Creating a high-quality lawn from scratch is not rocket science, but it requires a lot of work and planning. You have to choose grass seed that can thrive in your lawn, calculate how much seed you’ll need, and you also have to ensure that the grass seed germinates well. Using the best starter fertilizer for grass is an easy way to get great results with your seeding project.
If you don’t fertilize with the right product, your grass seedlings won’t develop the strong roots needed to survive once you stop watering the lawn every day, and you’ll be right back where you started.
My pick for the best starter fertilizer for grass seed is Jonathan Green Veri-Green Starter Fertilizer for Seeding & Sodding. Formerly labeled as “Green-Up,” this product has high phosphorus content- crucial for the root development of grass seedlings, and I’ve personally had great results with seeding and overseeding projects while using this starter fertilizer (there are some before and after photos below).
This fertilizer will get just about any turfgrass off to a strong start. It contains a great balance of nutrients designed to stimulate and support new grass growth and create a thick, dense turf you’ll be proud of.
It can be applied with any spreader you have on hand and it’s suitable for both seeding and sodding.
But it’s not the only choice, and today I’m sharing the best-of-the-best with you so you can choose the product best suited for your seeding application.
My Favorite Starter Fertilizers for New Grass
Rich in phosphorus to support root development in your new lawn, Jonathan Green’s starter fertilizer also has generous servings of nitrogen and potassium. Feeds your new lawn for up to 8 weeks.
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An extremely effective starter fertilizer used by turf professionals, This 20-27-5 formulation is ideal for jump-starting newly seeded lawns. Contains 1% iron for deep-greening of your new lawn.
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|BEST TO STOP WEEDS|
Worried about weed pressure from crabgrass and other undesirables? This product is one of the few pre-emergent options that blocks weed germination while giving your new grass a great start. Win-win!
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How to Select the Best Starter Fertilizer for Your Project
Not sure of how to go about buying a starter fertilizer? This section highlights the factors to consider and mistakes to avoid so you can make an informed decision. Let’s dig in:
What to Look For When Buying Starter Fertilizer
The main things to keep in mind when buying a starter fertilizer are:
The Perfect NPK Ratio for Lawn Starter Fertilizer
For a starter fertilizer, the main nutrients you should consider are nitrogen and phosphorus.
Nitrogen provides the much needed energy to support leaf growth. Meanwhile, phosphorus ensures proper development of roots so your grass seedlings can survive.
If the root system doesn’t develop quickly, your new grass won’t be able to take up water and nutrients, which the seedlings need to mature.
My top choice as the best overall starter fertilizer for grass seed has a NPK ratio of 12-18-8, which is well balanced with a focus on root growth. It’s great for establishing new lawns, but is also the best starter fertilizer for overseeding projects in my experience. This is because it doesn’t cause your existing lawn to put out a surge of growth … there’s time for your new grass to catch up.
Other products I’ve used and recommend, like The Andersons Premium Starter Fertilizer has a more aggressive NPK ratio in terms of Nitrogen, with 20-27-5.
With any starter fertilizer for lawns you’ll look for the middle number (phosphorus) to be the highest.
Quick-Release vs Slow-Release
Another factor you should pay attention to when purchasing a starter fertilizer is the nutrient formula. There are two types: slow and quick-release.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each:
- Slow-release – this type of fertilizer supplies your lawn with nutrients over a period of time, which can be anywhere between 1 and 3 months. Designed primarily for already-established lawns, slow-release fertilizers offer several benefits. For one, they eliminate the need to fertilize your yard frequently. Secondly, lawns are able to make the most of these fertilizers since they retain them for longer.
- Quick-release – as implied in the name, this fertilizer makes nutrients available to your lawn quickly/ instantly. And since new grass seed needs an immediate boost of nutrients, quick-release fertilizers are the best suited. That said, you should be cautious when applying quick-release starter fertilizers. Apply too much and you may end up burning grass seedlings altogether. Furthermore, the effects of such fertilizers last for about two weeks. This then forces you to reapply the fertilizer more frequently than you would with slow-release fertilizers.
Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizer
Choosing between slow and quick-release isn’t the only decision you’ll have to make. You’ll also need to choose between synthetic and organic fertilizers.
Here’s how the two fertilizers compare:
- Synthetic fertilizer – this is any fertilizer that’s manufactured chemically. The beauty of using such products is that they deliver fast results; often, within a few days. On the flipside, they have a higher risk of burning grass, especially if you apply more than what’s required. Applying these chemical-filled fertilizers incorrectly can also lead to environmental pollution.
