Having a healthy lawn is a great way to beautify your property and create a nice place to spend time outside. Unfortunately, lawn care can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure when to fertilize and feed your lawn. So, when should you fertilize your grass, and what should you use?
You should feed your grass maintenance or starter fertilizer early in the year, and slow-release fertilizer throughout the summer months. In September and October, your lawn should receive fall fertilizer and winter fertilizer in November.
The rest of this article is a detailed guide on what to feed your grass and when to do it. If you’re unsure about lawn care or if you’re hoping to boost the health of your lawn, keep reading.
A Monthly Guide to Grass Fertilization
If you’re new to caring for a lawn, maintaining it can feel overwhelming, especially if you consider the many fertilizer varieties and feeders available. Luckily, I’m here to help with a monthly guide to grass fertilization:
It’s the beginning of the year, and if you live in a warmer area, it’s time to give your lawn the best beginning you can! In January, the best thing to feed your lawn is a light amount of maintenance fertilizer. A good maintenance fertilizer has moderate nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels.
Applying this fertilizer can give your grass the nutrients it may miss out on during the winter season.
However, I don’t recommend giving your lawn a full feeding in January. One light application in the middle of the month should be more than enough. Generally, you should use one pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of grass. So, I suggest using half a pound or less per 1,000 square feet for this feeding.
Other than this light feeding, the month of January is an easy one in terms of lawn maintenance. In most cold climates, it may be too early to think of doing any kind of maintenance because your lawn is still covered in snow.
If you live in an area where summer-annual weeds are common, I recommend feeding your grass some pre-emergent herbicide in February.
Pre-emergent weed killers contain toxins that kill summer weeds without damaging your grass. However, you should wait to use this weed killer until the ground temperature is at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius) for two days or longer. If you live in a warm climate, the ground may be warm enough in February, but if you live in an area with a colder climate, you may have to wait a little longer.
My favorite pre-emergent weed control is Scotts Halts Crabgrass & Grassy Weed Preventer, which you can get from Amazon.com. I like this weed killer because just one application prevents crabgrass for the entire season, and you can also use it in the fall for winter weeds. I also like that it is weather resistant, so any snow, rain, or cold temperatures won’t impact the product’s effectiveness.
In March, I recommend feeding your lawn pelletized lime. Lime contains calcium carbonate, which helps raise the pH of your lawn. Most grass needs extra pH after the winter because most lawn grasses need a higher pH than the soil naturally provides.
However, before you apply the lime, I recommend testing your lawn so you don’t damage it. To do this, you’ll need a soil pH test kit. I suggest the Trazon Soil pH Meter from Amazon.com. I like this test kit because it has double-needle detection technology, making it more accurate. I also like that it doesn’t require any batteries.
Grass should have a pH of between 6.5 and 7.0. If your lawn is below that, you will benefit from adding some lime to increase the pH and make the soil less acidic. Lime adds calcium and magnesium and reduces the solubility of aluminum and manganese.
My favorite lime is Natural Alternative Pelletized Lime from Amazon.com. This is an excellent product for many reasons:
- It improves soil structure
- It increases earthworm activity
- It releases trapped nutrients
- It establishes an efficient root system
- It accelerates the decay of organic matter susceptible to disease
To apply the lime to your lawn, use a rotary spreader and walk back and forth. Apply half of the recommended lime amount while walking horizontally and half walking vertically. Then, after you’ve applied all the lime, give your lawn a light watering to help the soil absorb the lime more efficiently.
April is an important month for lawn care. During this month, you should feed your grass a generous dose of maintenance fertilizer if you have followed my instructions thus far and begun with a light dose in January.
However, if you live in colder weather, it’s possible that your grass completely died during the winter, and you need to start a new lawn with starter fertilizer. If this is the case, you should use a high-potassium starter fertilizer on your lawn. The extra potassium in starter fertilizers helps your grass get a jump-start on growing success.
A really fantastic fertilizer is Pennington UltraGreen Starter Lawn Fertilizer from Amazon. It contains 5% iron for extra greenness and 7.8% slow-release nitrogen, in addition to the high potassium content you want from a starter fertilizer. An added benefit is that it helps your grass develop strong, thick roots for health and longevity.
