How To Fertilize a Lawn

If you’re interested in surrounding your home with lush, green grass throughout the summer months, you’re going to need to be diligent about lawn maintenance and fertilization. Requiring minimal experience and just a few hours of work, fertilizing your lawn is an easy weekend project that can lead to incredible results throughout the warmer months of the year. In this article we’re going to explore the ins-and-outs of lawn fertilization, ensuring that you have the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed in your lawn care efforts.

Tools Needed

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Proper lawn fertilization requires only a handful of tools, most of which will be already available at home or are easily accessible at local hardware stores. To start, you’re going to need a spreader. This will be the wheeled carrying basket that will allow you to disperse your fertilizer across the lawn. A spreader will help to ensure that fertilizer is evenly distributed, and will have you completing the job in a fraction of the time it would take to complete by hand. Aside from a spreader, you’re also going to need a hose for watering purposes and a broom.

With your tools now ready, you can begin to determine the fertilizer type your lawn needs and get to work.

Determining Fertilizer Type

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Depending on the type of lawn you’re working with, and the goal of your fertilization, there are a variety of different fertilizers at your disposal. Lawn fertilizers are commonly distinguished by the N-P-K numbers assigned to their bags. These letters stand for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K), and they represent the weight percentage of the assigned nutrient in the fertilizer.

Nitrogen helps the grass grow and maintain a deep green colour, Phosphorus encourages deep root development, and Potassium provides overall health and offers resistance against disease and drought. Below are a few different fertilizer options from which you can choose:

  1. Slow-Release:
    Slow-release fertilizers work best for well-developed lawns that need long-term support. Their composition allows them to release nutrients to the grass slowly, providing no immediate boost to health but allowing for sustainable development.
  2. Fast-Release:
    Fast-release fertilizers work best for lawns needing a quick boost. Because the nutrients are immediately released to the grassroots, the grass will begin to show very quick progress.
  3. Weed and Feed:
    Weed-and-feed is best for lawns that need both growth encouragement and weed management. This 2-in-1 formula will kill weeds while at the same time providing nutrients to the grass to support long-term, sustainable growth.
  4. Organic Materials – Compost and Manure:
    Organic fertilizers, like compost and manure, are essentially a natural version of slow-release fertilizers. These options will provide long-term nutrients to your lawn that will encourage sustainable growth, without compromising the health of the lawn or putting any chemicals in the soil.
  5. Liquid Fertilizers:
    Liquid fertilizers offer the ability to spray your lawn with a chemical solution that will encourage growth and help maintain long-term lawn stability. Although similar in nature to granular fertilizer in terms of nutrient value, they offer a unique dispersion of nutrients through water form and have an ability to interact with the grass and soil at a quicker rate.

Measure Your Fertilizer

Once you’ve decided on the fertilizer you’re going to use, the next step is to measure out the amount of fertilizer that your lawn will need. The bag containing your fertilizer should offer a detailed description of how much fertilizer is required, but be sure to measure the size of your lawn to ensure that you aren’t using too much or too little.

Fill the Spreader

With your fertilizer measured, it’s now time to fill your spreader. Complete this step on your driveway or road – anywhere that isn’t the lawn itself and is easy to clean if a spill occurs. Remember that fertilizer remaining on hard surfaces will be swept into storm drains during storms, and so it’s important to sweep up any spillage and place it on the lawn or in a garbage bag.

Apply the Fertilizer

Once your spreader is full, the next step is to apply your fertilizer. Start with your spreader at one end of your lawn and work your way from side to side. The key to successful fertilizer application is even distribution, and so you’ll want to follow a clear path back and forth across the lawn, paying close attention to the fertilizer overlap. If your lawn isn’t a perfect square or rectangle, it may be easiest to work from the outside in to ensure that every inch of the lawn gets treated.

Spread Evenly

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Touching again on the importance of even spreading, you won’t see the fruits of your fertilizing labour unless you ensure that the fertilizer itself is evenly distributed throughout the lawn. Your fertilizer will dispense seed at a rate that is aligned with the speed of your walking, and so it’s best to keep a steady pace the entire time you’re moving. Be sure to watch out for divots or ruts that may cause fertilizer to spill onto the lawn, and pay close attention to any fertilizer pileup as you make your way through the lawn.


Once your fertilizer has been applied, and assuming you aren’t using a combination or liquid fertilizer, you’re going to need to water your lawn in order to get the fertilizer to the roots of the grass. You’re going to want to adequately water your lawn so that the fertilizer can take action. The fertilizer bag should have watering directions on it, outlining the necessary watering amounts and scheduling best-practices.


Lawn Grass Maintenance

For a healthy, lush lawn, you’re going to want to fertilize every 6-8 weeks. Regular cutting and fertilization will allow the soil to replenish itself as the summer months progress, and this regular maintenance will encourage health for years into the future. A generally accepted practice is to feed your lawn once in the early spring, once in late spring, once in summer, and one final time in the fall. The specifics of your fertilization will depend on the type of grass you have and the area in which you live, but as a general rule it should encourage a thick, healthy lawn that is free from weeds.

