Best Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Best Fall Lawn Fertilizers (and when to use them)

Did you know that fall is one of the best times to tend your lawn? That’s right! Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t be taking a step back from lawn maintenance. If anything you should be stepping it up.

One specific task that you should do every fall is fertilizing. The best fall lawn fertilizers can repair any damage that was caused by the sweltering heat of summer and prepare your yard for the forthcoming winter season.

Jonathan Green Winter Survival is the best fall lawn fertilizer overall, and my top recommendation for fertilizing at this time of year. With a 10-0-20 NPK ratio, it has a generous serving of potassium which can aid in quickly repairing summer damage, and which will improve turf health going into the winter. What’s more, it is affordable and spreads evenly and easily using any type of fertilizer spreader.

Read on to learn more about all of my picks for the best fall lawn fertilizer options available to you this season.


Quick Picks: A Few of My Favorite Fall Fertilizers

BEST OVERALL
Jonathan Green Winter Survival Fall Lawn Food - Best Fall Lawn Fertilizer Overall
5 Star Rating

For a fertilizer that’s rich in potassium, this is your go-to option. Protect your turfgrass when the weather turns cold by reinforcing the root system.

WIDELY AVAILBLE
Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food - Widely Available Fall Lawn Fertilizer
4 Star Rating

Know and love the Scotts brand? Consider buying a widely-available fall fertilizer option like Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard. A solid choice with predictable results.

BEST VALUE
Ace Winterizer All Purpose Lawn Fertilizer - Best Value Fall Lawn Fertilizer
5 Star Rating

Searching for an affordable fertilizer for fall application? This is it. It’s low-priced, yet it contains a healthy dose of nitrogen and potassium and works well.


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How to Choose the Best Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Finding the ideal fall fertilizer for your lawn can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time buying.

To help you make a more informed decision, there are several factors that you should take into account.

It also helps to familiarize yourself with common mistakes that buyers make. This brings us to our next section:

What to Look For When Buying a Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Anytime you’re choosing a fall fertilizer for your lawn, keep these points in mind:

Grass Species

The first thing to consider is the type of grass on your lawn. This determines whether you should fertilize your lawn during fall or wait until later.

For the most part homeowners with cool-season grasses will be the ones who benefit from fall fertilization the most. This is because the grasses grown in this region reach peak growth during this time of year. Examples of these grasses include fescue grasses, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass.

Grass Zone Map

On the other hand, warm-season grasses thrive when the temperatures start rising in spring. Thus, the ideal time to fertilize these turf types is from late spring to early September.  It’s generally not advisable to fertilize these grass species after the 5th of September, though the unique micro-climate in your area may allow you to fertilize a bit later with no ill-effects.

If you live in the transition zone (pictured above) you may have either grass type growing in your lawn. As a result, you’ll need to think more critically about whether fall fertilization is right for you. If your lawn is greenest in the spring and fall, you probably should. If your lawn is greenest during the summer, hold off. Most people with cool season grass lawns in the transition zone will benefit from fall fertilization.

Nutrients

If you’ve been window-shopping for fertilizer, you may have noticed that most fertilizer labels contain three numbers. These represent the proportions of the three main nutrients found in fertilizers:

  • nitrogen (N),
  • phosphorus (P), and
  • potassium (K).

So just how do you know what nutrients your lawn needs? Well, the best way to determine this is to conduct a soil test. I use and recommend this one from MySoil, which you can order on their website, or on Amazon.

This will let you know the nutrients that are already present and those that need replenishing. You can then pick a fertilizer that’s rich in the deficient nutrient.

If you don’t have time, or prefer to test in the spring, then one of the fertilizers on this page should work ok for you, and won’t hurt your lawn as long as you follow the manufacturer’s suggested application rate.

I have a list a little lower on this page with some specific recommendations to guide those of you who are not performing a lab-based soil test (for example I have a recommendation as the best option for established lawns, and another for newly planted lawns).

Types of Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Once you’ve figured out the NPK ratio that works for your lawn, it’s time to choose a specific type.

Using a Spreader to Fertilize Lawn in Fall

Fall lawn fertilizers are classified into two general categories:

  1. Synthetic – also known as inorganic, these are chemically-processed fertilizers. The greatest advantage they offer is that they’re fast-acting. This makes them the perfect choice for a lawn that’s in distress. The fact that they’re also easy to apply makes them suitable for large-size lawns. The catch? They may release toxic chemicals that end up harming turfgrass and crops planted near your lawn. In many cases they also carry a higher risk of burning your lawn.
  2. Organic – to minimize the risk of toxicity, some lawn owners prefer organic fertilizers. These are made solely from organic materials. Think compost, poultry droppings and peat moss. Though they have minimal risk, they take longer to work. It will likely be a couple of weeks before you see any visible outcome.

