Lawn Fertilizer Schedule

Lawn Fertilizer Schedule and Application Tips for a Greener Lawn

If you’d like your lawn to be the lushest and greenest on the block, you need to know when and how to apply lawn fertilizer. Luckily, today I’ll be sharing my guide to creating a lawn fertilizer schedule, and sharing some tried-and-true application tips to help you get a lush, green and healthy lawn.

Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Explained

When Should You Apply Fertilizer to Your Lawn?

The most effective time of year to do the first application of the year of fertilizer to your lawn is in the spring. This is because you want the temperature of the soil to be around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

A sign of the soil reaching this temperature is the presence of blossoming lilacs, so make sure to watch out for that. You’ll also see grass beginning to sprout. In the majority of the United States, you should apply your fertilizer between about mid and late April.

RELATED: Best Spring Lawn Fertilizers

The second application of fertilizer should be done about a month after the first, in around the middle of May. This ensures your lawn is off to a great start.Once that is done, re-apply between every six to eight weeks.

Lawn Fertilization Schedule

Continue to do this through to October. When you do the third application, try to use an organic type of material. This could be manure (as opposed to conventional lawn fertilizer). Don’t neglect your lawn in the fall.

What Should You Look For When Buying Fertilizer?

As you shop for fertilizer, you will notice that bags have labels with three numbers.

These figures point to the percentage of potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen. These are important, as these nutrients are the most important ones for a healthy lawn.

The nitrogen number usually comes first, the phosphate number after that, and the potassium number last:

Nitrogen – Phosphate – Potassium

The remainder of the contents will have filler material. This is important too, as it makes it easier for you to apply the product evenly. Generally, a good mixture for your lawn in spring is 20-5-10 (20% nitrogen, 5% phosphate, and 10% potassium).

Slow Release Lawn Fertilizers

If you choose a slow-release fertilizer, you won’t have to apply it so often. This is because the fertilizer’s nutrients will break down over an extended period. You will be able to fertilize only between every six and eight weeks.

When to Fertilize Your Lawn

This is actually my preferred type of fertilizer for established lawns. I prefer Milorganite, but have used Purely Organic Lawn Food as well. Both are organic options (a great choice, especially if you have kids or pets).

Your frequency of watering your lawn will affect how often you’ll need to do it. If you don’t use a slow-release fertilizer, you will have to fertilize more often.

With slow-release fertilizers, it’s best to choose one that has enough (but not an excessive) amount of nitrogen. Remember that your lawn needs only about a tenth of a pound of nitrogen per week.

Having too much nitrogen will only result in making the grass grow too fast, creating the need for more frequent maintenance. Your lawn should get around two or three pounds of nitrogen during the growing season as a whole.

Look for a granular fertilizer for your lawn. This is the best choice for homeowners that want to fertilize their lawns themselves, as it’s so simple to apply in the right way just by using a fertilizer spreader. If you plan to have a professional do the work and utilize a tanker truck, they can use a different type. They’re able to work with trickier types, as they have the experience to get it even no matter what.

Keep in Mind How Frequently You Water

The more water your lawn gets, the more it needs to be fed. This is because extra water causes faster growth, and this calls for more fertilizer and the nutrients it contains.

Do you have an automatic sprinkler system? If not, you should be applying fertilizer about every eight weeks. If you do have one, though, the feedings should happen every six weeks.

Make sure to carefully read the label on the fertilizer you choose to find out whether you need to apply water to the lawn before you feed the lawn or after, and if there’s a best time of day to fertilize your lawn.

This is important, so make sure you know what’s what. If you’re using a granulated fertilizer, it will need moisture to be added after its application, to make sure that it can properly break down. Other kinds of fertilizers might need you to abundantly water before application.

Remember to Follow the Instructions!

Green Grass - Family

The specific instructions you need to follow depend on the particular type of fertilizer that you buy, and your lawn fertilizer schedule may vary depending upon the product you use.

You must read the instructions that are set out on the bag and follow them meticulously.

First ascertain the size of the lawn.

Once you’ve done that, you can measure out the correct quantity of fertilizer. It’s important that you refrain from applying a greater amount of fertilizer than the label sets out.

Even distribution of the fertilizer is essential. You will need a high-quality spreader in order to ensure that this is easy to do. This will make sure that the particles of nutrient are evenly distributed over the grass, and this will maintain the health of your lawn, as well as the consistency of color.

What Should You Do if Your Lawn Has an Unusual Shape?

If your lawn is shaped in a bit of a unique way, you should create header strips. Header strips comprise pieces of grass that have already been mowed, where the lawn mower can be turned around with ease). These strips need to be placed around the yard’s entire perimeter.

Ensure that there is a safety zone of at least 20 feet surrounding streams and wells where there will be no application of fertilizer.

Other Lawn Fertilization Tips

When filling your spreader with fertilizer, you should stand on pavement, if possible. This is so you’re able to re-collect and evenly spread whatever you drop.

If any fertilizer ends up on the pavement, you must put it back on the grass. That’s because any fertilizer that you leave on the pavement will make its way to storm drains and therefore streams and eventually rivers.

This is a negative thing for the environment, so be conscientious about this!

Enjoy Your Lovely Green Lawn

With the lawn fertilizer schedule basics I’ve outlined in this article, you now have the information you need to properly apply fertilizer, giving your lawn the essential nutrients it needs to flourish.

You also know the types of fertilizer you should look for and other important tips to keep in mind to get the best possible results.

And if you’re looking for an actionable, detailed plan, grab my free lawn care cheat sheet here.


Improving Your Lawn Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Get my FREE cheat-sheet and learn exactly what to do, and when to do it for a low-maintenance lawn you’ll be proud of.

You’ll get a copy customized for your growing zone.


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.

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