How to Fertilize Your Lawn for Beginners in 5 Easy Steps

How to Fertilize Your Lawn 1

Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil

How to Fertilize Your Lawn 1Fertilizer is an essential component of any healthy lawn.

While it may sound simple, there’s actually quite a few things that go into choosing and applying fertilizer. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to just pick any fertilizer bag in the store.

To help you each step of the way, here’s how to fertilize your lawn to get lush green grass.

Understand Fertilizer and Its Role as Plant Food

Before spreading the fertilizer on your lawn, it’s important to understand what you’re doing. The reason why it’s essential is because not all fertilizer is the same.

This is why it’s not a good idea to just pick out the cheapest bag in the store or get something that fits your budget. If you do this, you may end up with fertilizer that doesn’t help your garden grow. The problem with this is that you won’t know what went wrong.

So, to start from the beginning, plants need certain factors to grow. These include sunlight, water, soil and fertilizer. Technically, fertilizer is just a booster. It basically contains a bit more of the nutrients found in soil.

By making sure that plants get their recommended requirements, they’re able to grow faster and reach their optimum size.

So what are these elements? The most important are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You’ll see these elements in your fertilizer bag’s labeled as N, P and K. In addition, there are other elements included in smaller amounts. But, the three are the main ingredients.

The reason these three are the most important is that plants need a lot of them to grow. Your task is to figure out the composition and balance of these nutrients that’s ideal for your lawn.

Fertilizer Grade

Fertilizer GradeWhen it comes to fertilizer, most manufacturers will supply you with a ratio, this is referred to as the grade. The ratio is made up of three numbers, each representing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

So, you’ll see something like N-P-K with numbers like 29-0-5 alongside them. In our example, the fertilizer bag contains 29% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 5% potassium.

If you look at the different bags of fertilizer being sold in the store, you’ll quickly notice that the ratios can vary significantly.


Nitrogen is the first element that plants need. In general, grass needs nitrogen to grow, become green and lush. Plants need nitrogen to grow leaves. So, anything that has green leaves will need nitrogen.

This is why your lawn will want a fertilizer that contains this element. It helps the grass grow and stay green.

Notice that the focus is on leaves and making the plant green. For this reason nitrogen is very important for lawns. But, it’s not something you want a lot of for flower beds or crops.

The reason is that too much nitrogen can also be harmful.


Next up is phosphorus. This element is needed for roots to grow. This makes it very important because you want your grass to have a solid foundation. The roots are what keep your grass healthy. That’s because they’re the parts that absorb the nutrients form the soil.

In addition, they help keep the grass in tact and not easily taken off the ground.


Potassium helps make the plants healthy. It also lets them look alive instead of weak and look like they’re out of life. All plants will need them to grow. Without them, your grass won’t be able to grow.

How to Choose Fertilizer for Your Lawn

When it comes to choosing the right fertilizer for your lawn, you want a complete fertilizer. That is, it contains all of the three elements, namely, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

How much of each will vary. But for most lawns you’ll want something that has 3 parts nitrogen to 1 part phosphorus to 1 part potassium.

You do need to consider all other factors as well. These are the type of grass you have, the climate in your city and the soil you have.

Soil plays a big part here. So, it’s important to run a soil test before going to the store. You can use a soil testing kit which will tell you the pH of the soil and a few other things.

With this, you’ll be able to tell the expert in the store to help you choose the fertilizer you need.

Another thing to consider when buying fertilizer is choosing one that’s slow release. This type of fertilizer releases the nutrients gradually over time. This allows just enough nutrients to the soil that it can absorb.

It also lets you take more time in between applications.

When Should You Fertilize Your Lawn?

house with lawnWhen to fertilize your lawn will depend on what kind of grass you have. Here we split them into the cool and warm season grasses.

Cool Season Grass

Cool season grass should be fertilized during early in the fall. This gives them the proper nutrition to grow during the cool season.

Warm Season Grass

Warm season grasses grow during the spring time and throughout the summer. To help it through this growth spurt, you want to apply fertilizer once the first sign of spring comes around. That’s often easy to tell because the first green wedges of grass start to come out.

How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Lawn

There are a number of ways to apply fertilizer. It all depends on how much work you’re willing or unwilling to do. And, also how big your lawn is. The bigger your lawn, the less practical it will be not to use any kind of tool.

If you use liquid fertilizer, using a handheld spray hose is a great way apply it. This is a popular type of fertilizer with many households because it’s very easy to apply.

The hard part about liquid fertilizer is that It’s not easy to apply evenly. You’ll need to get a feel of how much you spread and try not to overdo it for risk of fertilizer burn.

By far the cheapest option is to do it by hand. This manual approach is simple. But it only works for very small lawns. We don’t recommend it because it’s even harder to evenly distribute the fertilizer this way.

Spreaders are a great way of controlling how much fertilizer you apply. They’re ideal for most lawns. But, may not be practical for smaller ones since you may not want to spend extra cash for it.

That said, spreaders allow you to apply and distribute the fertilizer evenly. As long as you keep track on how many passes you do and don’t overlap, you’re good to go.

With spreaders, you have the option of broadcast and drop spreaders, which differ in the way the apply the fertilizer.


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