Slow-Release vs Quick-Release Fertilizer

The majority of fertilizers are either liquid or granular. The granular fertilizers are further classified into slow- and quick-release. 

A slow-release fertilizer offers a constant flow of nutrients over a period of time. These products can be either organic or inorganic.

The organic varieties are broken down by the soil microbes, making essential nutrients available to your lawn. On the other hand, inorganic slow-release fertilizers are usually coated. This allows them to dissolve in water at a gradual pace.

A quick-release fertilizer dissolves completely into the soil, supplying your lawn with a quick burst of nutrients.

Application Method

One other thing you’ll want to account for is the technique of applying fertilizer. The application method will depend on whether the fertilizer is granular or liquid.

Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn in Fall

For granular fertilizers, a mechanical broadcast or drop spreader makes quick work of the application. Conversely, liquid fertilizers require a foliar spray or garden sprayer for application. 

I have a list of some good backpack sprayers right here if you decide to go with liquid fertilizer.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Applying lawn fertilizers seems like a fairly straightforward process. However, there are several mistakes that people make, especially when it comes to choosing products.

Here are 3 mistakes you should avoid:

Failing to Do A Soil Test

Anytime you want to fertilize your lawn, the first thing you should do is to perform a soil test.

This lets you know the specific nutrients that your lawn is missing. As a result, you’re able to choose a fertilizer with a suitable NPK ratio. For instance, if your lawn is low in nitrogen, then a fertilizer with 30-0-10 or something similar works best.

At the same time, you shouldn’t focus on only the macronutrients. Many times a soil’s pH level and/or deficiencies in key micronutrients can prevent your grass from utilizing the fertilizer you spread. This can mean you’re just throwing money away because your grass won’t ever use your fertilizer!

A soil test might reveal the need for micro-nutrients as well (such as iron and zinc). If this turns out to be the case, look for a fertilizer that contains both the macro and micronutrients. There are good options out there.

Ignoring State Regulations About Fertilizer Applications

Did you know that up to 11 states forbid the use of phosphorus fertilizers on lawns? That’s right!

So before you rush to buy any lawn product, familiarize yourself with local and federal laws related to fertilizer use. The last thing you want is to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

You’ll notice that the fertilizers I recommend on this page are all phosphorus free.

Buying Too Much (or too little) Fertilizer

Another mistake you’ll want to avoid is buying too little or too much fertilizer. To prevent this, estimate the size of your lawn and buy the amount of fertilizer that’s just enough to cover it.

How to Calculate Your Lawn Size with Satellite Imagery

I have a free lawn size calculator that you can use. It uses satellite imagery to allow you to draw the outline of your property’s lawn areas and you can remove patios, pools, or out-buildings to get a truly accurate measurement of your lawn.

You can even save your custom lawn map! Once you get your map just right click the blue button and I’ll email you a private link to your map that you can bookmark and come back to and reference any time.

What I like most about this tool is that you can measure out specific lawn areas (front yard, back yard, side yard) and understand the square footage of each – which will tell you exactly how much fertilizer you should apply to each area.

This tool is completely free for my readers to use, so I hope you’ll try it out!

My List of the Best Fall Lawn Fertilizers This Year

To save you time and provide some quick direction, here are my quick recommendations. 

  1. BEST OVERALL: Jonathan Green Winter Survival Fall Lawn Food (10-0-20)
  2. BEST VALUE: Ace Winterizer All-Purpose Lawn Fertilizer (28-0-10)
  3. BEST WIDELY AVAILBLE: Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food (32-0-10)
  4. BEST FOR WEEDY LAWNS: Ferti-Lome Winterizer and Weed Preventer II (10-0-14)
  5. BEST FOR NEW LAWNS: Greenview Fall Lawn Fertilizer – Fairway Formula (30-0-12)
  6. GREAT FOR OLDER LAWNS: Ferti-Lome Winterizer for Established Lawns (10-0-14)
  7. BEST ORGANIC: Espoma Organic Lawn Food – Fall Winterizer (8-0-6)

You can read more about each of these fertilizers below. I share relevant product specs, details about composition and formulation, application tips, and links to online retailers where you can compare prices and order your fertilizer at the best deal.


Jonathan Green Winter Survival Fall Lawn Food (10-0-20)

The Jonathan Green Winter Survival fertilizer is a favorite for many lawn owners, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s rich in the most important nutrients and comes at a price that’s hard to beat. Here’s a more detailed review of what I like about it, and why I recommend it so highly.