- Organic fertilizer – what distinguishes this fertilizer is that it’s formulated using organic sources. Oftentimes, it’s derived from plant or animal waste such as manure or compost. Unlike the synthetic varieties, organic fertilizers take a longer time to work – usually a few weeks. However, the rewards you reap are well worth waiting for. For instance, they don’t pose much risk to the operator or the environment.
Type of Fertilizer (how it’s applied)
One last thing to consider is whether you’ll buy granular or liquid fertilizers.
Starter fertilizers come in both forms. However, none is superior to the other, which can make choosing one a bit difficult. Here are some pointers to help you choose smartly:
- Salt content – you’ll notice that the vast majority of starter fertilizers are granular. Interestingly, these types pose a greater risk. Some have very high salt content that can damage the tender roots of the grass seedling. Contrary, liquid fertilizers are less concentrated, which makes them safer to use on new lawns.
- Application – when it comes to ease of application, granular fertilizers win hands down. They can be applied using any lawn spreader; be it a rotary or hand spreader. With liquid fertilizers, you need special equipment like a nozzle sprayer.
- Consistency – here, liquid starter fertilizers provide the most consistent results. The nutrient composition is identical in every drop of the fertilizer. Meanwhile, the nutrient content of granules may differ quite a bit.
Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Starter Fertilizer
The next time you’re looking for a starter fertilizer, avoid these mistakes:
Forgetting to do a Soil Test
Only a handful of homeowners remember to perform a soil test before fertilizing their lawns. However, this is a crucial step that shouldn’t be neglected.
A soil test reveals the levels of different nutrients in your lawn soil. So if it has a certain nutrient deficiency, you can look for a starter fertilizer that’s rich in that ingredient.
The test also determines your soil’s pH. So if it’s too acidic or too alkaline, you can amend it accordingly before planting grass seed.
Best Overall Lawn Soil Test Kit
The Soil Test Kit I Use & Recommend
There are many options for testing your lawn’s soil, but I prefer a lab-based soil test that provides a detailed analysis of your soil’s nutrients and what’s needed for your lawn to thrive.
I use this one from MySoil every year.
Buying and Using Starter Fertilizers at the Wrong Time
The purpose of this fertilizer is to create a nutrient-rich soil that increases the chances of grass seed germinating. To reap this benefit, be sure to time your application right.
If you fertilize too early or wait until it’s too late, the grass seedling won’t benefit from the nutrients present in the fertilizer. Ideally, a starter fertilizer should be applied right before or simultaneously with the grass seed/sod installation.
At the same time, you should be careful not to go overboard. Once you do the first application, this is enough to nourish your lawn for up to a month. This means you should hold off on fertilizing for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
If you reapply too soon, the nutrients can leach into underground water systems or burn the seedlings.
My List of the Best Starter Fertilizers this Year
There is a starter fertilizer for every type of seeding project. Choose the one that’s best for yours.
- BEST OVERALL: Jonathan Green Lawn Food for Seeding & Sodding (12-18-8)
- BEST ORGANIC: Sunday Lawn Starter Liquid Fertilizer (8-16-8)
- BEST STARTER FERTILIZER + WEED PREVENTER: Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Built for Seeding (21-22-4)
- BEST PROFESSIONAL-GRADE: The Andersons Premium New Lawn Starter Fertilizer (20-27-5)
- BEST VALUE: Ferti-Lome New Lawn Starter Fertilizer (9-13-7)
- BEST LONG-FEEDING STARTER FERTILIZER: GreenView Starter Fertilizer (10-18-10)
- BEST STARTER FERTILIZER + MULCH: GreenView Fairway Formula Seeding Success (1-2-0.5)
Want your new lawn to have a strong foundation? If so, look no further than Jonathan Green’s Veri-Green Lawn Food for Seeding & Sodding. A fairly-priced starter fertilizer, it has just the right proportions of nutrients to support new grass growth, and I’ve found it to be the best starter fertilizer for overseeding established lawns as well.
Here’s what you can expect.
One thing that drew me to this fertilizer is its composition. It’s made up of 12% nitrogen, 8% potassium and 18% phosphorus.
