When To Fertilize Your Lawn: Best DIY Tips

The Best Time To Fertilize a Lawn and Annual Lawn Care Plan For Homeowners

A healthy, green lawn is the envy of the neighborhood. But it takes more than mowing and watering to keep your lawn looking its best – You also need to know when to Fertilize a Lawn.

Fertilizer provides the nutrients that your grass needs to grow strong and healthy. It also helps to prevent weeds and diseases. But not all fertilizers are created equal. Some are better suited for certain times of the year than others.

For homeowners who are unfamiliar with When and How to fertilize their lawns, here is a  Basic Lawn Treatment plan you can follow;

Seasonal Lawn Fertilizer Plan for Homeowners (DIY)

Best Spring Fertilizer
Best Fertilizer for Spring – Besthomegear.com

Lawn Care Treatment in Early Spring

In Early Spring, apply a “Pre-emergent” Weed preventer such as a Pre-Emergent Crabgrass and Weed killer, ensuring the ground has reached 55 degrees or warmer. If any colder, the treatment will not be effective.

Lawn Tips for Spring

In the spring, your lawn is just starting to wake up from its winter slumber. Now is the time to give it a boost of nutrients to help it grow strong and healthy. A good spring fertilizer will contain a high level of nitrogen.

When buying a fertilizer high in Nitrogen, look for the “N” level percentage; this will help your grass grow quickly and fill any bare spots.  Most fertilizers marked as Weed & Feed will be suitable for Spring applications.

Best Fertilizer for Summer - Best Home Gear
Best Summer Fertilizer -Besthomegear.com

Best Lawn Fertilizer for Summer

The summer is a time of growth for your lawn. It will need regular fertilization to keep up with the demands of the heat and sun. A good summer fertilizer such as Scotts Summerguard will contain a balanced blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This will help your grass stay green and healthy all summer long. 

Best Lawn Care in Fall

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, your lawn will start to slow down its growth. But it’s still important to fertilize it in the fall. A good fall fertilizer, such as Scotts Winterguard, will contain a high potassium level.

This will help your grass prepare for the winter by strengthening its roots and making it more disease-resistant.

Best Fall Fertilizer - Best Home Gear
Best Fertilizer for Fall – Besthomegear.com


In the winter, your lawn will go dormant. It will need very little fertilizer during this time. But if you live in an area with harsh winters, you may want to apply a light fertilizer in the early spring to help your lawn recover from the cold.

This seasonal lawn fertilizer program will keep your lawn looking its best all year.

What Do Those Fertilizer Numbers Mean?

First, it helps to understand Fertilizer Designations on each bag so that when buying fertilizer, you will know which formula to purchase – and when to apply it to your lawn.  

There are three main elements in lawn fertilizer: nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus, and below is a photo of how the Fertilizer Elements (by percentage) appear on the bag:

what do fertilizer numbers on bag mean - best home gear
Fertilizer Element Numbers Image (Photo credit:  Shellsfeed.com)

These element symbols are N (Nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (Potassium or Potash), and the percentage of each element will always be listed on the fertilizer bag in this same order. N-P-K.

The numbers printed on the fertilizer bag above, for example (5-10-10), indicate a percentage of 5% Nitrogen (makes lawn green), 10% Phosphorous (builds healthy roots), and 10% Potassium (maintains good roots and prevents stress).

Knowing the elements indicated for each fertilizer element, you can select the best fertilizer per season. 

Note:  If you prefer to buy a lawn care fertilizer plan without wading through the fertilizer elements for each season, check out the package below from Scotts.

Best Four Season Package:  Scotts Lawn Care Plan

Scotts Turf Builder Plan for Small Northern Lawns with Halts, Weed & Feed, SummerGuard and WinterGuard Fall Lawn Fertilizer

With Scott’s Four Season Lawn Care Plan, you will apply pre-Measured ingredients of N-P-K in Early Spring Pre-Emergent Weed Control, Spring – Weed & Feed, Summer – Summerguard, and Fall – Winterguard applications.