Lawn Fertilizing Tips

In order to ensure that your lawn is best prepared for long-term success, there are a few key fertilizing tips that you’ll want to keep in mind.

  1. When to Fertilize Warm-Season Grasses:
    If you’re working with warm-season grasses, like Bermudagrass or Centipedegrass, you’re going to want to fertilize somewhere between late spring and early summer. This is when the grass will begin to flourish, and the assistance of some well-timed fertilizer will go a long way in pushing it to its full potential. You can apply a second dose of fertilizer mid-season, but don’t put any on beyond the beginning of September.
  2. When to Fertilize Cool-Season Grasses:
    Similar to warm-season grasses, cool-season grasses will prosper if fertilized just before their peak growing season. This is because the fertilizer will interact with the grass roots at the exact moment they’re beginning to sprout up. For cool-season grasses, like Kentucky Bluegrass and Bentgrass, it’s best to fertilize at the beginning of fall. You can add more as the season progresses, with your last treatment being just as the grass begins to discolour for the winter months.
  3. Compost as Fertilizer:
    If you’re looking to build and feed soil, whilst helping encourage grass growth, compost should be on your radar. The microorganisms and micronutrients of compost will do a wonderful job of restoring your grass and soil to full health, and the natural composition will prevent the nitrogen leaching that is common with many store-bought fertilizers.
  4. When to Use Compost:
    If you’re planning to use compost on your lawn, it can be done both on it’s own and combined with a lawn aeration. You’ll want to spread a thin layer at the beginning of spring to encourage season-long lushness, and additional compost can be added mid-year to keep the lawn and soil healthy.
  5. Why Fertilize After Soil Aeration:
    Soil aeration exposes the underbody of your lawn to natural elements, and it’s a wonderful time to introduce growth-enhancing compost and fertilizer. Because aeration allows the fertilizer to travel into the soil, it can better seat itself and fuse with the grass roots. Although aeration is not necessary for successful fertilization, it’s a wonderful tool to increase the likelihood of success.
  6. Grass-Cycling:
    To grass cycle means to leave your grass clippings on the lawn following a cut as a way of fertilizing. Natural grass clippings can provide up to 25 percent of your lawn’s fertilization requirements, and it’s an incredibly easy way of saving time and money on lawn maintenance. Pairing grass-cycling with a few regular fertilizer sessions will give your lawn the best likelihood of long-term success, and it can be done using the mower you’ve already got on hand. To get more out of the cutting experience, you can place a mulching blade on your lawn mower, which cuts grass into smaller pieces that allow them to decompose quicker. This, however, is not a required step.
  7. Failure to Test the Soil:
    One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when it comes to lawn maintenance is not adequately testing soil prior to fertilization. You’ll want to collect soil samples from all across your lawn so that you can test the nutrient levels, as well as your soil pH levels, and determine what is needed to promote long term health. As a quick step at the beginning of your lawn maintenance journey, it’s important that you test your soil to ensure all of your following efforts are well-informed and set up for success.


Do I fertilize before or after mowing?

Yes, you should mow your lawn prior to fertilization. The primary reason for doing so is that you want to ensure that your fertilizer has been evenly distributed throughout the lawn, and the best way to do that is by not introducing any distress prior to application. Your lawn maintenance process should be to mow, fertilize, and then water your lawn, this being the recipe for success over time.

Can you over fertilize your lawn? What are signs of over fertilizing?

Yes, you certainly can over fertilize your lawn. By applying too much fertilizer over time you can damage your turf roots and the ability for your grass to effectively grow and maintain health. The most visible signs of overfertilization are brown and yellow grass tips, minimal growth following fertilizer application, and limp roots. If you notice any of these, it’s an indication that you should lay off the fertilizer and give your lawn some time to recover.

What do you do if you over fertilize your lawn?

If you’ve accidentally overfertilized your lawn, the quickest route to recovery will involve water and time. While most over-fertilizing issues can be solved by pairing adequate watering with a pause in fertilizer usage, some major damage may require that you replace the damaged grass.

What are the benefits of putting fertilizer on my lawn?

There are several benefits to putting fertilizer on your lawn, the most important being that it will encourage long-term growth and health. Proper fertilization will allow your lawn to stay beautifully lush, green, and healthy, long into the future.

How long do I need to keep kids and pets off the lawn after fertilizing?

Once you’ve fertilized and watered your lawn, it’s best to keep children and pets off for a minimum of 24-72 hours. This time will allow the fertilizer to absorb into the soil without disruption, offering the highest likelihood of success. Be sure to adequately water your grass during the days following fertilization, especially if you have children and pets playing on it.

Does fertilizer ever expire?

If fertilizer is properly stored, it should not go bad. Be sure to keep your fertilizer in a cool, dry place so that it will remain healthy and effective over time.

If you’re looking for expert fertilization support and service, Sodding Canada is here to help. With years of experience in the lawncare space, our professional team is ready to help you achieve the lawn of your dreams. Contact us today to learn more!