The high phosphorus content fosters root formation, which is essential when establishing a new lawn. Meanwhile, the nitrogen ensures that your lawn achieves a deep green color while potassium makes it more resilient.
But what truly sets this fertilizer apart is the fact that it also contains humates. Humates are what facilitate the availability of nutrients. They also improve the efficiency and interchange of nutrients within the soil.
Also crucial to mention is that the Veri-Green (formerly labeled “Green-Up” as seen above) provides prolonged feeding. It nourishes your lawn for up to two months, so you won’t have to worry about applying other treatments during this time.
The fact that Veri-Green can be applied to seeded or sodded lawns is a bonus. For the best outcome though, Jonathan Green recommends applying it on the same day you sod or seed your lawn.
The fertilizer is in granular form so you’ll need some kind of spreader for its application.
After applying the treatment, remember to wipe off the excess from hard surfaces.
You’ll also want to irrigate your lawn after application to improve the fertilizer’s absorption. However, don’t be in a rush to mow. Wait at least 24 to 48 hours so the fertilizer has ample time to activate … though if you’re using this fertilizer you probably won’t be mowing your seeded area any time soon.
Jonathan Green Veri-Green Specifications
- High phosphorus content for proper root development
- Feeds lawns for two months
- Formulated with humates to improve nutrients’ availability and efficiency
- One of the most affordable starter fertilizers
- Provides a decent coverage
- Leaves stains on hard surfaces
My Final Take-Away: For a fertilizer that supports new grass growth while also helping lawns achieve a deep green color, Jonathan Green Veri-Green is a great buy. It’s rich in phosphorus to foster root development. It also provides a generous serving of nitrogen for a quick green-up.
Where to Buy Jonathan Green’s Veri-Green for Seeding & Sodding
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
Organic lawn care products are not only safer for you and your family but also the environment. Made purely from natural products, the Sunday Lawn Starter is the perfect alternative to the usual chemical-filled fertilizers. Here’s a detailed review of it.
As already hinted, this fertilizer is organic. But what are the exact ingredients used to formulate it? Well, Sunday uses ingredients, such as soy protein, iron, molasses and seaweed.
Soy protein is an excellent source of nitrogen. And with the addition of iron, you’re guaranteed of having a beautiful lush lawn. Meanwhile, the seaweed and molasses provide minerals and micronutrients.
A mixture of these ingredients translates to a relatively balanced NPK ratio of 8-16-8. The high phosphorus content is to ensure the grass develops deep and strong root systems.
Even if you’ve never applied fertilizer on your lawn, you’ll find the Sunday Lawn Starter incredibly easy to use. For starters, the manufacturer includes a hose end sprayer so you’ll have everything you need.
Secondly, the application process is pretty straightforward. Just remove the cap from the nutrient pouch and connect the sprayer nozzle. Next, connect your garden hose, switch on the water supply and open the valve to start spraying.
One pouch can cover anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 square feet of space, and only takes about fifteen minutes to apply.
Important to note though is that this fertilizer might not work for all lawns. For instance, it shouldn’t be applied to a distressed lawn. This makes it ill-suited for overseeding applications.
At the same time, it should only be applied on a well-hydrated lawn. And once applied, wait for 24 hours to pass before watering your yard.
Sunday Lawn Starter Liquid Fertilizer Specifications
|Quantity||42 fl. oz.|
- Rich in phosphorus for healthy root formation
- The nutrient pouch provides great coverage for the money (up to 3,000 sq ft)
- Organic composition makes it safe for humans and the environment
- Sprayer nozzle and detailed guide make for an easy application
- Better suited for small or mid-sized seeding projects.
- Not suitable for all lawns
My Final Take-Away: If you prefer organic fertilizers, or don’t already own a quality broadcast spreader, then the Sunday Lawn Starter is your best bet. Made from ingredients like soy protein and seaweed, it doesn’t pose any threat to homeowners, kids, pets, or the environment. It’s also easy to use.
Where to Buy Sunday Lawn Starter Liquid Fertilizer
You should order this directly from the manufacturer:
Best Starter Fertilizer + Weed Preventer
Creating a new lawn can feel like a daunting task. How much fertilizer should you apply? How can you keep weeds from invading your lawn?
Scotts understands how complex the entire process can be, which is why they created the ultimate multipurpose product: Triple Action Fertilizer for Seeding. Here’s what to expect:
As implied in the title, this product is designed to serve three functions: prevent common weeds, jumpstart the germination process and feed your lawn for an extended period.
