Best Time of Day to Fertilize Lawn

What’s the Best Time of Day to Fertilize Lawns?

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.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S.

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.

Fertilize Lawns in Late Afternoon or Early Evening for Best Results

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. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

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).

Ideal Time of Day to Fertilize Lawn

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

If you are using a granular fertilizer, applying it to wet grass can lead to burned grass blades. When this happens, your grass can end up with brown and yellow spots and a mottled appearance.

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.

Best Time of Day to Apply Granular Fertilizer to 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.

That said, Nicole Forsyth, a certified horticulturist and member of our expert panel, cautions that “liquid fertilizer can still burn your lawn, and regardless of liquid or granular, if your lawn is too wet it will fail to properly absorb the nutrients.”

What Time of Day to Apply Liquid Lawn Fertilizer

When I apply liquid fertilizer I like to apply it, 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.

Nicole Forsyth suggests that it can be beneficial to “make sure the soil is slightly moist. Totally bone dry soil will be more resistant to absorbing moisture, and the roots will get burned a bit if they are dry.” Adding that while fertilizing saturated turf isn’t good, the soil “should be slightly moist. I like to water lightly a few hours before applying fert so the soil is slightly moist but the leaves have time to dry.”

So for best results, ensure moderately moist soil and dry leaves 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.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

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.

Green Grass from Fertilizing Lawn Effectively

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.

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Sarah Jameson’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 “What’s the Best Time of Day to Fertilize Lawns?

  1. Debbi Beers

    I’m using a broadcast spreader and I’ve noticed ‘lines’ in the grass..These lines appear to be a heavier amount of fertilizer has dropped there. Could I be making the passes too close?

    • Hey, Debbi

      That’s possible – it depends on the size of the lines that you’re seeing. One issue a lot of people run into is that their broadcast spreader has hollow wheels which catch some of the fertilizer and then dump it out when there is a bunch there, preventing it from spreading evenly. This is a common issue with some of the Scotts spreaders. If you have narrow lines and a scotts spreader, that may be what you’re running into. An easy (and inexpensive) fix is to cut a piece of cardboard or use a disposable pie plate and attach that sort of as a hubcap on the inside of your spreader’s wheels. This prevents the wheels from catching any fertilizer and dumping it in a distinct line on your lawn. Instead, the granules will bounce off and spread out naturally. It’s a cheap DIY fix to upgrade the performance of some spreaders.

      Another good tip I have is to make sure you’re spreading fertilizer in a grid pattern. Use an online calculator for lawn size (like these ones) to determine the square footage of different sections of your lawn, figure out how much fertilizer you need for that lawn section and then cut that amount in half. This allows you to spread half of your fertilizer north-to-south and the other half east-to-west. By doing the application this way even if you do have some uneven distribution of the fertilizer the lines will kind of disappear since you’re traveling in two different directions.

      Hope this info helps!

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