December 28, 2023

2024 Guide to Lawn Fertilizer

Spring is right around the corner, and it’s time to start thinking about lawn fertilization and the lawn fertilizer you should be using. It may seem like a simple choice, but do you really know what your lawn needs? Here’s just a few questions you might want to consider:  

  • Do you understand the current nutrient levels of your soil?  
  • Do you know what nutrient ratio is needed for your grass?  
  • Is there a correct lawn fertilizer application for your grass? 
  • Are there different fertilization needs for spring vs fall? 
  • Are expensive lawn fertilizers worth it?  
  • What impact will my lawn fertilizer have on the environment? 

All very valuable questions that you need to consider for your lawn fertilizer, and also questions that we will answer for you in our 2024 guide to lawn fertilizer.  

Do you understand the current nutrient levels of your soil? 

Soil testing is a crucial step in maintaining healthy soil for your landscape. Knowing the current levels of nutrients in your soil allows you to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing the correct lawn fertilizer. 

There are many ways to test the nutrient levels in your soil, but one of the most common methods is doing a DIY soil test. This involves collecting samples from different areas of your landscape and sending them to a lab for analysis. The results will give you an accurate reading of the nutrients present in your soil. 

To perform a DIY soil test, follow these steps: 

  1. Choose the right time: It's best to do a soil test in late fall or early spring when the grass is not actively growing. This gives you enough time to amend the soil before the next growing season. 
  1. Gather your tools: You will need a small garden trowel, a clean bucket, and some Ziplock bags to collect and store your soil samples. 
  1. Collect samples from different areas: Take at least 6-8 random samples from different areas of your landscape. This ensures that you get an accurate representation of the overall nutrient levels in your soil. 
  1. Avoid sampling near trees or areas with visible lawn fertilizer residue: Trees and other plants have different nutrient needs, and their presence can affect the accuracy of your results. 
  1. Mix all samples together in a clean bucket: This will give you an average reading of the nutrients in your landscape's soil. 
  1. Let the sample dry: Spread the mixed sample on a clean tray and let it air dry. This will make it easier to extract the soil for testing. 
  1. Send the sample to a lab or use a DIY soil testing kit: You can either send your sample to a professional lab for analysis or purchase a DIY testing kit from your local gardening store. These kits come with detailed instructions on how to test your soil and interpret the results. 

Once you have the results of your soil test, you can use them to determine the right type and amount of lawn fertilizer to add to your landscape. Lawn fertilizers contain different ratios of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are necessary for healthy plant growth. By choosing a lawn fertilizer with the right balance for your landscape's specific needs, you can ensure that your grass stays healthy and lush all year round. 

Do you know what nutrient ratio is needed for your grass?   

To determine the correct nutrient ratio for your landscape when fertilizing, there are a few factors to consider. These include the type of grass you have, the soil composition, and the current state of your landscape. 

Firstly, it's important to understand that different types of grass require different nutrient ratios. For example, cool-season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue typically require more nitrogen compared to warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia. This is because cool-season grasses grow actively during the spring and fall, while warm-season grasses thrive in the summer heat. 

Secondly, the soil composition plays a significant role in determining the correct nutrient ratio for fertilization. If your soil is lacking in certain nutrients, it will require a different ratio compared to nutrient-rich soil. Conducting a soil test can help identify any deficiencies and guide you in choosing the correct lawn fertilizer. 

Lastly, the current state of your landscape should also be taken into consideration. If your landscape is already healthy and green, it may not require as much fertilization compared to a patchy or yellowing lawn. Over-fertilizing can lead to excessive growth and weaken the grass roots, making it more susceptible to diseases and pests. 

It's important to follow the recommended guidelines for lawn fertilization, which typically include applying one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet. This can be achieved by using a lawn fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 3:1:2, meaning it contains three parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus, and two parts potassium. 

Is there a correct lawn fertilizer application for your grass? 

As mentioned before, it’s important to apply your lawn fertilizer correctly. But you should also consider the different applications and different lawn fertilizers available for your property. Here’s a few that you may want to consider:  

  • Liquid Fertilizer: These are typically concentrated and require dilution with water before application. They are fast-acting and provide your lawn with a quick dose of nutrients. 
  • Granular Fertilizer: These come in small pellets that are easy to spread on the lawn. They release nutrients slowly over time, providing long-term nourishment for your grass. 
  • Organic Fertilizer: Made from natural sources such as compost or manure, these lawn fertilizers are environmentally friendly and safe for pets and children. 

