Schedule for Fertilizing Lawns

When to Feed Your Grass in Spring, Summer, Fall

Applying fertilizer

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Your grass craves periodic feedings, and it is best to meet this nutritional need by fertilizing lawns with "slow-release" products. You can find such products at local home improvement stores, such as Lowe's and Home Depot.

Because these products release their nutrients over time, rather than all at once, feeding your grass with them allows the grass to "eat" at its own leisure. As nutrients are released, the root system fills in any bare patches, which deprives the seeds of common lawn weeds a place to germinate.​

Of course, as a substitute for this, you can be organic and simply top dress your lawns with compost in spring and fall. The information about commercial fertilizer products is helpful for those who are more comfortable following conventional feeding schedules and using brand-name, commercial products (like Scotts, for example).

Take a look a sample schedule from Scotts for a northern lawn composed of a mixture of bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue. Scotts suggests a four-part schedule for fertilizing lawns. The exact schedule will depend on where you live and your grass type. Ask your local county extension office for tips tailored to your own specific situation.

Fertilizing Schedule for a Northern Lawn (Scotts)

Before fertilizing lawns with any commercial products, read the instructions on the bag carefully (or ask someone at the store for details). A particular product may not be suitable for your type of grass.

  1. In April or May, apply a fertilizer called "Scotts Turf Builder With Halts Crabgrass Preventer." Fertilizing lawns goes hand in hand with weed control, and crabgrass is perhaps the most feared weed. If you prevent crabgrass seed from germinating in the spring, you save yourself the trouble of having to battle it in the summer.
  2. In June, apply "Scotts Turf Builder With PLUS 2 Weed Control." This fertilizer fills the need for additional weed control, as the herbicide component fights ground ivy, purslane, white clover, and more.
  3. In July or August, apply "Scotts Super Turf Builder with SummerGuard." This fertilizer is billed by Scotts as a product that "strengthens and summer-proofs your grass" while "combating a spectrum of harsh seasonal threats like insects, heat, and drought." Another way to fight drought is to grow tall fescue grass, which is drought-tolerant.
  4. In the fall, apply Scotts winterizing fertilizer. Fertilizing lawns with this and similar products will not only prepare grass for winter but also give you a head start towards achieving the green turf that you will want next spring, bringing your grass full cycle.

Applying Fertilizer to Your Lawn

When applying fertilizer, follow the directions to the letter. These directions will tell you how much to apply, how often the fertilizer should be applied, and under what conditions it should be applied.

The job is best done with a fertilizer spreader, such as a drop spreader. For best results, do not fill the applicator while the spreader is parked on the grass. If you do, you might get grass-burn. It is very easy to accidentally discharge too much while loading. Fill the applicator somewhere else, then wheel the spreader to the grass area.