The 9 Best Lawn Fertilizers of 2023

The Andersons Professional PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer is our top pick

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The Spruce / Zackary Angeline

The right fertilizer, applied at the right time of year, can be the difference between vigorous green growth and premature browning. However, indiscriminate use of fertilizer can damage a lawn and cost more than needed, says Chris Enroth, a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension. "A homeowner can build their own fertility program by knowing their type of lawn grass (warm season or cool season), and then how much they are willing to spend in terms of time and money on maintenance. Do all parts of the lawn need to be perfect? Are they willing to tolerate weeds in certain spots of the yard?"

To help with your selection, we considered numerous products and evaluated them on how easy they are to use, how easy to spread, and the best value. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

The Andersons Professional PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer with Humic DG

The Andersons Professional PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer with Humic DG


What We Like
  • Works for two months

  • Can cover up to 5,000 square feet

  • No phosphorus

  • Easy-to-read label

  • Works any time of the year

  • Small granule size

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a while to kick in

  • Not available in CA, other states

Andersons is the choice fertilizer for turfgrass professionals and is widely used on golf courses and sport stadium fields. The small, granular size allows for more even coverage and less likelihood of being kicked around by your lawn mower. Since it is slow-release, it is also hard to overdo, and you shouldn’t have to worry about accidentally “burning” your lawn with excess nitrogen

Fertilizing less often actually promotes root growth, as roots need to stretch deeper into the soil layer to find nutrients rather than expecting them on a regular basis. This fertilizer breaks down in about two months, allowing you to spread out your fertilizing schedule. Humic DG, which is promoted on the label, is similar in composition to the rich upper layer of soil made up of predominantly organic matter. This acts as a soil conditioner, providing additional nutrients to allow for robust plant roots. 

While this brand may lack a fancy label, it has a simple-to-use formula, easy-to-read bag, and excellent price point.

Price at time of publish: $43

NPK Ratio: 16-0-8︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: 2 months︱Application Type: Granular 

Best for Fall

GreenView Fall Lawn Food

GreenView Fall Lawn Food


What We Like
  • Backed by a guarantee

  • Encourages healthy roots

  • Covers up to 5,000 feet

  • Greens grass up quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Needs to be applied above 60 degrees

  • Does not work in rain or frost

Fall is the final hurrah for your grass before winter dormancy kicks in. A final dose of high-quality fertilizer is a great way to keep it looking its greenest and best as long as possible, as well as add a layer of protection through spring. GreenView is a phosphate-free formula that promises quick green-up in spring and helps protect against drought and intense heat if you reside in the South.

We like that GreenView offers a satisfaction guarantee and employs customer representatives who are knowledgeable about the product specifics. From consulting with the manufacturer, we learned this fertilizer is designed to work its best at temperatures above 60 degrees, which is particularly important to note for those who reside in the far northern states. (In this case, “fall” might imply mid-August.)

Price at time of publish: $26

NPK Ratio: 22-0-10︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: 8 weeks︱Application Type: Granular

Best for Green-up

Milorganite Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer

Milorganite 32 lb. Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer


What We Like
  • Works for up to 10 weeks

  • No worry of harming other plants

  • Natural product

  • Works any time of the year

What We Don't Like
  • Takes a while to kick in

A close contender for best overall, Milorganite is a slow-release fertilizer that contains helpful micronutrients, including iron, which is essential for maintaining the green color of your grass. We liked that we could use this without concern of runoff negatively impacting flower beds or vegetable gardens.

Milorganite is not certified as organic, but the nitrogen sources come from residuals left over from waste management facilities. It costs more than many other fertilizer types but is effective for up to 10 weeks after application. It probably takes several seasons to finish an entire package.

Price at time of publish: $21

NPK Ratio: 6-4-0︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: Every 10 weeks︱Application Type: Granular

Best for Spring

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food


What We Like
  • Greens up and thickens lawns quickly

  • Works on all grass types

  • Available wherever fertilizers are sold

  • No phosphates

What We Don't Like
  •  High nitrogen rate

Getting your lawn healthy from the start is a great way to prevent problems down the road. Containing a whopping 32 percent nitrogen, this is a great product to use at the beginning of the spring grass-growing season. We also appreciated that it is low in phosphorus, which, when overused, can add to algal blooms in nearby waterways through runoff.