If you started the year with a light feeding of maintenance fertilizer, give your lawn a complete feeding of maintenance fertilizer in April. I recommend doing this feeding (whether with maintenance or starter fertilizer) at the beginning of the month.
At the end of the month, I suggest feeding your lawn another round of pre-emergent weed killer. Pre-emergent weed killers are most effective when you apply them twice because even the best pre-emergent weed killers break down with light and water. This means that by the time the summer comes around, the killer might be worn down and not as effective.
In early May, to give your grass an extra boost, I suggest giving it a light feeding of slow-release fertilizer with extra micronutrients. Micronutrients such as iron, magnesium, and boron are great for grass, so you’ll make your grass happy by giving them this extra nourishment. Additionally, slow-release fertilizer prevents you from over-fertilizing.
Many great slow-release fertilizers are available on the market. However, I recommend EcoScraps Slow-Release Fertilizer from Amazon.com because it provides extended feeding from recycled materials that would otherwise end up as waste. I also like that it helps your grass become greener and more aesthetically pleasing.
In June, you’ll probably notice more weeds than during other times. To combat this issue, you can spot-treat your lawn by applying a post-emergent weed killer on the weeds themselves. Be sure to take care when using post-emergent weed killers because they contain chemicals that can harm children, pets, wildlife, and water sources.
In July, if your lawn seems to be struggling, you should consider applying more slow-release fertilizer to give the grass the boost of extra nutrients it may need. However, you should only do this if your lawn appears visibly unhealthy. If your grass appears healthy, there’s no need to mess with a good thing!
Something else I recommend doing in July is checking your lawn’s pH level. If you need to raise the pH, July is a good time to apply more lime to your grass.
As with July, August is a good time to apply more slow-release fertilizer if your lawn appears to need extra nutrients. If you live in an area with extremely high temperatures, note that your lawn may go dormant. If your grass goes dormant, there’s no reason to fertilize it, as the fertilizer won’t help, and you’ll just be wasting product. Instead, wait and give your grass time to return to health in the colder weather.
If you have warm-season grass, it’s time to prepare for the winter. Warm-weather grasses usually enter dormancy before September, so you need to winterize before then. Winter fertilizer (or winterizer) is a product you should feed your grass before it goes dormant in the winter to encourage food storage and root growth. Warm-season grasses include:
- Scutch grass
- St. Augustine grass
If you’re curious about why you need to fertilize your lawn before it goes dormant, I recommend reading my article on if it is necessary to fertilize your lawn before winter. If you have cool-season grass, you can wait until later in the year to winterize.
If you have cool-season grass and didn’t winterize your lawn in August, you should apply a fall fertilizer in September. The best fall fertilizers are high in phosphorus content because phosphorus encourages healthy root growth, which your grass will need as the temperatures cool down.
I recommend GreenView Fall Lawn Food from Amazon because it helps speed up your grass’s root growth so it can absorb nutrients more efficiently. It also helps your grass retain water if you live in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of rain during the fall months.
You can apply fall fertilizer the same way you applied your maintenance or starter fertilizer earlier in the year. I suggest feeding early in the month because the temperatures can drop quickly in some areas during September.
If you didn’t use fall fertilizer in September, October is the time to do it. October is a little late to apply a fall fertilizer, but it’s better late than never. If you don’t have any fall fertilizer, a high-nitrogen maintenance fertilizer is also helpful during October. I suggest doing this feeding as early as possible in the month.
If you have cool-season grasses, you can winterize in October. However, I recommend doing this at the end of the month or waiting until November.
You can wait until November to apply your winter fertilizer if you have cool-season grass. However, I suggest feeding your grass the winterizer as early in the month as possible. Cool-season grasses include:
- Cat grass
- Finger grass
If you need recommendations on the best winter fertilizer for your lawn, you can check out my article on the best winterizers and when to use them.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need to feed your grass anything during December. If you winterized your lawn in November, there’s nothing further you need to do in December except wait until next year to check in on your grass and encourage new growth in the new year.
