Lawn Fertilizer Schedule

Lawn Fertilizer Schedule (expert 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.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S., a member of our expert panel.

Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Explained

Most major lawn care brands and companies in the United States recommend a 4-times annual application schedule of lawn fertilizers. Typically this includes an application in:

  • early spring,
  • late spring,
  • summer, and
  • fall.

But There’s More to it Than That

General seasonal schedules like this are nice, but this general guidance leaves something to be desired. In my experience, factors like

  • your location,
  • your yard’s micro-climate,
  • the grass type you have, and
  • how local weather conditions are in any given year

should all play a role in guiding you toward the ideal fertilization schedule for your lawn.

And beyond this, why buy and apply fertilizer if you don’t understand what your soil already has available for your grass?

I strongly recommend starting each season with a lab-based soil test so you understand your soil’s pH and macro- and micro-nutrient levels.

Why? Well most homeowners don’t realize that if your pH is 5.5 instead of 6.5 then it’s likely that a third of the nutrients in your fertilizer can’t be utilized by your lawn according to experts.

Buying 3 bags of fertilizer? Might as well throw one of them straight into the trash (or, more accurately, a local waterway).

A good soil test and small tweaks to soil pH and micro-nutrients can actually save you a lot of money, and reduce the amount of fertilizer you need to apply to get results. It’s also better for the environment.

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

So, When Should You Apply Fertilizer to Your Lawn?

I have a free cheat-sheet with a custom schedule and detailed, season-by-season guidance that you can grab right here. It’s a great place to start building your plan for this season. But to be more general…

The First Application

The most effective time of year to do the first fertilizer application of the year is in the early 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 first lawn fertilizer between about mid and late April, but this is general guidance – the best time for you will depend upon local weather conditions.

RELATED: Best Spring Lawn Fertilizers

When You Should Fertilize Next

The second application of fertilizer should be done about 1-2 months after the first.

On what date? Well, Since spring in South Carolina will arrive at a much different time than spring in New Hampshire, I can’t tell you an exact date.

It’s important to base your application schedule on your climate and key seasonal indicators (like lilacs blooming as mentioned above) rather than a specific date.

Anyone who is recommending a lawn fertilization schedule to you should point out these individual nuances of local climate as a way to determine when and how you should fertilize your lawn.

Regardless, a late-spring application will help to ensure your lawn is off to a great start.

Once that is done, re-apply between every six to eight weeks.

Lawn Fertilization Schedule

What About Summer and Fall Applications?

In my northern climate (I’m in Maine), I like to take my foot off the gas and don’t fertilize much in the summer.

This is the time of the year when I apply soil amendments and irrigate if needed. Cool season lawns really grow in spring and fall. Summer is a time where the best thing I can do for lawn health is to help it maintain its strength rather than push a bunch of new growth.

But when fall comes around, it’s time to feed your lawn again to revitalize and strength it before those late-season frosts.

I typically use one of these fall fertilizers at the end of the year, but I also like to top-dress with screened compost to improve soil health and microbial activity.

Regardless – don’t sleep on fall fertilization. Pro-active lawn care in the fall will deliver an amazing spring lawn.

What Should You Look For When Buying Lawn Fertilizer?

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

These figures point to the percentage of Nitrogen (leaf growth), Phosphorus (root growth), and Potassium (plant health). These macro-nutrients are important, as these 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 (N-P-K)

The remainder of the contents of most fertilizer products will have filler material, and the better ones contain high-quality micro-nutrients like Iron.

These are important to pay attention to. Not only do the filler products make it easier to apply the product evenly with your fertilizer spreader, but generally additional products like humic acid, Iron, Magnesium, etc. can help your lawn reach peak performance and the dark green we all want.

A good mixture for your lawn in spring could be something like 20-5-10 (20% nitrogen, 5% phosphate, and 10% potassium), but pay attention to local laws and restrictions before you get out your credit card:

One quick note on the use of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus – some states and communities have passed legislation which bans or limits the use of phosphorus fertilizer due to eutrophication of ponds and streams. For example, in my state (Maine), you are allowed to use it when establishing a new lawn or re-seeding/overseeding an existing lawn, or when a lab-based soil test indicates that phosphorus is needed, but are not allowed to use it outside of these circumstances. I recommend that you check for local restrictions and consider a phosphorus free lawn fertilizer like this one from Jonathan Green.

Expert Perspective

The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience. 

We Asked: What strategies can homeowners use to avoid nutrient runoff and the eutrophication of local waterways while fertilizing their lawns?