As a weed preventer, it ensures that common weeds – like crabgrass and dandelions – don’t attack your yard and start competing for nutrients with the developing seedlings. The best part is that it offers weed protection for up to 6 weeks.
The second thing this product helps with is supporting the germination process. Specifically, it ensures that grass grows faster and becomes thicker. And while it can be applied on a variety of grass species, it’s particularly effective when used on Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, Centipedegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass.
The Triple Action starter fertilizer comes in granular form. And as such, it can be applied with any fertilizer spreader.
Another thing I like about this product is that it provides pretty decent coverage. The 17-pound bag I’m reviewing here is enough to cover lawns of up to 4,000 square feet. For smaller lawns, a 4.3-pound that covers up to 1,000 square feet will suffice.
Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Specifications
- Ideal for feeding new lawns as well as reseeding applications
- Boosts germination of grass seed and helps it to grow thicker
- Also helps to prevent weeds
- More expensive than other starter fertilizers
My Final Take-Away: If you’re looking for a fertilizer that not only feeds your lawn but also keeps weeds away, then Scotts Triple Action starter fertilizer is a great buy. It offers protection from Dandelions, Crabgrass, Carpetweed and others for up to six weeks.
Where to Buy Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Built for Seeding
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
Searching for a starter fertilizer that’s used by professional landscapers? If so, the Andersons Premium New Starter Fertilizer is just what you need.
Here’s a look at what sets it apart:
Compared to other starter fertilizers, the Andersons Premium boasts the highest concentrations of macronutrients.
It has an NPK ratio of 20-27-5. The nitrogen provides your lawn with much needed energy for new grass growth.
Phosphate aids in root formation while potash helps to thicken the turf’s wall structure. Overall, these proportions guarantee that the grass seed will mature into a healthy and deep green lawn.
One other thing that makes this fertilizer exceptional is that it contains three nitrogen formulas. The fast-release provides an immediate nitrogen boost, making it perfect for repairing bare spots. Meanwhile, the intermediate and slow-reacting formula offer your lawn continuous nourishment.
I was also impressed that Andersons incorporated a bit of iron. This element supports chlorophyll production; thus, preventing grass from yellowing.
Andersons recommends applying this fertilizer in fall. There’s less competition from weeds during this period, so the grass will make the most of it. However, it can also be applied in spring.
The Premium fertilizer should be worked into the soil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. You’ll also want to keep the soil consistently moist till the seeds germinate.
While this starter fertilizer gets the job done, it has one major shortcoming. This is the fact that it’s only available in an 18-pound bag with an estimated coverage of 5,000 square feet.
This means that if you have a small lawn, you may end up with excess fertilizer. And if you have a big lawn, you may be forced to buy several bags to cover the entire area. The Andersons Premium is also a tad too expensive.
*Save 10% when you order directly from the manufacturer with code LAWNCHICK
The Andersons Premium New Lawn Starter Fertilizer Specifications
- Has high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus to foster grass growth
- Also contains iron for a quick green-up
- Nitrogen is available in fast, intermediate and slow-release formulas
- Comes in only one size
My Final Take-Away: If you’re looking for a sure bet, the Andersons Premium Starter Fertilizer won’t disappoint. It contains enormous amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to support grass development. It also has iron and can be applied in either spring or fall.
Where to Buy The Andersons Premium New Lawn Starter Fertilizer
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
The costs of owning a lawn add up pretty quickly. From buying grass seed to investing in a fertilizer spreader and mower, these expenses can dig a hole in your pocket relatively fast.
Fortunately, Ferti-Lome Starter Fertilizer comes at a price that’s hard to beat. Here’s what to expect:
Most starter fertilizers contain all three macronutrients useful to lawns, namely, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The Ferti-Lome Starter is no exception as it contains 9% nitrogen, 13% phosphate and 7% soluble potash.
What sets it apart is the fact that it also provides micronutrients albeit in small amounts. Boron, which makes up 0.02%, improves your lawn’s ability to absorb other nutrients.
Copper, which comprises 0.05%, is a critical component of grass growth. Meanwhile, both iron and manganese boost chlorophyll production while manganese encourages growth of strong grass blades.
Another area where this starter fertilizer has stepped up its game is in the variety of sizes it comes in.
Other fertilizers typically come in two sizes. But, this one is available in four different sizes: 4-, 10-, 20- and 40-pounds.