For more information about winterizing your grass, check out my article on when to winterize your lawn.
When To Use Fertilizers
If all of the above information is overwhelming, don’t worry! The following table breaks down the information in a clear monthly guide:
|January||One light feeding of maintenance fertilizer in the middle of the month.|
|February||One application of pre-emergent weed killer to prevent summer weeds.|
|March||One application of lime if your soil is too acidic. You can apply lime any time during the month.|
|April||At the beginning of the month, one generous feeding of maintenance fertilizer OR one generous feeding of starter fertilizer if you’re starting a new lawn. |
At the end of the month, one application of pre-emergent weed killer to replace any of the original pre-emergent weed killer that may have broken down due to light and water.
|May||One light feeding of slow-release fertilizer early in the month.|
|June||Spot-treat weeds using post-emergent weed killer.|
|July||One light feeding of slow-release fertilizer if needed. |
One light application of lime if needed.
|August||One light feeding of slow-release fertilizer if needed. If you did a feeding of slow-release fertilizer in July, don’t apply more in August. If your lawn is dormant, don’t apply any fertilizer. |
One feeding of winter fertilizer if you have warm-season grass.
|September||One generous feeding of fall fertilizer early in the month.|
|October||One generous feeding of fall fertilizer early in the month if you didn’t do it in September. |
One generous feeding of winter fertilizer if you have cool-season grass at the end of the month if you don’t plan on doing this feeding in November.
|November||One generous feeding of winterizer early in the month if you have cool-season grass.|
|December||In most cases, you won’t have to do anything in December because you’ll have winterized your lawn in September or November. |
The following table outlines when you should use the various lawn foods:
|Type of Lawn Food||When to Use|
|Maintenance Fertilizer||One light feeding in January One generous feeding in April (if not using a starter fertilizer in April)|
|Pre-Emergent Herbicide||One feeding in February One feeding in late April|
|Slow-Release Fertilizer||One light feeding in early May One light feeding in July, only if needed. One light feeding in August, only if needed and only if you didn’t do a feeding in July.|
|Lime||One application in March One light application in July, only if needed.|
|Post-Emergent Herbicide||Spot-treat trouble spots as needed, especially in June.|
|Fall Fertilizer||One generous feeding in September or early October.|
|Winterizer Fertilizer||One generous feeding in August if you have warm-season grass. One generous feeding in late October or early November if you have cool-season grass.|
|Starter Fertilizer||One generous feeding in April (if starting a new lawn and not using maintenance fertilizer in April)|
With this information in mind, you can confidently cultivate a healthy and beautiful lawn.
How To Apply Lawn Fertilizer
Now that you know what to feed your lawn and when you should do it, let’s discuss how to properly feed your grass to ensure that it gets all the nutrients and benefits of the products you use.
Luckily, fertilizing your lawn is a straightforward process that isn’t too time-consuming for most yards. To apply lawn fertilizer, follow these steps:
- Water your grass three days before you plan on fertilizing.
- Determine the fertilizer you need based on the product’s recommendation and your yard’s square footage.
- Place the right amount of fertilizer in a spreader. A lawn spreader helps you apply the product evenly. Don’t fill the spreader with fertilizer on your lawn in case of spillage.
- Apply the fertilizer on the edges of your lawn first.
- Walk the spreader back and forth across your lawn in straight lines and at an even pace.
- Water your lawn shortly after fertilizing to help the grass absorb the product effectively.
If you follow these steps, you can properly feed your lawn and reap all the benefits of a healthy and beautiful lawn.
One of the best lawn spreaders you can get is the Chapin International Professional SureSpread Spreader, which you can get on Amazon. This spreader has a stainless steel frame that can handle heavy weights, and the gears are made of high-quality metal-alloy material that can withstand wear and tear. I also like that it includes a rain cover, a hopper grate, and an adjustable rotary gate.
Taking care of a lawn is no small undertaking. Maintaining a beautiful and healthy yard takes great care, attention, and high-quality fertilizers and feeders. Still, if you pay attention to your lawn’s needs and use maintenance, starter, fall, and winter fertilizers appropriately, you can keep your grass looking healthy and green for as long as possible.