Will Answered:  “Phosphorus from fertilizer is known for its negative effects on water health. When applied in excess it can run off into water bodies and cause eutrophication, or excessive nutrients in a body of water. Eutrophication leads to low oxygen levels and can result in dead zones that can no longer support life.”

“Being mindful of both the type of fertilizer you’re using, and the timing of its application can greatly minimize nutrient runoff. Sunday’s lawn plan fertilizers typically exclude phosphorus, helping to reduce runoff and lessen eutrophication concerns. We only include our phosphorus fertilizer pouch if soil tests indicate a deficiency. Our extensive soil test database shows that most lawns aren’t lacking in phosphorus. Additionally, following fertilizer blackout dates, often during the rainy season in coastal states, is another effective way to minimize runoff.”

Will Seip, Expert Lawn Advisor at Sunday

Will Seip

Expert Lawn Advisor at Sunday

Born and raised just south of Buffalo, NY, it has been quite a journey for Will getting to explore warm-season grasses after having a hodgepodge of fescue, bluegrass and rye in his lawn growing up. Will graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, with a concentration in Land, Air and Water Resources.

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.

What Popular Lawn Care Brands Are Recommending

Do you already have a preferred fertilizer brand? Want to compare what major lawn care companies suggest you do for your annual lawn fertilizer schedule?

Well, a lot of these companies take a similar 4x annual approach to lawn fertilization as what I’ve described above.

Click to reveal the recommended fertilizer schedule for these popular brands:


Milorganite's Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Recommendations

Milorganite Fertilizer ScheduleMilorganite recommends a “holiday schedule” for fertilizing lawns, which varies depending on whether you have northern (cool) season grass or southern (warm) season grass. They suggest applying their fertilizer every 8-10 weeks during the grass growing season. Watering in Milorganite after application is not necessary, as it activates with soil moisture and temperature. For overseeding, mix 4 parts Milorganite with 1 part seed by weight.

Milorganite's Recommended Seasonal Fertilization Schedule

Early Spring

Apply Milorganite at the start of the growing season, around a spring holiday (varies by region).

Late Spring

Reapply 8-10 weeks after the early spring application.


Apply during a mid-summer holiday, following the 8-10 week recommended interval.


Final application made in early fall, aligning with fall holiday.

This schedule aligns with Milorganite’s approach of using natural cues (like holidays) to remember application times. The exact dates may vary based on your specific regional climate and grass type.

I have an article which offers a full summary of when to apply Milorganite if you’d like more information.


Scotts Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Recommendations

Scotts Fertilizer Schedule

Scotts recommends a comprehensive lawn care program with specific products for each season. Their schedule is designed to nourish the lawn throughout the year, addressing different needs from early spring to fall.

This schedule is tailored to the specific needs of different grass types and regions, ensuring optimal lawn health and appearance throughout the year. And with Scotts you know you’ll be able to find the products you need locally if you’d prefer that to ordering online.

Scotts Recommended Seasonal Fertilization Schedule

Early Spring

Apply Scotts Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer or Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action for northern lawns. 

Apply Scotts Turf Builder Bonus S Southern Weed & Feed2 or Scotts Turf Builder Southern Triple Action for southern lawns.

Late Spring

Use Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed5 in the North.

Use Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food in the South.


Apply Scotts Turf Builder Summerguard Lawn Food with Insect Control in the North.

Apply Scotts Turf Builder Summer Lawn Food in the South.


In the North, use Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Lawn Food.

In the South, apply Scotts Turf Builder Bonus S Southern Weed & Feed2 for St. Augustine, centipede, or zoysia lawns, and Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed & Feed3 for bermuda lawns.

One thing to note when using Scotts fertilizers is that most of their fertilization products are synthetic. If you’re looking for a more natural and organic approach to lawn care (something that builds your soil instead of just feeding your grass) their products may not be right for you.

I have an article comparing Scotts to Milorganite which you may find interesting.


Pennington's Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Recommendations

Pennington Lawn Fertilization Schedule

Pennington provides a comprehensive annual lawn fertilizer program, with products tailored to the unique grass type and seasonal differences between Northern and Southern lawns. 

Like many other brands, Pennington recommends fertilizing your lawn four times each year, and the fertilizers they recommend are designed to address specific growth habits at different times of the year depending upon where you live in the United States.

Pennington's Recommended Seasonal Fertilization Schedule

Early Spring

Use Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4 for weed prevention and lawn feeding.

