Lawn Fertilizer: What You Should Look For

Are you noticing your lawn looking a little worn out or not as green as you had hoped for? If that’s the case, it may be time to start implementing a lawn fertilizer into your lawn maintenance habits, which is commonly a sign of imbalanced nutrients. Using a lawn fertilizer will help provide optimal nutrients for your grass and plants meaning you’ll soon have the lush green grass you’ve always wanted.

All About Fertilizer

Homeowners can apply fertilizer to their lawns as it’s a mixture of nutrients that are often lacking in the natural composition. Fertilizers can be found in liquid and granular forms and are of natural or synthetic consistency. Natural fertilizers are made of organic materials, and synthetic fertilizers are nutrient mixtures that have been manufactured in a lab. When choosing a fertilizer for your lawn, you’ll notice that your options are labeled with macro-nutrient levels or the three essential nutrients for optimal plant growth:

  • Nitrogen (N): Nourishes grass to give it a vibrant green color and produce leafy growth on plants.
  • Phosphorus (P): Works to strengthen the roots of grass and plants.
  • Potassium (K): Enhances the overall growth of your lawn and plants by keeping them healthy and balanced.

These nutrients are listed on fertilizers as N-P-K and indicate the percentage of each element per pound of fertilizer. Keep in mind; natural fertilizers have lower percentages of these essential nutrients than synthetic fertilizers, meaning more natural fertilizers will be needed to get the same results. Synthetic fertilizers work quickly, but natural fertilizers contain additional nutrients that will benefit your grass and plants’ health. Natural fertilizers are also less likely to cause lawn burn.

Soil Test for Nutrients

Becoming aware of the nutrients your lawn may be lacking is the first step in selecting a fertilizer. Gathering a soil sample for testing with a soil probe, auger, or gardening shovel is recommended. Homeowners should collect a variety of soil samples from different areas of their property, such as the front yard, back yard, gardens, and more. After collecting your soil samples, you can use an at-home soil test kit to conduct the soil test yourself, or some cities offer the service for a small fee. Regardless, the test will show soil nutrient levels so you can identify what your property is lacking. With this information, you will be able to select a fertilizer that provides optimal nutrients for your soil.

Types of Fertilizers

There are a variety of fertilizers available on the market today, each with their own purpose and benefits. It’s encouraged to become familiar with the variety of fertilizers and your lawn’s needs so you can pick the best option for your property.


If you need nutrients added to your lawn or garden quickly, a fast-release fertilizer is right for you. This type of fertilizer helps make grass greener and are usually pretty inexpensive. While the cost is budget-friendly, fast-release fertilizers need to be applied frequently, making for an expensive season. Homeowners that utilize fast-release fertilizer also run the risk of burning their lawns as this fertilizer is packed with nutrients.

Slow or Controlled-Release

If you’re not in any major rush and are looking for an even, uniform growth pattern, slow or controlled-release fertilizers are the best option. This fertilizer is compatible with most grass types and has a reduced risk of lawn burn. Homeowners can expect to spend more on slow or controlled-release fertilizers, but they do last longer than other fertilizers.

Weed and Feed

Homeowners with weed problems that are also wanting to fertilize can turn to a weed and feed fertilizer. These fertilizers not only provide nutrients for your lawn but also control different types of weeds. If you have new sod or grass seed, steer clear of weed and feed as there are often herbicides present that can stunt the germination period of new growth.


The cold months can damage your lawn and stunt growth in the spring if not adequately cared for. Applying a winterizer fertilizer will help prepare your lawn for the winter by increasing the nutrient levels and aiding in disease resistance.


Homes that are newly built or areas of your lawn that you’re trying to start growth will benefit from a lawn-starter fertilizer. This fertilizer is designed to help new sod or grass seeds grow by providing high phosphorus levels to reinforce the root systems of fresh grass.

When to Apply

The first step to learning when to apply fertilizer is determining what type of grass you have on your lawn as the fertilizer schedule depends mostly on this factor. Fertilizer should be applied in the morning or evening to prevent the sun’s heat from burning your lawn. Typically, homeowners are recommended to fertilize their lawns anywhere from two to four times a year, depending on the type of grass and soil sample results.

  • Broadleaf Weeds: If you identify broadleaf weeds in your yard, a fertilizer containing broadleaf weed control can be applied between March to May and September to October to combat them. If you apply later in the season, your lawn will have a jumpstart for the following spring.
  • Brown Patches or Spots: Any brown patches or spots could be a sign of insect larvae infestation, or if the grass breaks easily at the bottom, it could be a sign of worms. It’s encouraged to inspect your lawn for any insects and contact a lawn care professional to assist you further.
  • Brown Streaks: Fungal lawn disease can be a pesky lawn ailment to treat, but if you start noticing brown streaking in your lawn, this is commonly the first sign. If you think something is going on with your yard, but are unsure how to identify it, take a photo of the problem, and seek professional help, whether through a home and garden center, nursery, or lawn care professional.
  • Consistent Yellowing Lawn: Adequate nutrients play a significant role in the healthy appearance of your lawn. Yellowing can be a sign of nutrient loss or incorrect soil pH. Test your soil with an at-home test kit or a testing service to identify the nutrients your lawn may be missing.
  • Consistent Browning Lawn: There are many different types of grasses and weeds. If you have different varieties of grass or weeds in your lawn, it can be hard to treat or care for each one. Examine your yard for weed and grass types and seek lawn care advice from a professional.
  • Crab Grass: This pesky type of grass can be challenging to get rid of, especially once it’s well established. If you start to notice crabgrass, it’s incredibly important to treat it immediately and keep up with the treatment process for the foreseeable future, even if you think it’s gone.
  • Lawn Streaks: If you begin to use fertilizer on your lawn, it’s crucial to keep up a regular schedule. Lawn streaking can occur because of poor mowing and inconsistent feeding. Learn how to mow and fertilize your grass correctly.

How to Apply

Each type of fertilizer comes typically in two forms, liquid and granular. Both styles of fertilizer are useful when it comes to fertilizing your lawn, but each has its pros and cons.

  • Liquid Fertilizer: Fertilizer in liquid form works fast and is absorbed into the roots of your grass quickly. Homeowners that utilize liquid fertilizer can expect to apply it more frequently and must watch how much is applied as too much fertilizer can cause lawn burning.
  • Granular Fertilizer: Fertilizer in granular form absorbs more slowly into both the soil and roots. You won’t notice results as quickly with granular fertilizer, but it doesn’t need to be applied as frequently, and the chances of lawn burn are much lower.

Regardless of the form of fertilizer you choose for your lawn, it’s recommended to follow instructions on the label carefully. This will tell you if the fertilizer is compatible with your grass, and how much should be used. Lawn fertilizer will help provide your grass and plants with the nutrients they require for optimal growth and appearance. Begin using a lawn fertilizer today to freshen up your property’s appearance and get healthy, green grass.