Based on this, you’ll get enough fertilizer to cover lawns ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 square feet. The best thing about this is that even the largest fertilizer bag is priced at under $60.
Moreover, this starter fertilizer has a pretty flexible application routine. Ideally, it should be applied when preparing the soil for either seeding or sodding. In case you forget, you can always apply immediately after seeding.
Ferti-Lome New Lawn Starter Fertilizer Specifications
|Coverage||1,000 square feet|
- Rich in key macronutrients as well as micronutrients like iron and zinc
- Comes in four different sizes
- Suitable to apply during or after seeding
- The excess fertilizer can cause stains if it ends up on hard surfaces
My Final Take-Away: Looking for a fertilizer that offers maximum value for your money? Then Ferti-Lome Starter is just what you need. Based on your lawn size, you’ll be able to choose from four different sizes. Even better, this fertilizer provides your lawn with both macro- and micronutrients.
Where to Buy Ferti-Lome Starter Fertilizer for New Lawns
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
Some fertilizers need to be reapplied after every 3 to 4 weeks. If you have a tight schedule, you may struggle to keep up with this fertilization regimen.
GreenView understands how time-consuming lawn maintenance tasks can be. This is why they came up with a long-feeding fertilizer. The 10-18-10 starter fertilizer from Greenview provides continuous feeding minimizing the frequency for reapplication. Here’s what you can expect from it:
The GreenView Starter Fertilizer has a unique composition consisting of both immediate-release and controlled-release nitrogen.
The instant nutrient boost is handy if you’re trying to restore a lawn in distress. For completely new lawns, the time-released formula nourishes your lawn for at least 8 weeks.
One other thing that sets this starter fertilizer apart is the GreenSmart ingredient. This is designed to accelerate root formation so as to enhance absorption of nutrients.
And with an NPK ratio of 10-18-10, you can rest easy knowing that your new lawn has all the essential nutrients it needs to grow healthily.
The GreenView Starter can be applied before or shortly after planting grass seed. The granular
fertilizer comes in two bag sizes: a 16- and 48-pound. The 16-pound bag can cover 5,000 square feet while the latter covers up to 15,000 square feet.
For the best outcome, GreenView recommends raking the fertilizer into 2 to 3 inches of the topsoil.
Also, avoid using any weed control products till the grass is well-developed. And, if you decide to plant grass seed in fall, don’t wait until it’s too late. Otherwise, the grass won’t develop even if you try to boost its development with this fertilizer.
Greenview Starter Fertilizer Specifications
- GreenSmart ingredient accelerates root growth
- Contains both immediate- and slow-release nitrogen for prolonged feeding
- Can be applied in spring or fall
- Comes in two sizes to meet the needs of small and large lawns
- Should be applied lightly to avoid fertilizer burn
My Final Take-Away: If you’re looking for a fertilizer that will nourish your lawn for an extended period, the GreenView Starter Fertilizer is the ultimate solution. Containing both quick- and slow-release nitrogen, it provides nourishment for at least 2 months.
Where to Buy GreenView Starter Fertilizer
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
Best Fertilizer + Seed Mulch
Anytime you’re seeding a new lawn, it’s advisable to add a thin mulch layer on top. This improves the seeds’ moisture retention rate so they don’t dry out.
GreenView understands the essence of mulching, which is why they invented this multipurpose product to make things easier. Their Seeding Success product combines a small amount of fertilizer with mulch and a tackifier into one product I’d suggest using along with one of the starter fertilizers featured on this page.
Here’s what to expect:
The biggest highlight of this product is the fact that it blends three things into one: a starter fertilizer, paper mulch and tackifier.
The fertilizer contains a special formula designed to encourage healthy root development. Meanwhile, the paper mulch keeps grass seed from drying out. This is particularly useful if you live in an area that experiences sunny or windy weather.
Lastly, the tackifier serves as “glue”. Put simply, it binds the paper mulch to the surface so that it’s not displaced by wind or rain. This is also useful in situations where the grass seed is planted on sloped areas.
With so many products blended into one, it’s no wonder the fertilizer is also used to repair bare patches in already established lawns.
This starter fertilizer is one of the easiest to apply. The fact that it contains paper mulch allows grass seed to hold more water. According to GreenView, the pellets expand by three times their weight, allowing them to retain moisture for longer. This then reduces the need to water frequently.