Composition

One thing that makes this fertilizer perfect for fall is its high potassium content. This is a critical nutrient that helps cool season grasses survive weather changes (cold winter air and frost at this time of year). Potash also gives grass the strength it needs to fight off stress, drought, and disease.

This fertilizer also includes 10% nitrogen. This enables your lawn to look great this fall, and grow healthier and appear more lush in the next spring season.

Lastly, this lawn food contains iron in its list of ingredients. Even though it makes up just 3% of the total composition, this iron does an excellent job of restoring grass to its vibrant green color. It’s a great micro-nutrient to look for when shopping for fertilizer for your lawn.

Application

A common challenge that homeowners face is over-fertilizing their lawns. Thankfully, the Winter Survival comes in two sizes so you can choose the correct amount for your lawn size after measuring your square footage using my free tool.

For yards up to 5,000 square feet, the 15-pound bag will suffice. However, if your lawn is bigger, there’s a 45-pound bag that covers areas of up to 15,000 square feet.

The fact that this fertilizer can be applied on the same day of seeding is another plus. So if you forgot to fertilize your lawn ahead of time, or you’re overseeding in the fall and can’t use a fertilizer with phosphorus, you can do both tasks simultaneously with this product.

Better yet, the fertilizer is suitable for damaged lawns. But in such cases, the manufacturer recommends doing two applications. The first should be in early fall and the second application at least 6 weeks after.

Jonathan Green Winter Survival Fall Lawn Food Specifications

Fertilizer analysis10-0-20
Package size15 pounds
Yard size5,000 square feet
PROS
  • Available in two package sizes to suit different lawns
  • Rich in potassium, which promotes root growth and drought resistance
  • Ideal for repairing damaged lawns
  • Can be applied during seeding
CONS
  • Not as widely available as some other fall fertilizers

My Final Take-Away: An excellent all-around fertilizer, the Winter Survival Lawn Food from Jonathan Green can be applied by itself, or during fall seeding. It has a generous amount of potassium, guaranteeing a resilient lawn that will survive the winter and come back strong in the spring.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Ace Winterizer All Purpose Lawn Fertilizer (28-0-10)

Fertilizing your lawn doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Many times as consumers we pay extra for name-brand fertilizers that we’ve been conditioned to trust based on advertising (I’m looking at you, Scotts). But his generic Winterizer from Ace Hardware has a lot to like and comes at a great price.

Composition

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this 28-0-10 fertilizer is rich in nitrogen. It makes up a whopping 28%, making it perfect for lawns that are deficient in this nutrient.

Even if your lawn isn’t deficient, the extra nitrogen will help your grass blades grow straight and strong. This will enhance the appearance of your cool-season lawn this fall and provide a great chance of surviving the chilly winter weather.

Another handy compound present in this fertilizer is potassium, which also helps to protect your lawn from winter stress.

One other point that makes this product attractive is that this is a controlled release fertilizer. Put simply; it releases nutrients gradually over a period of 8 weeks, so you won’t have to mow 3 or 4 times right after you apply it.

This enables your lawn to develop great resistance against diseases and forthcoming low temperatures, while staying lush, green, and well-fed all fall.

Coverage

Like the Winter Survival fertilizer, this one also comes in two sizes. The 14.3-pound bag that I’ll link to below here is enough to cover lawns of 5,000 square feet.

A 42.9-pound bag is also available, resulting in enough fertilizer to cover a 15,000-square-foot lawn. Use my lawn size calculator to determine how much you should order and which size bag is the best deal for you.

Application

This fertilizer comes in granular form, which makes for a fairly easy application. All you have to do is to load up your spreader with it, and you’re good to go.

And even though the Ace Winterizer isn’t organic, it’s safe to use on different grass species, including Bermuda.

That said, it’s not safe to use in vegetable gardens. So if you have a garden with edibles in or abutting your lawn, I recommend that you look for an alternative, and consider the organic option shared lower on this page.

Ace Winterizer All-Purpose Lawn Fertilizer Specifications

Fertilizer analysis28-0-10
Package size14.3 pounds
Yard size5,000 square feet
PROS
  • High nitrogen content to promote early spring green up
  • Available in two sizes to suit different-size lawns
  • Slow-release feeding helps to prep your lawn for winter
CONS
  • Ill-suited for yards with kitchen gardens

My Final Take-Away: The highly-ranked Ace Winterizer is slow-release, meaning it is effective for up to 8 weeks. During this time, it gradually releases nitrogen and potassium- nutrients that prepare your lawn for the chilly season while keeping your grass green and lush all fall.

