Schedule for Fertilizing Lawns

When to Feed Your Grass in Spring, Summer, Fall

Suburban home with landscaping.
You don't get a lush lawn like this by accident. Learn how to feed your grass properly. Patti McConville/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Your grass craves periodic feedings, and it is best to meet this nutritional need by fertilizing lawns with "slow-release" products. You will 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, depriving the seeds of common lawn weeds of a place to germinate.

Of course, as a substitute for all this, you can stay organic and simply top dress your lawns with compost in spring and fall. I present the information given below simply as a courtesy to homeowners who are more comfortable following conventional feeding schedules and using products with high brand-name recognition.

Scotts suggests a four-part schedule for fertilizing lawns. The schedule will depend on where you live and your grass-type. But, as an example, here is the schedule for a Northern lawn composed of a mixture of bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue:

Sample Schedule for Fertilizing Lawns

  1. Apply a fertilizer called "Scotts Turf Builder With Halts Crabgrass Preventer" in April or May. Fertilizing lawns goes hand in hand with weed control.
  2. "Scotts Turf Builder With PLUS 2 Weed Control" can be applied in June. This fertilizer fills the need for additional weed control, as the herbicide component fights everything from ground ivy to purslane to white clover.
  1. 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, incidentally, is to grow tall fescue grass, which is drought-tolerant.
  1. Finally, Scotts winterizing fertilizer should be applied in fall. Fertilizing lawns with this product 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 us full circle.

Before fertilizing lawns with these 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. Likewise, when applying fertilizers, follow directions explicitly, concerning how much to apply, how often they should be applied, and under what conditions they should be applied.

The job is best done with a fertilizer spreader, such as the drop spreader reviewed here. Be advised not to fill the applicator with the spreader parked on the grass. Doing so invites grass-burn, as you may accidentally discharge too much while loading. Instead, fill the applicator somewhere else, then wheel the spreader onto the grass.

I also provide an expanded version of this story on fertilizing lawns in my article on how to grow a greener lawn, for those who desire a fuller picture of what it takes to have a lush, healthy lawn that will be the talk of the neighborhood.