That said, it’s crucial that you prep your yard before applying the fertilizer. Specifically, be sure to loosen the surface using a garden rake. Next, spread your preferred grass seed before finally applying the fertilizer.
One thing I love about this fertilizer/mulch comb is that it doesn’t have a messy application. Unlike straw and other types of mulch, it’s completely biodegradable; eliminating the need for a cleanup. And, it’s also weed-free.
GreenView Seeding Success Grass Seed Protector Specifications
|NPK ratio||Not specified|
- Combines a fertilizer and mulch into one to improve water retention
- Also contains a tackifier to hold the pellets in place
- Biodegradable; hence, no cleanup required
- Suitable for new lawns and repairing bare spots
- Has a small coverage area
- Can be difficult to spread
My Final Take-Away: If searching for a multifunctional product, you can’t go wrong with GreenView’s Seeding Success Grass Seed Protector. It’s a starter fertilizer, tackifier and paper mulch combined into one. In addition, it’s easy to apply, doesn’t require frequent watering and biodegrades.
Where to Buy Greenview Seeding Success
You can compare prices and order this online at the following retailers:
Still Not Sure?
Let Me Answer Some Common Buyer Questions
If you’re like many homeowners shopping for a starter fertilizer, you’re investing a fair amount of time and money in your seeding project and you want it to go off without a hiccup.
Below I’ll try to provide some more information about choosing and using starter fertilizer to help your new lawn or overseeding project go well.
I’ll also help you out by explaining some tips, tricks, and things to consider when buying the best starter fertilizer for your lawn.
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.
I think you’ll especially be interested in my free grass seed calculator, which can tell you exactly how much seed to spread for your project to get great results the first time.
For now, here’s some further reading about starter fertilizer products that might help as you make your final purchase decision:
What is the difference between starter fertilizer and regular fertilizer?
If you’re new to lawn care, you might be wondering about the difference between a standard lawn fertilizer and a starter fertilizer for grass.
Well, the biggest difference lies in their composition. Specifically, a starter fertilizer is estimated to have up to 20% more phosphorus than regular fertilizer.
The higher phosphorus content is necessary to foster proper root development in seedlings and helps new lawns started from seed or sod get established quickly.
So with starter fertilizers the middle number of the three numbers listed on the bag will be the largest one – denoting that the fertilizer has more phosphorus than Nitrogen and Potassium.
One more thing that differentiates starter fertilizers from regular ones is the nitrogen release formula. A starter fertilizer will often have a fast-release nitrogen formula to provide the seedlings with immediate access to key nutrients as soon as your seed germinates.
Conversely, many regular fertilizers for your lawn have slow-release formula so they can feed your lawn for several months with a single application.
Furthermore, the concentrations of ingredients in starter fertilizers are usually muted or diluted. If you attempt to use a full-strength fertilizer, you may end up destroying the roots of delicate seedlings.
When should I use starter fertilizer on my lawn?
While finding the best starter fertilizer is crucial, it’s just half of the equation. The other half is timing your application right; thus, allowing the grass seed to make the most of it.
On that note, the perfect time to fertilize new grass with a starter fertilizer is at the same time you plant your grass seed. As soon as you’re done preparing your lawn soil for planting, you can apply the starter fertilizer in one pass, and then spread your seed immediately afterward.
If you have already seeded but forgot to apply a good starter fertilizer, you can still apply one up until your seed germinates.
How should I apply a starter fertilizer?
There are a few things you need to do to prepare your lawn for seeding and a starter fertilizer.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go about this:
- Start with a soil test – I always recommend that homeowners test their lawn’s soil in the spring each year to gain an understanding of their soil’s pH level and nutrient levels. It helps you know which nutrients the lawn soil has and which ones it’s missing. This way, you can make an informed decision when buying the starter fertilizer. If you haven’t done this yet, don’t sweat it – you can seed your new lawn and test your soil later in the year before your next application of fertilizer.
- Till and get rid of debris – most homeowners till their yards or loosen the soil with an iron rake or lawn dethatcher before planting grass seed. But only a handful remember to remove unnecessary debris. What they don’t know is that such debris can impact the growth of new grass. For instance, it can create a barrier that hinders light from reaching the seeds, which can lead to patches of your lawn where your seed doesn’t come in.