Where to Buy

While this fertilizer is available from a few retailers, you’ll get the best price by going straight to the manufacturer, your local Ace Hardware:


Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food (32-0-10)

Scotts is a giant brand in the lawn maintenance niche, with most of its products ranked as best-selling in their categories globally. So if you’re looking for a fall fertilizer that’s readily available, the Scotts Winterguard product won’t disappoint. I just checked, and my local Home Depot has 142 bags in stock right now.

I’m gonna need a bigger lawn!

Here’s a more in-depth review of this product’s features and performance:

Composition

If there’s one thing that sets this 32-0-10 fertilizer apart, it has to be its high nitrogen content (32%).

Thanks to the generous amount of nitrogen, this fertilizer helps any turfgrass green up pretty fast. So if your summer lawn was looking a little crispy, this is a great way to jump-start it for the fall season.

Potassium is another one of this fertilizer’s ingredients, making up 10%. Not only does it help support overall plant health, this is enough to repair any damage caused by excess summer heat or drought.

Coverage and Application

This lawn fertilizer comes in granular form, so it’s very easy to spread. As with any fertilizer product I don’t recommend using a hand spreader, and neither does Scotts. But any good walk-behind broadcast or drop spreader will work well.

If you have a larger lawn, consider buying the 43-pound bag of fertilizer that offers 15,000-square foot coverage. But for small-size lawns, the 12.5-pound bag that covers 5,000 square feet should be enough. 

While readily available, this fertilizer has garnered mixed reviews.

  • Some users have used it successfully, claiming that it makes their lawns look greener.
  • But for others, it’s burnt the lawn grass.

To avoid such a scenario, apply the fertilizer exactly as directed by the manufacturer, and break your lawn down into several smaller sections so you don’t risk over-applying this quick-release fertilizer.

Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food Specifications

Fertilizer analysis32-0-10
Package size12.5 pounds
Yard size5,000 square feet
PROS
  • High nitrogen content guarantees a greener lawn
  • Two sizes to meet different lawn requirements
  • Ideal for repairing lawns damaged by heat
  • Manufactured by a renowned brand; hence, easily accessible
CONS
  • Risk of fertilizer burn if used incorrectly

My Final Take-Away: If you’re looking for a sure bet that you can order for local pickup, the Winterguard fertilizer is manufactured by one of the most reputable brands in the space. Perfect for fall applications, it enhances your lawn’s appearance whilst repairing any damage caused by heat. You’ll see results fast.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Ferti-Lome Winterizer & Weed Preventer II (10-0-14)

Have you been looking for a multi-purpose fall fertilizer? Look no further than the Ferti-Lome Winterizer that pulls double-duty as a weed killer and fertilizer. Pair this with a good pre-emergent application as a follow-up next spring, and most of your annual weed issues may be behind you.

Here’s what you can expect from this product.

Composition

One feature that makes the Ferti-Lome Winterizer a standout is the array of ingredients. Though it contains the usual nitrogen and potassium, the active ingredient is Dithiopyr.

This is the element that prevents weeds from growing on your lawn. The specific weeds that it’s effective against are Henbit, Dallisgrass, Spurge, and Sandbur.

Application

I’ll start off by clarifying that this is a pre-emergent weed preventer not a weed killer (like you may find in a weed-and-feed product). This essentially means that it should be applied before the weeds emerge from the soil. If you wait until the weeds emerge, it might be too late. But applying this in the fall, and a good pre-emergent in the spring should really control your annual weed issues.

As stated earlier, Ferti-Lome Winterizer is also a fertilizer. It comes in granules, making it easy to apply with a spreader. But keep in mind that it needs to be activated with water.

So once you’re done with the application, water your lawn lightly. This allows the nutrients to reach the grassroots and soil for maximum efficiency. 

What size lawn can Ferti-Lome Winterizer cover? Well, it comes in a 16-pound bag that can cover about 4,500 square feet.

Unfortunately, this appears to be the only size available. So if you have a large lawn you might want to consider a different product (or plan to buy several bags).

Ferti-Lome Winterizer and Weed Preventer II Specifications

Fertilizer analysis10-0-14
Package size16 pounds
Yard size4,500 square feet
PROS
  • Easy to apply with a lawn spreader
  • Formulated with Dithiopyr for weed prevention
  • Can prevent several weed species
CONS
  • It can only prevent weeds but it can’t kill ones that have already emerged

My Final Take-Away: A money-saver, this product doubles up as a fertilizer and weed preventer. It contains dithiopyr, which is effective against crabgrass and other common weeds. It’s also rich in nitrogen and potassium, enabling your grass to grow greener and healthier. If you have an annual weed problem in your lawn, apply this in the fall, and a pre-emergent in the spring and you’ll just have to spot-treat the few weeds that remain.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Greenview Fall Lawn Fertilizer - Fairway Formula (30-0-12)

Do you have a new lawn that you seeded this year, or young sod that was rolled out recently? If you do, then you have to be more careful when choosing lawn products.

