Best time to fertilize your lawn

Whether you’re creating a comfortable space for your family to spend their free time or increasing the curb appeal of your property, maintaining a green and healthy lawn can be difficult. One of the most effective steps you can take is applying fertilizer, but correctly applying it can be tricky. And an incorrect application can do more harm than good.

We at BestReviews want you to be knowledgeable when utilizing fertilizer and have created this guide to help you feel confident you’re adding the correct amount at the appropriate time.

Shop this article: EGO Power+ 21-inch 56-volt Lithium-Ion Cordless MowerScotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader and Flexzilla Garden Hose

Fertilizer nutrients

Most fertilizers found in a store will have three numbers printed on the packaging, referring to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Though all these nutrients are necessary for a better lawn, each performs a specific role in facilitating healthy grass growth.


Nitrogen is the most important nutrient required for a healthy lawn. All plants, including grass, need nitrogen to produce chlorophyll. Chlorophyll not only acts as food for the plant but also gives the plant its green color. Applying a nitrogen fertilizer helps your grass grow faster, recover from environmental stresses and deters disease and invasive weeds.

Although nitrogen needs to be applied in the correct amount, too much nitrogen can lead to rapid growth with an underdeveloped root system. Too little nitrogen and the yard may become nitrogen deficient, causing the grass to yellow.


Phosphorus promotes vigorous root growth and helps the grass pull water from the soil. A robust root system encourages proper hydration, helps plants reach full maturity, aids in survival during dry weather and keeps soil and nutrients from blowing away during strong winds and storms.


Potassium helps a plant’s cells maintain ‘turgor pressure,’ also known as hydrostatic pressure. Simply put, turgor pressure is what gives the plant’s cell its structural integrity. This allows the plant to survive harsh conditions, like cold weather or drought.

Best grass mowers

EGO Power+ 21-inch 56-volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Mower

EGO Power+ 21-inch 56-volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Mower

Cordless, self-propelled, and able to run 80 minutes on a single charge, the EGO Power 21-inch 56-volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Mower is the rare full-electric mower that feels like a gas model.

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Black & Decker 6.5A 12-inch Electric 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger and Mower

Black & Decker 6.5A 12-inch Electric 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger and Mower

This Black and Decker lawn edger is an affordable and quality option for those with medium to small yards looking for a versatile machine.

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Types of fertilizer

Fast-release vs. slow-release

With nitrogen as the most critical component in facilitating plant growth, you should pay careful attention to how you introduce it into your yard’s ecosystem. Fast-release nitrogen fertilizers provide rapid growth and greening but increase the risk of nitrogen oversaturation.

Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers, also known as controlled-release fertilizers, allow for a more gradual introduction of nitrogen. Plant greening and maturation won’t be rapid, but you can expect even grass growth and lessen the chance of lawn damage.

Liquids vs. granules

Most home fertilizers come in either liquid or granule form. Though both contain the same nutrients needed to facilitate healthy lawn growth, they each have specific benefits and drawbacks.

Liquid fertilizers have a consistent distribution of nutrients and are easy to apply. Liquid fertilizers do not have a slow-release nitrogen option, and the initial cost of a distribution system can be steep.

Granular fertilizers are cheap to purchase, especially in bulk, are easy to store and provide slow-release nitrogen fertilizer options. Though granular fertilizers don’t spread as evenly as their liquid counterparts, the cost of granule distribution systems is far less.

Best granular spreaders

Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader

Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader

With its straightforward operation and ease of use, the Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader is an ideal fit for those who need to distribute fertilizer over a large area.

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Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader

Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader

For gardeners on a budget, Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader has plenty of capacity to cover most lawns and gardens.

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Scotts Wizz Hand-Held Spreader

Scotts Wizz Hand-Held Spreader

Lightweight and handheld, the Scotts Wizz Hand-Held Spreader is an excellent fit for the gardener with a small or atypical-shaped yard in need of fertilizing.

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When is the best time to fertilize your lawn?

Depending on the needs of your soil and climate, your lawn may require multiple applications of fertilizer throughout the year. However, there are two critical times during the year when spreading fertilizer can most benefit your yard.


When fertilizer is applied to frozen soil, the plants cannot absorb nitrogen and other nutrients. Instead, the nitrogen rests on top of the soil and can be washed away, collecting in the low parts of a yard or into storm drains and ditches. These areas become damaged from an over-concentration of nitrogen and will need further attention and maintenance.

In spring, wait until the soil has sufficiently thawed and warmed before applying fertilizer. Creating a solid root system early will lead to a healthier and greener yard later, so be cautious not to apply too much nitrogen too fast.


Late fall is arguably the most critical time to apply fertilizer, as the winter months will be the hardest on your lawn. Research the expected climate in your area and spread fertilizer 2-3 weeks before the soil will freeze. The morning dews during those few weeks will bring the essential nutrients from the fertilizer into the soil. The result will be a lawn more prepared for the cold winter months and a healthier root system when the soil thaws again in the spring.

When to water the lawn after fertilizing

If you decide to apply granular fertilizer to your lawn, water the area immediately to ensure the nutrients are absorbed. Never apply granular fertilizer to wet grass, as wet grass can cause nitrogen to wash away before entering the soil, damaging your lawn.

Flexzilla Garden Hose

Flexzilla Garden Hose

Rugged enough to discourage kinks, yet flexible and easy to use, the Flexzilla garden hose is an ideal purchase for the gardener who prefers a hands-on approach to lawn maintenance.

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Gerrad Frei writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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