- Amend your lawn soil – it’s also a good idea to amend the soil’s composition before adding further treatments. For instance, adding a 2-inch layer of compost has been proven to improve moisture retention and soil quality. However, be careful not to add too much compost as this can cause more harm than good. What I usually do is prepare the ground, then spread seed and starter fertilizer and top-dress with a 1/4″ layer of screened compost to protect the seed and help it stay moist. Just don’t go too thick over the top of your seed or it won’t germinate.
- Adjust the soil’s pH accordingly – one of the perks of doing a soil test early on is that it will tell you the pH. If the current pH doesn’t support new grass growth, you can adjust it in time. If it’s too acidic, add a little bit of lime and if it’s too alkaline, consider adding sulfur. I live in New England where our soil skews acidic, so I use this product from Jonathan Green which is safe to use when seeding and can be applied the same day as your seed and starter fertilizer. This product can be used if you have alkaline soil.
- Apply a starter fertilizer – the good thing about starter fertilizers is that they’re very flexible. They can be applied before or shortly after planting grass seed, and you don’t really need to do anything to work the starter fertilizer into the soil. Most will quickly dissolve and soak into the ground as you irrigate.
Can grass seed grow without a starter fertilizer?
Yes, it can. It’s true that grass seed can develop without the help of a starter fertilizer. But, I highly recommend that you don’t skip this step.
Here’s the deal – a starter fertilizer has a unique composition and it is formulated with nutrients specifically designed to boost the growth of grass seedlings and make them more resilient to foot traffic, drought, and heat.
Starter fertilizers also improve the soil’s porosity. This, in turn, improves the flow of nutrients, water and air within your new lawn. So you can rest easy knowing that the grass will continue to grow well throughout the season.
Can you put starter fertilizer on existing grass?
Yes, you can. But, it’s not advisable to do so unless you’re overseeding to thicken up your lawn.
As stated earlier, a starter fertilizer has a unique composition, specifically designed to boost seed germination.
A lawn that’s already established has different needs from a new one, which is why it’s better served by a regular fertilizer with a well-balanced NPK.
What is the best starter fertilizer for overseeding?
Any of the products on this page will work well when overseeding an established lawn, but I like to use my top pick, Jonathan Green’s Lawn Food for Seeding and Sodding. For me it’s the best starter fertilizer for overseeding because of its NPK ratio and release rate.
But more than that I’ve used it for years and have always been successful when using it for overseeding projects, as you can see in the overseeding before and after photo below:
What is the best starter fertilizer for new sod?
Whether you’re starting your new lawn from seed or sod, a phosphorus-rich starter fertilizer is necessary.
In particular, consider Jonathan Green Lawn Food for Seeding and Sodding (previously labeled “GREEN-UP” it is now labeled “VERI-GREEN” – it’s the same product) that is formulated to work well for both applications.
How do I choose starter fertilizer?
If you’re having a hard time choosing a starter fertilizer, consider the guidance I’ve provided on this page. Beyond this, there are a few points that can help narrow down your options.
For instance, figure out whether you want an organic or synthetic fertilizer. Then based on the results of your soil test, determine the best NPK ratio for your lawn.
Another factor that you should prioritize is the nutrient formula. Generally, a quick-release formula can work better for new lawns. These products release nutrients immediately, which is essential for seedlings.
Is liquid starter fertilizer better than granular?
Both liquid and granular fertilizers can work well in this application. The decision boils down to your lawn’s needs, the equipment you have on hand, and your preference.
For instance, if your lawn needs nutrients instantly, a liquid fertilizer works faster than granular. If you’re keen on getting consistent results, liquid fertilizers are also the best option. This is because the nutrient composition is the same in each drop of the fertilizer.
I also recommend using a liquid fertilizer if you don’t own (and aren’t planning to buy a fertilizer spreader).
The liquid lawn starter option from Sunday listed on this page comes with a hose-end sprayer attachment that allows you to fertilize your newly seeded lawn easily with the garden hose you probably already own.
If you don’t own a lawn spreader, go this route because while it’s find to spread seed by hand, you probably won’t want to spread fertilizer by hand.
With all of that said, there are instances where granular fertilizers are preferred.
For example, if you’re fertilizing a large lawn area, or you already own or want to buy a quality spreader, a granular product is the best choice because it can be applied more easily and you’ll probably get better coverage.
Similarly, granular starter fertilizers have a longer shelf life than their liquid counterparts. And they feed your lawn for a longer period.