Late Spring

In the northern US apply Pennington UltraGreen Weed & Feed 30-0-4 for northern and southern grasses.

In the south, use Pennington UltraGreen Southern Weed & Feed 34-0-4 for southern lawns.


Strengthen lawns against heat and drought with Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4.


Prepare for winter with Pennington UltraGreen Winterizer Plus Weed & Feed Fertilizer 22-0-14, feeding the lawn and controlling broadleaf weeds.

I like that Pennington offers a schedule that’s easy to follow, and a range of products suitable for lawns in different climates and growing zones. I also appreciate that their product line combines weed control and fertilizer for homeowners who like to keep things simple.

I have an article which compares Scotts to Pennington which may be of interest if you’re trying to choose the best option for you.

Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green's Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Recommendations

Jonathan Green Lawn Fertilization Schedule

Jonathan Green (one of my personal favorite lawn care brands) recommends feeding lawns three to four times a year, focusing on key growth periods in spring, summer, and fall. Their products are designed to enhance lawn health, color, and resistance to stress factors like drought and cold.

I personally use their annual lawn care plan on my cool season lawn, and recommend it as the best value among DIY granular fertilizer programs. Because I’m a fan (and customer), I’ve partnered with Jonathan Green to get my readers a special 10% off discount when you use LAWNCHICK10 at checkout.

Jonathan Green's Recommended Seasonal Fertilization Schedule

Early Spring

Apply Veri-Green with Crabgrass Preventer to nourish the lawn and control crabgrass.

Late Spring

Use Veri-Green Weed and Feed to promote strong growth and control broadleaf weeds like dandelion and clover.


Apply MAG-I-CAL Plus soil food to loosen hard soil, balance pH levels, and enhance nutrient absorption.


Use Winter Survival to prepare the lawn for winter, providing nutrients and protection against turf diseases.

This schedule is tailored to maintain a healthy, green lawn throughout the year, with specific products for each season’s unique challenges. Jonathan Green’s line of products combine quick-release and slow-release nitrogen, and plenty of iron for that deep green lawn color we’re all after.

Most homeowners will find that service providers like Lawn Doctor and Trugreen will be more expensive than DIY or even subscription-based lawn care.

How do I know? Well, we recently did a big study of the cost of Trugreen to get the data for you.

You should read the full article, but to provide a little context here’s a comparison of what Lawn Chick’s research showed when we compared 4x annual TruGreen service to premium granular fertilizer programs from Jonathan Green and The Andersons:

How the Cost of Following a DIY Lawn Fertilizer Schedule Compares to Hiring a Service to Do Your Lawn Care

Lawn Size

Cost of Trugreen (TruBasic Plan)

Small Lawn

(3,675 square feet average)




(5,000 sq feet)


(5,000 sq feet)

Mid-Sized Lawn

(9,140 square feet average)



(10,000 sq feet)


(10,000 sq feet)

Large Lawn

(20,302 square feet average)



(25,000 sq feet)


(25,000 sq feet)

Note: This pricing does not include the special 10% discount my readers can enjoy when ordering from either Jonathan Green (use code LAWNCHICK10) or The Andersons (use code LAWNCHICK).

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 find the size of the lawn. You can use my free lawn measuring tool which uses satellite imagery to get an accurate square footage value for your yard.

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.

Also, be aware that some fertilizers contain Iron which can stain concrete and other hardscape materials. Take special note of the ingredient list and plan your application accordingly.

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

If your lawn is shaped in a bit of a unique way, I recommend mapping out distinct lawn areas using easy-to recognize landmarks.

For example, I love to measure my front yard’s square footage, then split my back yard into sections on either side of the big maple tree in the middle. This allows me to fill my spreader’s hopper with smaller, more exact amounts of fertilizer so I don’t over-apply one section, and run out before I finish.

Finally, in each of these sections I start by putting down a header strip around the perimeter, then apply half of my fertilizer in one direction (north-south) and the other half in the opposite direction (east-west):

Spreader Path for Fertilizing Lawn
First half of fertilizer – header strip, followed by north-to-south pattern
Spreader Path for Fertilizing Lawn
Second half of fertilizer – east-to-west pattern to get perfect coverage

This cross-hatch pattern ensures an even, accurate application with no stripes or burned grass.

Also, it’s important to 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.

A good tip that Horticulturist Arthur Davidson (a member of our expert panel) shared with us was to place your spreader on an empty bag of fertilizer when filling the hopper to catch any that spills. This makes clean-up easy.

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, I encourage you to grab my free lawn care cheat sheet here.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



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.

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