One fall fertilizer that’s designed for young lawns is the Greenview Fall Fertilizer (Fairway Formula).

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Efficiency

One reason this product is perfect for young lawns that aren’t quite as well established is the fact that it’s a slow-release fertilizer.

So rather than releasing all its nutrients at once, it releases them gradually over a period of 2 months. This significantly minimizes the risk of fertilizer burn, which can devastate young grass. Better yet, it enhances your lawn’s capacity to absorb and retain nutrients.

Speaking of nutrients, the 30-0-12 Fairway Formula is very rich in nitrogen. To be more specific, it contains 30% nitrogen, which promotes lawn green-up and green blade growth.

Application

To get the most out of this fertilizer, ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.

For instance, Greenview recommends doing just one application; preferably in early fall. 

In addition, the most suitable time to apply is when the nighttime temperatures are in the range of 60°F. It’s also advisable to apply the fertilizer just before a light rainfall. Otherwise, you should water your yard thoroughly after you apply it.

Coverage

Another thing that impresses me with this product is the amount of fertilizer included in the small size bag. Most of the fertilizers we’ve reviewed offer a maximum of 16 pounds.

With Greenview, the small bag contains 22.5 pounds worth of fertilizer. This is enough to cover a 7,500-square foot lawn. A 45-pound size is also available, giving you a generous amount of fertilizer to apply on 15,000 square feet of space.

While some homeowners with small lawns may like the smaller bags, I often find that people get stuck in-between, and a bag this size is a better option with less waste. If you have a 6,000 square foot lawn, one bag will do the trick with just a little left over.

Greenview Fall Lawn Fertilizer Specifications

Fertilizer analysis30-0-12
Package size22.5 pounds
Yard size7,500 square feet
PROS
  • The slow-releasing approach makes it ideal for young lawns
  • Plenty of fertilizer to cover a big-size lawn
  • Comes with a guarantee
CONS
  • Needs to be applied correctly to get the best results

My Final Take-Away: If you’re looking for fall lawn food that’s a good fit for young lawns, the Greenview Fertilizer is exactly what you need. It releases nutrients slowly, giving your lawn ample time for absorption, and reducing the risk of burning your grass.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Great for Established Lawns

Ferti-Lome Winterizer for Established Lawns (10-0-14)

Do you have an established lawn that is healthy but could use a boost in the fall? If you do, the Ferti-Lome Winterizer 10-0-14 is the solution you’ve been looking for.

This inorganic fertilizer is chock full of nutrients. It helps you create a dense and robust lawn that can put up with the harshness of the winter season.

Composition

One aspect that sets the Ferti-Lome fertilizer apart is that it contains multiple nutrients. It has the typical macro-nutrients: nitrogen and potassium.

Important to note though is that the proportions of these nutrients aren’t as high as in other fertilizers. This is why I recommend it for already-established lawns that only need a top-up.

In addition to this, it contains boron, copper, iron, and manganese. Iron is the nutrient responsible for maintaining the dark green color of your lawn, and the other micronutrients you’ll find here aid in absorption and uptake of nutrients by your grass.

Boron is essential for stem cell differentiation. This is what enables the grassroots and blades to proliferate. Manganese helps in photosynthesis while copper prevents the growth of weeds.

Application

Fertilome fertilizer is shipped in a 20-pound bag that’s enough to cover 5,000 square feet. But before you start the application, there are a few points you should keep in mind.

  • For starters, adhere to the stipulated application rate of 4 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Don’t apply more than what’s recommended, even if you’re worried about the lower nitrogen content here. Over-apply and you risk fertilizer burn.
  • Secondly, ensure you water your lawn after application. And because it’s very effective, you’ll only need to do two treatments with Ferti-Lome products throughout the year. So if you do the first application in the fall, you won’t have to apply the fertilizer again until the next spring.

Usage

The range of nutrients present in this fertilizer makes it one of the most versatile fertilizers available. In addition to lawns, this product can also be applied to trees, shrubs, ornamentals and even flowers. I’ve personally only used this on an established lawn, and I was pleased with the results.

