What Time Of Day Is Best To Fertilize a Lawn? (And Why?)

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Hey there, green thumbs! If you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered when the best time of day is to fertilize your lawn. Well, you’re in luck! I’ve done the research, sifted through the data, and I’m here to give you the lowdown on lawn fertilization.

The best time of day to fertilize your lawn is typically in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler, and the grass is actively growing. This allows the fertilizer to be more efficiently absorbed by the roots and minimizes evaporation or runoff.

In this article, let’s look at the rationale behind fertilizing your lawn at a specific time and other consequences.

Understanding Lawn Fertilization

To make the most of your fertilization efforts, it’s essential to understand the key components of lawn fertilization and the role they play in maintaining a healthy, vibrant lawn.

Nutrient Needs of Your Lawn

Grass requires a variety of nutrients to thrive. The three primary nutrients needed are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These elements are commonly referred to as N-P-K and are represented as numbers on fertilizer packages, such as 10-10-10, indicating the percentage of each nutrient in the product.

  1. Nitrogen (N): Nitrogen promotes leaf and stem growth, giving your lawn its lush, green appearance. It is the most critical nutrient for grass, and a deficiency can result in slow growth, yellowing, and overall poor health.
  2. Phosphorus (P): Phosphorus is vital for strong root development, which helps grass withstand various stresses like drought, disease, and heavy foot traffic. Phosphorus deficiency can lead to weak root systems and slow, stunted growth.
  3. Potassium (K): Potassium enhances overall plant health, including disease resistance and drought tolerance. A lack of potassium can cause a weakened lawn that is susceptible to various diseases, pests, and environmental stresses.

Tip: I’ve written in-depth articles about why plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Check them out!

Now, let’s break down the ideal time of day to fertilize your lawn and why it matters.

Best Time To Fertilize Lawn

Early Morning

Early morning is one of the best times to fertilize your lawn. This is when the temperatures are cooler, which is crucial for two reasons:

  • Fertilizer can be more easily absorbed by the grass roots, as the cooler soil temperature promotes active root growth.
  • Lower temperatures reduce the chance of fertilizer evaporating or being washed away by runoff, ensuring that your lawn gets the full benefits of the nutrients.

An added bonus of fertilizing in the early morning is that the grass is typically covered in dew. The moisture helps dissolve the granules, making it easier for the nutrients to be absorbed by the grass roots. I also cover the pros and cons of applying fertilizer to wet grass here.

Late Afternoon: A Cool Alternative

If you can’t manage to fertilize your lawn in the early morning, the late afternoon is another suitable time. Similar to the morning, the cooler temperatures in the late afternoon or early evening promote nutrient absorption and minimize evaporation. Just be sure to avoid fertilizing too late in the evening, as this can encourage fungal growth.

Consequences of Fertilizing at the Wrong Time

So, what happens if you don’t fertilize on time? I’ve had these questions when I was a beginner.

You’re not alone with this question.

Fertilizing your lawn at the wrong time can lead to a variety of issues that can negatively impact the health and appearance of your grass.

Before we get into detail, here’s a table giving you a better understanding.

Time PeriodConsequence of Fertilizing at this Time
Early MorningIdeal: Efficient nutrient absorption, minimized evaporation and runoff, dew helps dissolve granules
Late MorningAcceptable: Moderate nutrient absorption, reduced risk of evaporation and fertilizer burn compared to midday
MiddayNot Recommended: Reduced nutrient absorption, increased risk of evaporation, potential for fertilizer burn
Early AfternoonNot Recommended: Similar issues as midday, but slightly lower risk due to decreasing temperatures
Late AfternoonIdeal: Efficient nutrient absorption, minimized evaporation and runoff, cooler temperatures promote root growth
Early EveningAcceptable: Lower temperatures promote nutrient absorption, but risk of fungal growth if fertilizing too late in the evening
Late Evening/NightNot Recommended: Increased risk of fungal growth, reduced sunlight for photosynthesis, nutrient absorption may be hindered

Some potential problems include:

Reduced nutrient absorption

Fertilizing during the hottest part of the day, such as midday, can result in reduced nutrient absorption by the grass roots. The high temperatures can cause the fertilizer to evaporate before it has a chance to penetrate the soil, leaving your lawn with fewer nutrients than it needs to thrive.