The bag is easy to read, with instructions on how to calibrate your spreader, and the exact amounts needed to take the guesswork out of applying. (Make sure to follow instructions, as it is possible to burn grass if not applied evenly!) One bag covers about 5,000 square feet (greater than the size of a basketball court). Though rare in most soils, if you have a phosphorous deficiency, this fertilizer is not effective.

The Scotts brand is perhaps the most recognizable in lawn care; as a result, you can find this product just about anywhere, and often on sale, making it a great budget buy for basic lawn care needs.

Price at time of publish: $27

NPK Ratio: 32-0-4︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: 6-8 weeks︱Application Type: Granular

Best Liquid

Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Lawn Food

Simple Lawn Solutions Advanced 16-4-8 Lawn Food


What We Like
  • Includes seaweed, fish fertilizers

  • Works on all grass types

  • Easy to use

  • Covers up to 13,000 square feet

What We Don't Like
  • Slight fishy odor

  • Frequent application rates

For those who are uncomfortable with using a granular spreader, liquid fertilizers are available for lawns of any size. A single gallon can treat up to 13,000 square feet (about the area of an Olympic swimming pool), which makes the price tag worth it. Containing all three macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), Simple Lawn is designed to improve root strength, support essential plant functions, and encourage a thicker and greener lawn.

To further enhance its product, Simple Lawn uses fish and seaweed; both provide plants with additional nutrition, and fish fertilizer can be a source of burn-free nitrogen. Simple Lawn is quick-absorbing and can be used throughout the growing season, spring through summer. 

Price at time of publish: $22

NPK Ratio: 16-4-8︱Type: Quick-release︱Feed Duration: 6 weeks︱Application Type: Liquid

Best Organic

Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food

Espoma EOLF28 Organic All Season Lawn Food


What We Like
  • Helps boost roots

  • Works on all grass types

  • Covers up to 5,000 feet

  • Environmentally friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Acts slowly

  • Not a complete fertilizer

Espoma is the oldest organic name in the gardening world and offers fertilizers by season and plant type. We chose the all-season option, which can be applied regardless of the time of year and grass type. It also features their patented Biotone soil conditioner, which the manufacturer says includes a mix of microbes that help fix nitrogen into an easy take-up form for hungry grass roots. This gives your grass a boost to help keep it strong all year long.

The nitrogen is derived from feather meal and poultry manure, which can take up to two months to fully break down, slowly feeding your grass the entire time. Excluding phosphorus makes it a wise choice for those living near vulnerable waterways, where algal blooms are a concern.

Price at time of publish: $45

NPK Ratio: 9-0-0︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: 8 weeks︱Application Type: Granular

Best Starter

Pennington UltraGreen Starter Lawn Fertilizer

Pennington UltraGreen Starter Lawn Fertilizer

Home Depot

What We Like
  • Easy-to-read instructions

  • Works on all grass types

  • Covers up to 5,000 feet

  • Contains all macronutrients and iron

What We Don't Like
  • Could wash away in heavy rains

  • Shouldn’t be used on mature lawns

Heat is the number-one enemy of new lawns, and Pennington’s slow-release nitrogen formula allows grass to build strength over time, making it capable of withstanding intense temperatures. This formula includes a healthy dose of iron, a key ingredient for getting the desired shade of lovely green. Each bag can cover up to 5,000 square feet (about the size of a basketball court), and the instructions are beautifully organized and easy to read. 

Since UltraGreen is slow feeding, you shouldn’t worry about remembering to put down fertilizer with frequency, as it feeds for at least three months. (Due to this slow absorption, if you live in an area with a rainy season, you risk this fertilizer washing away.) So, if you've recently moved or are revamping your landscape, Pennington makes an excellent fertilizer to strengthen new grasses, whether you start from seed or sod.