Ferti-Lome Winterizer for Established Lawns Specifications

Fertilizer analysis10-0-14
Package size20 pounds
Yard size5,000 square feet
PROS
  • Versatile; can be applied to trees, shrubs, and flowers too
  • Provides crucial macronutrients to prep your lawn for winter
  • Also has micro-nutrients, which also contribute to a healthy lawn
CONS
  • Better-suited for established lawns and not newly-laid ones

My Final Take-Away: Fertilome Winterizer for established lawns is the perfect fertilizer to feed well-maintained lawns in the fall. In addition to nitrogen and potassium, it also contains a nice blend of micro-nutrients that make it ideal for trees, shrubs and flowers, or those lawns which may be deficient in some of these areas.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Espoma Organic Lawn Food - Fall Winterizer (8-0-6)

Searching for a fall treatment for your lawn that’s also eco-friendly? The Espoma brand is my go-to for my edible garden, and for any organic lawn care regimen that I recommend. They’re a great, well-respected company that has been doing organic well for years.

Here’s a more comprehensive review of what you can expect from Espoma Organic Lawn Food’s fall fertilizer.

Composition

A common misconception is that organic fertilizers lack essential nutrients. But this is a far cry from the truth.

While this 8-0-5 fertilizer may not knock your socks off with its nitrogen or potash levels, these nutrients work well together to give your lawn its beautiful green color while also preparing it for winter.

The thing that makes this fertilizer different is that it sources these nutrients from organic matter. This eliminates the risk of chemicals contaminating your lawn soil while also minimizing the risk of fertilizer burn. In fact, this product provides two and a half times more slow release nitrogen than a conventional synthetic lawn fertilizer.

Another advantage offered by organic matter is that it enhances water movement within the soil.

Application

One of the biggest selling points of this fertilizer is the fact that it’s safe and eco-friendly. So if you have kids or pets who are likely to use the lawn right after an application, you won’t have to worry about their safety.

However, ensure you stick to the recommended application rate. For lawns with grass clippings, apply at the rate of 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. If you bag when you mow and there aren’t any grass clippings, then you can apply double the rate.

Another feature that I love about this fertilizer is that it comes in a generous 30-pound bag This gives you plenty of fertilizer to cover an area of 5,000 square feet. The only drawback is that it’s pricey. But, its benefits certainly outweigh this initial cost, especially if you consider an organic lawn care program valuable like I do.

Espoma Organic Lawn Food – Fall Winterizer Specifications

Fertilizer analysis8-0-5
Package size30 pounds
Yard size5,000 square feet
PROS
  • Safe to use around pets and kids
  • Organic matter improves water movement within the soil
  • No risk of fertilizer burn or toxicity
  • Available in a bigger 30-lb. bag
CONS
  • More expensive than the inorganic options

My Final Take-Away: For a fertilizer that’s safe to use around pets and kids, Espoma Organic Lawn Food is the ultimate choice! It provides a healthy serving of slow-release nitrogen and a boost of potassium to help your lawn stay resilient during times of temperature change.

Where to Buy

You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:


Still Not Sure?

Let Me Answer Some Common Buyer Questions

Sarah, the "Lawn Chick" of LawnChick.com

As the temperatures start dropping, it is a great time to apply one final fertilizer application for the season and set your lawn up for success next spring.

But if you’re like many homeowners shopping for a fertilizer to use in the fall, you still have some questions.

You may worry that feeding your lawn when it’s about to go dormant for the winter can lead to issues, or may simply be a waste of time and money.

Below I’ll try to provide some more information about choosing and using lawn fertilizer in the fall.

I’ll also help you out by explaining some tips, tricks, and things to consider when buying the best fall lawn food for your yard.

If you’re still on the fence, please explore my site. I have hundreds of in-depth articles on a range of topics about yard maintenance and lawn care, and I expect that you might find one that addresses your specific question or concern.

For now, here’s some further reading about fall lawn fertilizer products that might help as you make your final purchase decision.

I’ll also help you understand when to apply these products, and when it might be too late in the year to do so.

What Kind of Fertilizer Should be Applied in the Fall?

The best fertilizer to apply in fall is one that’s rich in both nitrogen and potassium. A suitable fertilizer blend has an N-P-K ratio of 24-4-12 or something fairly similar to this.

Such a formula boosts the plant’s resistance to cold and diseases, while also feeding it for a great fall appearance.

You’ll notice that the fertilizer I recommend on this page don’t have any phosphorus. That’s because at least 11 states have passed laws banning or limiting the application of phosphorus fertilizer due to pollution and run-off concerns.

In my view it’s important to be aware of this, and to fertilize responsibly – only using fertilizers with phosphorus when seeding new turf, and when it’s legal to do so.

When is the Best Time to Apply a Fall Fertilizer?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question as climatic conditions vary from one region to another.

Fall Lawn Fertilizer

But any time between mid-August and October 1 is the ideal time to apply fall fertilizer for most people.