Fertilizer burn

Applying fertilizer when the sun is intense and temperatures are high can lead to “fertilizer burn.” This occurs when the fertilizer’s salts draw moisture out of the grass blades, causing them to turn brown and dry. Fertilizer burn can leave unsightly patches on your lawn and may require reseeding or resodding to repair the damage. If you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation of why fertilizer can lead to fertilizer burn, check out this article here.

Runoff and pollution

Fertilizing when the soil is overly saturated or during heavy rain can cause the fertilizer to wash away before it has a chance to be absorbed by the grass roots. This runoff can carry the nutrients into nearby waterways, contributing to pollution and potentially harming aquatic life.

Wasted resources

Fertilizing at the wrong time can lead to wasted resources, both in terms of the fertilizer itself and the time and effort you put into applying it. If the fertilizer isn’t effectively absorbed by your lawn, you may need to reapply it, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Increased risk of disease and pests

Fertilizing at the wrong time can create an environment that is more susceptible to disease and pests. For example, fertilizing too late in the evening can encourage fungal growth, while an undernourished lawn may be more prone to insect infestations.

Poor root development

Applying fertilizer at the wrong time can lead to suboptimal root growth. Healthy root development is crucial for a robust and resilient lawn, and poor timing of fertilization can hinder this process, leaving your grass more vulnerable to stress and damage.

To avoid these issues, it’s essential to follow best practices when it comes to fertilizing your lawn. This includes choosing the right fertilizer, applying it at the correct rate, and, most importantly, fertilizing at the appropriate time of day and year. By doing so, you’ll give your lawn the best chance to grow strong, healthy, and beautiful.

Seasonal Considerations

In addition to the time of day, the time of year also plays a significant role in the effectiveness of your lawn fertilization efforts. Generally, it’s best to fertilize during the growing season, when your grass is actively growing and can make the most of the added nutrients. For cool-season grasses, this typically means fertilizing in the spring and fall, while warm-season grasses should be fertilized in the late spring and summer.

Tip: I’ve also written a very detailed article about what fertilizer to use in which month.

However, keep in mind that these guidelines can vary depending on your specific grass type and climate. Consulting with your local garden center or extension office can help you determine the best fertilization schedule for your lawn.


How often should I fertilize my lawn?

The frequency of lawn fertilization depends on the type of grass you have and the climate in your area. Generally, it’s recommended to fertilize your lawn 2-4 times per year. Check with your local garden center or extension office for more specific guidelines for your region.

What type of fertilizer should I use?

There are many types of fertilizers available, including granular, liquid, and organic options. The best fertilizer for your lawn will depend on the specific needs of your soil and grass type. A soil test can help you determine which nutrients are lacking in your soil and help you choose the right fertilizer.

Can I fertilize my lawn if it’s wet?

It’s best to avoid fertilizing a wet lawn, as this can increase the risk of runoff and make it more difficult for the nutrients to be absorbed by the grass roots. Aim to fertilize when the soil is moist but not saturated.


In a nutshell, the best time of day to fertilize your lawn is in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler and your grass is actively growing. This ensures that your lawn can efficiently absorb the nutrients it needs to thrive. It’s also essential to consider the time of year and your specific grass type and climate when planning your fertilization schedule.

Now that you know the perfect time to fertilize your lawn, you’re well on your way to achieving a lush, green landscape that’s the envy of the neighborhood. So, grab your fertilizer spreader and get ready to enjoy a happier, healthier lawn. And remember, timing is everything!

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