Of course, you should ensure that each of these lawn fertilizers fall in line with your lawn care needs and goals. Every situation is different, and you need to take into consideration what your landscape needs. So be sure to consider all your needs when looking for lawn fertilizer.  

Are there different fertilization needs for spring vs fall? 

Before we explore the differences between fall and spring lawn fertilizers, it's important to understand the different needs of your lawn during these seasons. During the fall, your lawn is preparing for the cold winter months and focuses on root growth rather than leaf growth. In contrast, during spring, your lawn is coming out of its dormant state and needs nutrients to encourage new growth. 

Fall lawn fertilizers are typically high in potassium, which helps strengthen the roots and increases their ability to absorb water and nutrients. These fertilizers also contain nitrogen and phosphorus, but in lower amounts compared to spring fertilizers. The goal of fall fertilization is to help your lawn recover from the stresses of summer and prepare for winter. 

Spring lawn fertilizers, on the other hand, are high in nitrogen to promote leaf and stem growth. They also contain phosphorus and potassium to support root development. The goal of spring fertilization is to replenish the nutrients that were depleted during winter and help your lawn green up quickly. 

This is just a quick tip that is essential to know before buying your lawn fertilizer.  

Are expensive lawn fertilizers worth it? 

Now that we have answered some essential questions surrounding the fertilizer, let's explore why expensive fertilizers may be worth the investment. Here are some potential benefits: 

  • Higher Quality Ingredients: Generally, expensive fertilizers contain higher quality ingredients compared to budget-friendly options. This means they may provide more nutrients to your lawn and contribute to better overall growth. 
  • Controlled Release: Some expensive fertilizers are designed for slow release, which means they gradually release the nutrients over time. This ensures that your lawn receives a steady supply of nutrients, promoting healthy and sustained growth. 
  • Tailored Formulas: Expensive fertilizers often have tailored formulas for specific types of grass or plants. This means they can provide the precise nutrients and ratios needed for your lawn, potentially leading to better results. 

While expensive lawn fertilizers may offer some benefits, it's important to consider a few factors before making a purchase: 

  • Your Landscape's Needs: Before deciding on an expensive fertilizer, assess your landscape's needs. Conducting a soil test can help determine the nutrients your lawn is lacking, allowing you to choose a lawn fertilizer that addresses those deficiencies. 
  • Budget: As with any investment, it's important to consider your budget. If an expensive lawn fertilizer strains your finances, it may not be worth the cost. In this case, opt for a more affordable option that still meets your lawn's needs. 

Before making that kind of investment, be sure that it’s something that is right for you. It could be a costly mistake if it’s not right for you.  

What impact will my lawn fertilizer have on the environment? 

When excess fertilizer is applied to lawns, it can seep into water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams. This can lead to an excessive amount of nutrients in the water, causing algal blooms. These blooms can deplete oxygen levels in the water, harming aquatic life and creating dead zones where no life can exist. 

Moreover, lawn fertilizers often contain nitrogen and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients for plant growth but can also contribute to air pollution. When these nutrients are not absorbed by plants, they can turn into gas and contribute to smog formation. 

In addition to harming the environment, excessive use of lawn fertilizer can also have negative effects on human health. Nitrogen and phosphorus can leach into drinking water sources, posing a risk to human health if consumed in high amounts. 

By considering the impact of our lawn fertilizer use on the environment, we can make more informed choices and use lawn fertilizers responsibly. This includes using lawn fertilizers with lower nutrient levels, following recommended application rates, and properly disposing of unused or expired fertilizer. 

Additionally, there are alternatives to traditional lawn fertilizers that are more environmentally friendly. These include compost, organic fertilizers, and natural soil amendments. 

With all of this said, if you follow our 2024 guide to lawn fertilizing, you’ll be able to find the right lawn fertilizer for you, giving you a successful landscaping season. It may be daunting, but with the right education, you’ll have your landscape in immaculate condition.