Most industry experts recommend working your way backward and applying the last feeding 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date in your area.

If you apply the fertilizer too soon, you’re only increasing the risk of winter injury to your turf. On the other hand, waiting until the ground freezes isn’t ideal either.

Does Fall Fertilizer Need to be Watered In?

This can vary from product to product, but in general yes, it does.

Obviously this depends on whether you’re dealing with liquid or granular fertilizer. For liquid fertilizers, give them time to dry before you water them. I like to apply my liquid fertilizer in the late afternoon or evening for better foliar absorption. The evening dew effectively waters them in.

For granular fertilizers, you can water it in immediately after application.

Watering is necessary as it moves the fertilizer from the grass blades and deep into the soil. This then allows it to start nourishing your lawn.

If you leave the fertilizer to sit on the lawn without watering, you risk the turf getting burnt.

Should you Fertilize or Seed First in the Fall?

You should apply the fertilizer first before adding the grass seeds.

Here’s the deal, these seeds are highly vulnerable. So if the soil conditions aren’t right, they may fail to take root and grow. Applying a fertilizer enriches the lawn soil, creating a productive environment where the new seeds can grow.

That said, be careful with the amount of fertilizer you use. Adding too much or too little fertilizer can harm the seeds in the long run.

And definitely don’t use a pre-emergent or product containing pre-emergent herbicide when seeding your lawn. These products will block grass seeds from germinating.

Which is Better: Liquid or Granular Fertilizer?

The truth is that neither liquid nor granular fertilizer is superior to the other. Both fertilizers offer the same proportions of nutrients, so really which you choose will come down to the equipment that you have on hand, and which method you’re more comfortable with.

You may have noticed that the products I recommend on this page are granular products – that’s because this is the method I use and have had great success with on my cool season lawn.

In my free cheat sheet I have some more specific recommendations about some liquid products you can use in-tandem with your fall granular application, so check that out if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet. You can get yours right here.

Fertilizing Lawns in the Fall

For now, here’s a quick comparison of each fertilizer type’s pros and cons, which may be helpful guidance to you.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Liquid Fertilizer

PROS
  • Has a very straightforward application
  • Provides nutrients to your lawn instantly; making it fit for struggling lawns
  • More even distribution of nutrients on your lawn
  • Ideal for new lawns since it provides nourishment immediately
CONS
  • Pricey
  • Shorter shelf-life
  • Risk of triggering a growth surge
  • Requires more frequent applications

Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a Granular Fertilizer

PROS
  • Has a longer shelf-life
  • Slow-releasing, minimizing the risk of fertilizer burn
  • Cheaper to buy in bulk
  • Provide nutrients over several weeks and months, meaning you don’t have to reapply
CONS
  • Not the easiest to apply
  • Slow-acting, making it unsuitable for a lawn that’s in distress

How Do I Know if My Lawn Needs Fertilizer?

If you’re new to lawn maintenance, you may be having a difficult time deciphering when to undertake certain tasks.

The good news is that it’s very easy to tell the health and wellbeing by checking the turfgrass to see if it passes the eye test.

You only need to pay attention to its color and condition. Watch out for these 3 signs that indicate that your lawn needs fertilizer:

  • Slowed grass growth – Grass naturally slows its growth as a survival mechanism at certain times of the year. If you notice your cool-season lawn going dormant in the summer heat – that’s natural, and unless you absolutely need a green lawn year-round, I recommend that you let that happen. If it’s growing slowly during your grass type’s peak growth season, then it’s time to feed.
  • Grass blades turn yellow – if your lawn starts turning yellow or a shade of brown, it’s a sign that it’s missing certain nutrients.
  • Change in seasons – you don’t always have to wait for grand changes to know that it’s time to fertilize your lawn, especially with a fall feeding. If you did the first treatment in spring, then you should be getting ready to do a second treatment in early fall. Many people simply fertilize twice a year, but I recommend you do it more frequently.

Can You Apply Fertilizer to Wet Grass? (should you?)

It depends.

Yes, you can add fertilizer to wet grass but only if you’re using a liquid or granular product that needs to be diluted. If the fertilizer is meant to be applied as is, then don’t put it on wet grass – it could stick to and burn the leaves.

It’s not great to apply any kind of fertilizer on a saturated or waterlogged lawn. If you insist on doing so, the fertilizer will simply be run off instead of getting absorbed into the soil, so you’re better off waiting.

How Long Does it Take for Fertilizer to Work on Grass?

This depends on whether you’re using a quick- or slow-release fertilizer. Since quick-release varieties supply nutrients very – well – quickly, you’ll see the results within a few days.

What is the Best Fall Lawn Fertilizer?