NOTE:  Be sure to wait until the ground temperature is maintained at 55 degrees or warmer before applying fertilizer.

Additional Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn:

* Choose a fertilizer that is appropriate for your grass type. Northern Grasses such as Kentucky blue, Fescue, or Rye vs. Bermuda or Zoysia Grass in warm Southern Climates.

* Apply the fertilizer according to the directions on the label, and never fertilize with ground temperatures below 55 degrees.

* Water your lawn thoroughly after fertilizing.

* Avoid fertilizing your lawn on windy days.

* Don’t fertilize your lawn if it’s been recently mowed.

Following these tips, you can safely and effectively fertilize your lawn and keep it looking its best.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When is the Best Time To Fertilize a Lawn?

The best time to fertilize your lawn is “while it is growing”.  No matter what type of grass you may have, lawns require nutrients most, while they are in the growing stage.

For northern cool-climate grasses apply fertilizer in the spring and fall, and for warm-climate grasses, you should apply fertilizer in the late spring or in early summer.

What is the “Best Way” to Apply Lawn Fertilizer?

The two Best Ways to apply lawn fertilizer are to use a “Broadcast spreader” or a “Drop spreader” application.

Method #1:  Broadcast Fertilizer Spreader

A broadcast spreader is the most common method of applying fertilizer to your lawn. To broadcast apply fertilizer, you need a broadcast spreader, which projects fertilizer with a fan wheel distributing fertilizer in a broad path up to 10 Feet wide.

Broadcast spreaders come in various sizes so that you can choose the right size for your lawn.

Our top-rated broadcast spreader is Scott’s Elite Spreader which is suited to hold 20,000 square feet of lawn fertilizer.

To use a broadcast spreader, fill it with fertilizer and walk back and forth across your lawn, overlapping each pass by about 50%. This will ensure that the fertilizer is evenly distributed.

Method #2:  Drop Application Fertilizer Spreader

A Drop Fertilizer application is a more precise method of applying fertilizer, usually preferred by those with smaller lawns.

A drop spreader feeds fertilizer directly to the lawn below the spreader, vs. a wide path broadcast spreader which may not be suitable for small or sectioned-off lawns.

Drop spreaders come in various sizes and styles, and again you choose the right size for your lawn size.  If you prefer to buy a drop spreader, we like the no-nonsense Miracle-Gro drop spreader.

Fill a drop spreader with fertilizer and walk back and forth across your lawn, placing the fertilizer directly on the grass. This method is best for small lawns with many obstacles, such as trees or shrubs.

No matter which method you choose, it is important to read the instructions on the fertilizer label carefully. This will ensure that you are applying the correct amount of fertilizer and that you are applying it safely.

What Mistakes Should Be Avoided When Applying Fertilizer?

Here are some Mistakes You Should Avoid When Applying lawn fertilizer:

Mistake #1: Over-fertilizing is people’s most common mistake when applying lawn fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can actually damage your lawn and make it more susceptible to weeds and pests.

Image of Lawn Burnt by Fertilizer - Best Home Gear
Lawn damage from Over Fertilizing – Besthomegear.com

Mistake #2: Applying fertilizer on a windy day can blow the fertilizer away, resulting in uneven application.

Mistake #3: Applying fertilizer on a hot day can scorch the grass.

Mistake #4: Not watering your lawn after applying fertilizer can prevent the fertilizer from being absorbed by the grass.

Mistake #5: Not wearing gloves and eye protection when handling fertilizer can irritate skin and eyes.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure your lawn gets the nutrients it needs without damaging the lawn.

References & Further Reading:

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carrollhttps://www.besthomegear.com
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.

Thanks for Visiting Best Home Gear - Your One-Stop-Shop for Expert DIY Guides, and the Best Products and Equipment Reviews for Your Home.

Image of Kevin Carroll, author and publisher @ Besthomegear.com
Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

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