How Often Should I Fertilize My Lawn?
While There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Lawn Fertilization, Your Grass Species Plays a Significant Part
A lush, green lawn lays the groundwork for a welcoming and eye-catching outdoor space. But to encourage healthy, sustainable growth, your grass needs food. Lawn fertilization is an essential step in caring for your landscape and ensures your grass has the proper nutrients to thrive.
Although these nutrients are crucial to achieving a picturesque lawn, fertilizing at just any point in time can do more harm than good. Too much fertilizer can cause “fertilizer burn,” which shows up as strips or patches of yellow or brown grass. But too little fertilizer, and you will experience inadequate growth that leaves your lawn open to damage from weeds and pests.
To help grow grass that is sure to turn neighbors’ heads, check out this complete guide on how often and when to fertilize your lawn.
Determining the Best Lawn Fertilizer for Your Needs
Lawn fertilizers generally consist of three key nutrients at various concentrations:
On any fertilizer label, you will find what is called the NPK ratio, which indicates the percentage of each nutrient. For example, an 18-6-12 fertilizer contains 18% nitrogen, 6% phosphorus, and 12% potassium.
Ultimately, each of these nutrients serves a different purpose to improve grass health. Most fertilizers’ highest nutrient percentage is nitrogen, because it is a vital contributor to leaf growth and your grass’ rich green color. Phosphorus promotes strong root growth, while potassium aids in better water and nutrient absorption.
To figure out the right NPK ratio for your lawn, consider a soil test. This can help identify which nutrients your soil has enough of and which could use an extra boost.
When to Fertilize Your Lawn - And How Often
Your lawn fertilization schedule is heavily influenced by the kind of grass you have. Most turfgrasses can be divided into two main groups: cool- and warm-season grasses. And because Kansas is considered within the transitional region, we see both.
Here are recommendations for fertilizing your lawn based on your grass type:
Cool-Season Grasses: Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are two of the most common cool-season grasses. Experts suggest a five-step lawn fertilization regiment for grasses that fall into this category. Two feedings are necessary in spring to maintain lawn health and keep pesky weeds at bay. Because these varieties flourish in cooler weather, summer fertilization preserves your lawn’s rich green color, reduces stress caused by the season’s heat, and helps your grass outcompete invasive species. Not to mention, this is also a great time for grub control.
A fourth fertilization should happen in late summer or early-to-mid fall, followed by a final feeding in late fall. By doing this, you can ensure weeds remain in check and prepare your lawn for winter.
Warm-Season Grasses: Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass, buffalograss, and zoysia grass, hit peak growth during the hot summer months. To help these varieties build up strength for a productive growing season, they should be fertilized in late spring or early summer. A good rule of thumb is to apply a treatment once your grass has turned green and you have mowed at least once or twice.
A second lawn fertilization in late summer or early fall replenishes the soil nutrients your grass used to stay thick and full during the hottest days of the year. It also helps fill out your lawn ahead of winter, leaving little room for cool-weather weeds to work their way in.
Your lawn may need to be fertilized more or less frequently depending on the condition of your grass. Everyone’s yard is just a little bit different. But remember, over-fertilizing can be just as detrimental to your grass as under-fertilizing. You may consider soil amendments as well, which come with their own host of benefits, including increased soil health and water retention. A lawn care specialist can assess your unique needs and create a custom lawn fertilization treatment plan.
Environmental Factors That Impact Lawn Fertilization
Fertilizing your lawn during droughts or heavy rainfall can adversely affect the health of your grass and reduce the overall effectiveness of the fertilizer application.
Fertilizer needs to be watered in, so it cannot be absorbed properly during a drought, thus impacting grass growth and leaving surface burns across your lawn. On the other hand, heavy rain washes away fertilizer, preventing it from reaching grass roots. This can also create harmful runoff that pollutes nearby waterways.
For the best results, wait until after a drought or rainstorm to apply any sort of lawn fertilization treatment. This ensures optimal absorption and keeps your grass - and the environment - in better condition.
Do I Need Lawn Fertilizer Service?
While there are several lawn fertilization options available at your local garden center, a DIY approach is not necessarily the best course of action. Lawn fertilization can be complex, and it takes a trained hand to make sure the job is done right.
A lawn fertilizer service saves you time spent puzzling over product labels and the appropriate treatment process and the effort of application. Additionally, professionals will be able to develop an ideal schedule for your lawn, so you never have to worry about over- or under-fertilizing.
Tackling lawn fertilization on your own can quickly go south. By partnering with an expert, you can be confident you will grow greener, healthier grass after each application. Contact a lawn fertilization specialist near you for more information.