Conversely, slow-release fertilizers provide small but steady amounts of nutrients. So it could take up to several weeks before you see any results, but the effect will be more sustained (something I prefer).

Can Fall Lawn Fertilizers be Used in the Spring?

Yes, they can. But, you’re better off using spring fertilizer that are properly formulated for that stage of your lawn’s growth.

Autumn lawn food is formulated with ingredients that prepare your lawn for the chilly, icy conditions of winter.

Specifically, they contain higher amounts of potassium to strengthen your lawn and make it more resilient.

So even if you use the best fall lawn fertilizers in spring, they won’t be as beneficial as they would be in autumn.

Can Fall Fertilizers Burn Grass?

Yes, they can. Any fertilizer- whether it’s a spring or fall lawn food – poses the risk of burning grass if used incorrectly.

This happens particularly when you apply too much fertilizer. The result is an excess amount of mineral salts, which draws water from the grass. This causes the grass to dry out quickly and turn brown; hence, giving your lawn that “burnt” look.

The good news is that you can fix your lawn when this happens if you react quickly and water it immediately. The water neutralizes the high salt content; causing your lawn to regain its beautiful green color.

Should I Fertilize My Lawn in Winter?

No, you shouldn’t.

Some lawn owners make the mistake of doing their spring feeding too early when it’s still winter. The problem with this is that the grass is still dormant, meaning it can’t absorb nutrients efficiently.

Frost on Lawn Grass in Fall

For the best results, wait until late spring which should fall somewhere between late May and early June.

I always recommend feeding your lawn when it is actively growing, and leaving it alone when it is not.

Can You Use Regular Fertilizer in Fall?

Wondering whether a lawn winterizer is any different from regular fertilizer? The answer is yes, it is. Regular fertilizers are meant to keep your lawn grass growing optimally.

But a winterizer/ fall fertilizer is designed with one goal in mind: to protect your lawn from the harsh winter conditions and dramatic temperature swings that are coming. This is why winterizers are formulated with two key ingredients: nitrogen and potassium.

The nitrogen restores your lawn’s energy reserves so that it has enough fuel to keep growing in the fall and next spring. Similarly, potassium fosters the grass health and disease resistance while increasing your lawn’s tolerance to the chilly weather.

Should you Mow Before a Fall Lawn Treatment?

Yes, you should. If the grass is too tall, you’ll want to mow and rake before adding any fertilizer. This makes it easier for the nutrients to work their way into the soil.

Should You Mow Before or After Applying Fall Lawn Fertilizer?

If you’ve got a lot of leaves, I like to mulch the leaves, and then run over the lawn with my bagger to vacuum up the shredded leaves and give the fertilizer a clear path to the soil. The leaves are then added to my compost pile.

What about mowing after a fertilizer application? Ideally, you should wait until the fertilizer is watered in to mow. More specifically, wait at least 24 to 48 hours to mow after treatment.

And if you mowed before fertilizing … you can probably wait longer than that.

by

Sarah’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

2 thoughts on “Best Fall Lawn Fertilizers (and when to use them)

  1. Ramon Fields

    Hi Sara just learned of your site I have a lawn that is Bermuda and in the fall I oversee with rye I live in Tennessee in the back of my yard I have three huge shagbark hickory‘s that suck up the ground and somewhat shaded we trim the trees back to try to get some sunlight we’ve never been able to grow anything there in 30 years I’ll kinds of grasses my question is what kind of fertilizer should I use on over seeding Bermuda in the fall? And thank you

    • Hey, Ramon!

      I’m not sure where you live, and what kind of restrictions exist for phosphorus applications (which you typically want when overseeding to help with root development of your ryegrass). For your application (since you’re looking for a fall fertilizer, but also something that will support your new seed), I’d probably recommend a ratio like 5-10-30 if you’re allowed to apply fertilizer with phosphorus. This way you won’t see a big surge growth of a high nitrogen fertilizer, you’ll provide your rye plenty of potassium to hold up against tough frosts, disease from extra moisture, and the sudden temperature swings common at this time of year, and you’ll also be providing sufficient phosphorus to help your ryegrass establish.

      As you’ve read above I’m a huge fan of the Jonathan Green Winter Survival Fall Lawn Food, and might recommend that you still go with that, but do an application of their starter fertilizer first, followed by the fall lawn food one month later.

      I’m in the process of doing a cool season fall overseed project to use as a guide for my readers (with results photos) next season. I used Jonathan Green’s Green Up starter fertilizer when spreading the seed, and I’m following that 30 days later with their Fall Lawn Food. Results have been amazing, so that’s a good option for you if you don’t mind multiple product applications.

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