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.
Clean the Spreader and Water the Lawn
  • 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 small amounts of leftover fertilizer back onto the lawn after you have scooped it up. 
  • Put the lawn spreader on the lawn and rinse it off with a garden hose. 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 it.
  • Water the lawn thoroughly with a lawn sprinkler. This will mix the nutrients from the fertilizer into the soil.
Cool Season vs. Warm Season Grass
A sprinkler head spraying water over a lawn.

Warm season grasses thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the southern United States. It's 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 grows to be dense and soft

Cool season grasses do best where there are extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those 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 with each feeding 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 seaon grasses include:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass: V-shaped with 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, Lawn Fertilization Tips.