13-13-13 fertilizer or ‘triple-13’ fertilizer contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium in equal ratio. These three nutrients are necessary for a plant’s overall healthy growth, but each plant needs a different amount of each nutrient. Due to the combination of the three elements mentioned above, it is also called N-P-K fertilizer.
13-13-13 fertilizer is good for lawns since its nutrient balance boosts green, healthy grass growth and a robust root structure. However, it is not the best choice for established grass since older growth needs high nitrogen and minimal phosphorus and potash formula.
So let’s discuss in detail when it’s best to use 13-13-13 fertilizer and when to use something else. I’ll tell you how to choose the right fertilizer for your lawn and show you some of the best fertilizer options in the market.
When Should You Use 13-13-13 Fertilizer?
13-13-13 fertilizer contains equal amounts of nitrate, phosphorus, and potassium.
The three primary nutrients used in N-P-K fertilizers help plants differently. Nitrogen boosts chlorophyll production and supports plant foliage and growth, phosphorus aids root development and flowering. Potassium regulates the flow of water and nutrients within the plant body and makes it disease-free.
You should use 13-13-13 fertilizer when you have a freshly seeded lawn because initially, grass needs all three nutrients (N-P-K) to grow and develop. However, it is not the best choice every time you feed your lawn because older grass needs less phosphorus.
Grass doesn’t need profound root structures, and it doesn’t flower, so it doesn’t need much phosphorus as it grows.
Instead, grass needs more nitrogen to encourage healthy growth. Hence, no or minimal amounts of phosphorus and potassium will do. Therefore, 13-13-13 fertilizer doesn’t do much for a lawn that already has plenty of deeply-rooted grasses.
Higher potassium than phosphorus and more nitrogen is perfect for a rooted, established lawn. The formula should look something like this: 20-5-10 or 4:1:2. Numbers denote the percentage and ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively.
How To Choose the Right Fertilizer for Lawns
Iowa State University Extension suggests that before feeding nutrients to the lawn, you need to figure out what it needs. For example, a newly seeded or laid sod has different nutrient needs than the established lawns.
So, let’s talk about new lawns first. In the initial stages, grass needs all three nutrients. Ideally, a fertilizer should contain N-P-K nutrients in a 3:1:2 ratio. Phosphorus will help grass develop a strong root structure to face the stress in extreme seasons and regrow quickly.
However, established lawns don’t need much phosphorus at all. On the other hand, potassium helps grass build a robust tolerance system in stress-like situations and keep it disease-free. The formula should look like 4:1:2 or 2:0:1 N-P-K.
Deficiency and excess of nutrients can both damage the plants. So, it’s usually best to run a soil test before you fertilize a lawn.
Types of Lawn Fertilizers
There are two main types of lawn fertilizers:
Fast release fertilizers respond quickly to make the grass greener. They generally come in liquid form and easily dissolve in cold soil. They are inexpensive too, but you’ll likely have to apply them more often in smaller quantities.
That’s because fast-release fertilizers provide a sudden boom of nutrients in the soil, and they do not hold up for more extended periods. These nutrients can also burn the grass if used in excess amounts, so you’ll have to be cautious not to over-fertilize with these products.
Controlled release fertilizers slowly dissolve in the soil, making them more stable and a bit easier to use. Slow-release fertilizers are far less likely to burn your grass.
This form of fertilizer generally comes in granular form that won’t dissolve well in cold soil, so it’s not ideal for people in colder climates or during an early fertilization period. In addition, controlled-release fertilizers are comparatively expensive.
5 Best Fertilizers for Lawns
Lawn fertilizers are different from those used in flower or fruit gardens. Using garden fertilizer can burn the lawn grass, killing your entire lawn. On the other hand, a good fertilizer will develop a healthy turf and stop weeds from growing.
Before selecting and applying fertilizer, your goal must be clear. So, consider whether you want to have green grass, revive the grass after extreme climate, or start new seeds.
Choosing a product according to your needs and applying it by following directions given by the manufacturer can ensure that you get the results you want.
Here are some best lawn fertilizers for greener grass and a weed-free lawn:
1. The Andersons Professional PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer with Humic DG
The Andersons PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer (link to Amazon.com) is a typical fertilizer formulated for lawns. The formula does not contain any phosphorus, so it is ideal for established lawns.
This blend also contains 2% iron and humic acid, giving the grass a healthy look with dark green color. An 18lbs (8.16 kg) package is sufficient for 5,000 square ft (464.51 square meters).
2. Scotts Natural Lawn Food
Scotts Natural Lawn Food (available on Amazon.com) is perfect for those who want a natural fertilizer for their lawn. Due to the organic components, it is safe for kids and pets, and you won’t need to wait for a few days to walk over the grass after feeding.
Scotts natural lawn food is a controlled release formula that releases nitrogen to the soil over a few weeks. Organic products are always better to use both for the grass and the environment.
3. Jonathan Green & Sons Inc (12414) Winter Survival Fall Fertilizer
If you’re worried about the upcoming winters that will destroy your hard work put on the lawn, don’t worry this time. Jonathan Green & Sons Winter Survival Fall Fertilizer (link to Amazon.com) has a perfect blend for you!
It is best to apply this fertilizer during mid-falls to strengthen the grass and help it survive cold winters. A 45 lbs (20.4 kg) package will cover 15,000 square feet (464.51 square meters).
4. Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer
Two main challenges while starting a brand new seedling are to promote thick root growth and avoid weeds. Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer (available on Amazon.com) is the perfect choice for the first application. It also includes weed prevention for even grass without the crap.
The slow-release formula provides nutrients over six weeks, ensuring new healthy shoots of green grass. One package covers up to 5,000 square ft (464.51 square meters).
5. Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed
Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed Fertilizer (available on Amazon.com) will give various grasses pointy, soft, and dense growth. It also includes weed preventers that crowd out the unwanted weeds.
A 14.29 lbs (6.5 kg) pack covers 5,000 square ft (464.51 square meters) area. It is best to feed during fall and spring to prepare the lawn for winters and summer, respectively.