Price at time of publish: $24

NPK Ratio: 22-23-4︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: 12 weeks︱Application Type: Granular

Best Weed-and-Feed

Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed

Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed


What We Like
  • Works on most grass types

  • Covers up to 5,000 feet

  • Works quickly and efficiently

What We Don't Like
  • Not to be used around kids or pets

  • Rain can nullify application

This product is a preventative—it is specially designed to keep pesky dandelions and clover seeds from sprouting, keeping your lawn weed-free during the spring and summer. It also helps get rid of existing weeds and contains a healthy dose of nutrition, with high nitrogen to promote grass blade growth. The easy-to-use formula needs to be applied while the grass is wet; plan on not mowing for a few days afterward.

Unlike many weed-and-feed products, it can be used on just about every grass type, although we have noted issues with certain varieties of St. Augustine grass. Scotts contains the herbicide 24-D, so it’s best to keep kids and pets off grass for 24 hours following application.

Price at time of publish: $26

NPK Ratio: 28-0-3︱Type: Blend of quick- and slow-release︱Feed Duration: Up to 3 months︱Application Type: Granular

Best Around Pets

BarkYard Lawn Dog Natural Lawn Fertilizer

BarkYard Lawn Dog: Natural Lawn Fertilizer


What We Like
  • Works on most grass types

  • Lasts up to 8 weeks

  • Less risk to waterways

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to find at big-box stores

Dog lovers who also desire green yards needn’t choose between the two! BarkYard Lawn Dog provides the most-needed nutrients for healthy grass while allowing pets to enjoy the outdoors, when used as directed. Easy to use, you simply apply it after mowing and then water it lightly. 

Slow-release BarkYard continues to feed your lawn well into the hot summer months; you shouldn’t need to apply it more than every two months during the growing season. The low numbers and zero phosphorus make it less susceptible to runoff and prevent burning grass with too much nitrogen. While priced affordably, it covers only 4,000 square feet, unlike the 5,000+ (about the size of a basketball court) asserted by every other product on this list.

Price at time of publish: $39

NPK Ratio: 11-0-2︱Type: Slow-release︱Feed Duration: Up to 2 months︱Application Type: Granular

Final Verdict

Our Best Overall lawn fertilizer is The Andersons Professional PGF 16-0-8 Fertilizer with Humic DG, as it allows for adequate nutrition and fewer applications for you. It works for all grass types and can be applied several times a year, if desired. Our top pick for Best Organic is  Espoma EOLF28 Organic All-Seasons Lawn Food, an all-season option you can apply regardless of the time of year and grass type.

What to Look for in a Lawn Fertilizer

There are important considerations to help you make sure you are buying the best lawn fertilizer product to suit your space, family, and pets.


The absolute most important aspect of lawn fertilization is understanding the three big nutrient needs required for grass to be at its best. Generally, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are listed front and center on any fertilizer bag, with the percentages of package weight listed clearly. Understanding what each one does helps you make the best choice for whatever you plan to fertilize, whether it's your lawn, flower beds, or homegrown vegetables.

  • Nitrogen (N), listed first, is the most important nutrient for overall growth, says Chris Enroth, a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension. It promotes healthy blade development and is responsible for the bright green we love to see in lawns. "The primary nutrient for lawn growth is nitrogen," he says. "And to grass, nitrogen is nitrogen. It does not matter how it is derived."
  • Phosphorus (P) is the second number and is responsible for developing healthy roots in grass. In larger plants, it is essential for flower and fruit development. Most lawns tend to be deficient in phosphorus; however, grass is not a notorious heavy phosphorus feeder. If you live near a waterway or in a county that bans fertilizer during the rainy season, products containing phosphorus are not permitted for lawn use. If you suspect you may have a deficiency, a quick soil test or plant tissue test should let you know.
  • Potassium (K), also known as "potash," helps roots dive deeper into the soil, helping grass resist stressors such as heat or drought. While nitrogen allows for quick growth, it is necessary to encourage those roots to stretch out and not become reliant on a quick fix from a heavy nitrogen source.

