Most people know that morning is the best time to water a lawn, but what’s the best time of day to fertilize lawn areas? Should you fertilize in the morning when dew is still on the grass, or perhaps in the evening when there will be no foot traffic for 12 hours? Should you water beforehand or spread your fertilizer just before a rain?
There are lots of questions about lawn fertilization best practices, and I’ll answer the title question of this article (and more) below.
Let’s get right into it and discuss what time of day is ideal to fertilize your lawn.
Late Afternoon or Early Evening is Best
The late afternoon or early evening is the best time of day to fertilize your lawn. With that said, you should never fertilize if there is direct hot sunlight on your lawn. This can lead to burning. I recommend that you never apply fertilizer in very hot weather, so waiting until things cool down at the end of the day is usually best.
The reason why late afternoon or early evening is best for applying fertilizer is because it’s the time of day at which the lawn is less likely to be moist.
A lot of people wonder if you should fertilize after a rainfall, or if you need to water in your fertilizer.
Well, it depends somewhat on the type of lawn fertilizer you’re using.
You Shouldn’t Apply Most Fertilizers to Damp Grass
One reason why you shouldn’t apply fertilizer in the morning is the fact that the dew on your lawn will make it too damp. With most fertilizers, you ought to make sure that your grass is dry before you apply fertilizer.
This way your fertilizer falls down to the turf below the grass blades, and doesn’t stick to your grass (where it could burn it).
There are some fertilizers on the market that you can use on wet grass, but with most you’re better off fertilizing your lawn when it’s dry.
If you want to be able to fertilize your lawn when your grass is wet (for example, if there is dew on it), you will have to use a fertilizer that can handle that kind of moisture.
I use Milorganite (Amazon link) on my lawn, which is a slow-release organic fertilizer with iron. It’s a product that does fine with a little bit of moisture, doesn’t burn your lawn, and is safe for kids and pets. I consider it a staple fertilizer that you really can’t get wrong, and recommend it to most homeowners who just want something to feed and green up their yard without any complicated math.
Granular Fertilizer Application Tips
This is especially likely to be a problem if you use a synthetic, quick-release fertilizer in granular form. If the fertilizer is left on longer, you could even end up with a dead lawn.
If you want to use a granular fertilizer, I recommend that you wait for the grass to completely dry before application for best results. There cannot be any dew, rainwater, or irrigation water on the grass. Be wary if there is any mist or fog outside, as this can also lead to moisture on the grass as well.
If there has been any heavy rain, you will want to wait a minimum of a day before fertilizing with most granular fertilizers.
As I already mentioned, there are some fertilizers (like slow-release, organic fertilizers) which don’t require this level of diligence. You can usually throw them down whenever, though late afternoon or early evening is still the best time of day to fertilize lawns with these fertilizers.
Best Time of Day to Fertilize Lawn with Liquid Fertilizer
If you want to be able to apply fertilizer to damp grass, you will need to go with a liquid fertilizer like those made by Simple Lawn Solutions (Amazon link) . Make sure to read the product instructions before application, but you should be able to use it following light rain.
In some cases, the moisture in the grass will actually help the liquid fertilizer disperse more effectively through your lawn. You still shouldn’t apply this fertilizer after heavy rains, however. This is especially true if you have a soil type, such as clay, that takes a long time to drain.
The fertilizer could end up staying on the surface of your lawn for too long. Damage can even result from this.
When I apply liquid fertilizer I like to apply it, allow it to sit on the leaves of the grass for a bit, then follow with a light watering to wash it off the leaves and down into the soil.
Fertilize Thirsty Grass for Best Results
Applying any kind of fertilizer to completely saturated soil is something you should never do. The fertilizer will end up either going down too deep for the roots to get their nutrition or running off entirely. This is bad for the environment, as it will end up in storm water draining systems. It is also a waste of money.
Have moderately moist or dry turf and your lawn will be ready to soak up every last bit of fertilizer you offer. That’s eco-friendly, and budget-friendly fertilization!
Apply Fertilizer Correctly
When spreading granular fertilizer pay close attention to the application instructions on the bag.
Use a spreader when applying the fertilizer, and if you use a name-brand broadcast spreader, most fertilizer bags will tell you exactly what setting to use for best results.
The Spreader I Use & Recommend
I’ve owned and used a number of different broadcast spreaders, and if you want the best one available, I recommend The Andersons Yard Star spreader. It is American made, can hold 50 pounds of material, rolls smoothly and easily, and is the most accurate spreader I’ve ever used.
Applying too much fertilizer to your lawn can cause problems which can include burned grass, dead grass, or uneven color and unnatural stripes on your lawn (not the good kind of lawn striping).
My Tips for Even Coverage
To make sure that you apply your fertilizer evenly, figure out the amount you need based on the square footage of your lawn, then split that fertilizer quantity in half.
Spread half of it in one direction (north to south) and spread the other half in the opposite pattern (east to west). To picture this, imagine the pattern on a checkerboard.
If your lawn is on the larger side, you can use a broadcast (or rotary) spreader that has a side-shield feature. This kind of spreader’s side-shield feature means that you will have an easier time applying along the perimeter of the lawn. It will help to make sure that none of the fertilizer gets on sidewalk or driveway (or on your neighbor’s lawn).
If you have a small lawn, you might be okay with a drop spreader, though personally I still prefer using a broadcast spreader.
Plan Your Path
When fertilizing your lawn, I always start out by creating a header strip around the lawn’s perimeter with the side-shield of my broadcast spreader engaged.
Next, work back and forth east to west, then north to south, spreading half of the fertilizer in each direction so you get even distribution across your entire yard.
Why is Fertilization Important?
Fertilization gives your lawn extra nutrients that it needs to thrive and achieve a beautiful green color. It’s food that your lawn needs along with sunshine and water.
Fertilization gives your lawn the phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen that it needs.
Luckily, fertilization is easy to do if you know how. Make sure to test your soil and find out the best kind of fertilizer to give your lawn what it needs.
Fertilization Will Give You a Lush, Green Lawn
Fertilizing your lawn is an essential step for achieving the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood.
Make sure to fertilize at the right time of day and ensure all the conditions are correct.