If you want a lush, green lawn similar to what you would see on the cover of a magazine, your lawn is going to require a professional grade fertilizer with regular applications.
When applied at appropriate intervals and in the correct amounts, fertilizer will provide your grass with the nutrients it needs to grow thickly, as well as fortify it against insects, weeds, and other environmental stresses.
How often you should fertilize your lawn will depend on the climate you live in and what type of grass you are growing.
Here’s what you DON’T want to do…
There is no benefit to overfeeding your lawn.
It won’t make your grass grow faster, thicker, or greener. In reality, over-applying fertilizer will actually damage the surrounding environment.
If too much nitrogen accumulates in the soil, it can “burn” turf grass, which will cause the grass to turn brown and die.
For most residential lawns, two to four applications of fertilizer each year will suffice to provide the grass with what it needs.
Exactly when these fertilizer applications are applied depends, in part, on the climate you live in, but the most important determining factor will be what type of grass is being grown.
Ideally, you will want to fertilize your lawn when your grass type is doing most of its growing. During a lawn’s active growth period, it can be fertilized every six to eight weeks.
You don’t want to push growth when your lawn is stressed – such as the middle of the summer for cool season grasses.
Identifying Your Grass
There are dozens of different varieties of grass, but there are two primary types: warm season grass and cool season grass.
Here is a cool guide from Scotts to help you identify your grass type:
Most warm season grasses grow in Southern climates, while cool season grasses are most commonly found in Northern states.
Roughly about a third of the country resides in a “transitional zone“, where both types of grasses can be adequately grown.
Cool Season Grasses
Common examples of cool-season grasses include perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, turf type tall fescue, bent grass, and fine fescue.
Typically, these grasses do the majority of their growing during the spring and winter months. They should, subsequently, be fertilized during the fall months.
A second application of fertilizer can be applied during late spring or early summer.
Although most cool season grasses remain green all year round, you should avoid fertilizing them during the summer heat. The growth of cool season grasses naturally slows down during the summer months, and applying fertilizer during this time can actually weaken your lawn.
Warm Season Grasses
Common varieties of warm season grasses include buffalo grass, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine grass.
During the winter, warm season grasses go partially dormant, since the majority of their growth occurs during the summer.
Ideally, warm season grasses should only be fertilized between May and August. Doing so will provide them with a plethora of nutrients for their active growth period.
Pay attention to local fertilizer bans (FL has a quite a few). Municipalities enact fertilizer bans to discourage runoff during heavy summer thunderstorms.
With warm season grasses, it is important not to fertilize them too early during the spring, or else you run the risk of encouraging cool weed growth. Conversely, if you fertilize warm season grasses too late in the fall, the grass will become less hardy and will be much more susceptible to winter damage.
The Best Time of Day to Fertilize
After you’ve determined the best time of year in which to fertilize your grass, there are several other considerations you’ll need to take into account.
Generally, the best time to fertilize your lawn is after a thorough watering or a hard rain if you are using a granular fertilizer.
You’ll need to consult your local weather forecast to make sure that you won’t be laying down fertilizer right before a big rain storm. Even a small amount of rain can cause the nutrients in the fertilizer to wash away before the grass has a chance to absorb and use them.
If you are using a liquid fertilizer, you generally don’t need to water it in since you will already mixing it with water when you are applying it.
I generally prefer slow-release organic fertilizers such as Milorganite or Ringer since they are virtually dummy proof – meaning it’s nearly impossible to burn your lawn with them.
I also like the smell and the color of the lawn after putting them down.