Organic vs. Synthetic

Made from processed minerals, synthetic fertilizers are designed to meet plant needs quickly and efficiently, releasing nutrients at the root level, and allowing for easy uptake (much like a trip through the drive-thru is a quick fix for us). Organic fertilizers contain materials sourced from natural organisms and plant material, including ingredients such as bone meal, poultry feathers, limestone, and cornmeal. Organic fertilizers require adequate time to break down and a considerable amount to remain in the soil to feed microorganisms that also reside there. Those microorganisms work to break down hard-to-digest minerals for easier plant absorption, benefiting everyone. Organics usually need fewer annual applications. 

Application Type

Typically, fertilizers are sold in slow-release or quick-release formats. Representing the quick-release method, liquid fertilizers are water soluble and can be taken up by plants almost immediately. Slow-release fertilizers are not water-soluble and are usually sold in a granular, polymer-coated format. As these break down, they slowly release nutrients into the soil, which the plant can take up when it needs it. This also allows for fewer applications annually, as slow-release products take up to three months to fully break down. The slow breakdown also helps prevent the likelihood of burning plants through too much nitrogen fed too quickly.

  • How much lawn fertilizer do you need?

    "The recommended rate of fertilizer application is one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet," says Enroth. "The Purdue fertilizer calculator can help homeowners determine the amount of fertilizer to purchase to apply at the recommended rate."

  • When should you fertilize grass?

    Fertilizing in fall can benefit grass, regardless of whether you live in a warm-weather or cold-weather climate, says Veronica Lorson Fowler, former editor of Better Homes and Garden's "Flower Gardening" magazine and a master gardener based in Ames, Iowa. "Fertilizing in fall in these climates helps grass green up earlier in the spring," she says, "but it can actually be damaging for plants about to go into dormancy. That's because fertilizing, depending on the fertilizer you are applying, can stimulate tender new growth that will be damaged by winter cold."

    Each fertilizer manufacturer has requirements for when to fertilize. When reviewing the label, be sure to look for the following:
    Watering: Some brands require application on wet grass, and some require fertilizers to be watered in. A few brands require both.
    Mowing: Fertilizers can be very specific when it comes to mowing. Some want you to mow a day or two before, and some do not. As a rule, shorter grass makes it easier for the fertilizer to reach the soil, so it's always best to mow before applying. Likewise, unless specifically instructed, avoid mowing right after fertilizing so you don’t accidentally kick up the fertilizer.
    Rain: Rain can wash away fresh fertilizer, and that is especially problematic if you live near a waterway, where the fertilizer can seep in. Do your best to avoid fertilizing when rain is forecast.

  • How often should you fertilize?

    Your fertilization timing varies, depending on where you live. Warm-season grasses found in the South, such as St. Augustine, zoysia, and Bermuda, do best with fertilization once in March or April and again in September. You may be able to do a third treatment in June if you are not in a rainy-season state.

    Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky blue, rye, and fescue, do best with a fertilization schedule starting in April, with a second treatment in September, and a third in November, before dormancy sets in. Fall fertilization is key for cool-season grasses and less of a concern for warm-season varieties, as the dormancy period is much shorter.

  • Can you fertilize a lawn that is frequented by kids and pets?

    Yes, Fowler says, but caution applies. "Always follow package directions exactly," she says. "Water in dry fertilizer types. Then, keep the kids and pets off the lawn for a day or so, even if you use an organic fertilizer. If you wouldn't rub it directly on your skin, pets and kids in bare feet shouldn't be on it until it's either dried or had an opportunity to soak into the soil."

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written by Amanda Rose Newton, a freelance writer and garden reviewer for The Spruce. To make this list, Newton tested each product on various grass types, following manufacturers' instructions. She also considered the difficulty in application, chemicals used, and green growth. For expert advice, we also spoke with Chris Enroth, a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension, and Veronica Lorson Fowler, former editor of Better Homes and Garden's "Flower Gardening" magazine and a master gardener based in Ames, Iowa.

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