How to fertilize and when to fertilize - DIY fertilizer FAQ's and answers

How to Fertilize Lawn? When to Fertilize? DIY Fertilizer FAQ’s

September is an excellent time to fertilize lawn!  Learn how to fertilize, when to fertilize and why to fertilize with’s DIY Fertilizer FAQ’s:

Why Fertilize?

Fertilizing your turf will provide you with rich, healthy lawn and ensure the grass is in fact greener on your side!  Dollar-for-dollar, fertilizing is by far the most effective and economical way to care for your lawn and achieve a professional look.

When to Fertilize?  How Often to Fertilize?

Depending on your climate, 2-4 applications of fertilizer annually is ideal.  At minimum, fertilize once in the early spring after your lawn has come out of dormancy and fertilize again after the summer heat wave in the late summer or early fall.  Generally, we recommend using a fall lawn food in the early fall and then reapplying the fall fertilizer 6-8 weeks later.

How to Prevent Lawn Burning?

Prevent your lawn from burning by choosing the right type of fertilizer (see below).  Also, avoid fertilizing in the middle of summer and when your lawn is exposed to the hot sun for long periods of time.  Watering after fertilizing may minimize damage, but take care not to cause the fertilizer to run-off.

How to Choose the Right Fertilizer?  What do the Numbers on Fertilizers Mean?

We have covered this in another post.  You will need to perform a soil test and choose a fertilizer based on your type of project.  For detailed instructions, please check here for our post on What Do Numbers on Fertilizers Mean? How to Choose the Right Fertilizer?

Here is a premium soil test kit by Rapitest and some example fertilizers by Miracle-Gro and Scotts:

How to Fertilize?  How to Fertilize Plants vs. How to Fertilize Lawn:

After you have chosen the right fertilizer and performed a soil test, how to fertilize will depend on your garden project.  For plants, trees and garden beds, you generally sprinkle the fertilizer over the soil according to the fertilizer package directions.  Some fertilizers are water soluble, allowing you to spray them onto your plants.  There are even slow releasing “stakes” you can plant in the ground to continuously release fertilizer to your garden over time.

To fertilize a lawn, we never recommend spreading by hand.  Seriously dudes and dudettes, you will end up with light and dark patches on your lawn!  Invest in a walk-behind broadcast spreader or drop spreader.  It will make your life easier, save you time and ultimately money, and give you the lush, green lawn results you expect!

Broadcast spreaders are awesome because they cover large areas in just a few minutes and have a little edge-guard that you can drop down so you don’t fertilize the sidewalk when you get to the edge of your lawn.

Steps to Fertilize Lawn:

  1. Set the spreader to the required spread setting and fill the spreader with fertilizer according to the fertilizer package instructions.
  2. Walk the perimeter of the lawn with the side edge-guard engaged to make a “header strip.”  Basically, outline the perimeter of your lawn with fertilizer.
  3. After finishing the perimeter stroll, disengage the edge-guard and start to fertilize the middle section.  Walk in straight lines back and forth similar to mowing your lawn, distributing the fertilizer evenly throughout your grass.
  4. Tip:  If you don’t want your lawn to look like a zebra with stripes, make sure you overlap your lines with each pass about 6-8 inches.
How to Fertilize - Fertilizing graphic on how to spread fertilizer using a broadcast spreader or drop spreader from
Fertilizing graphic from

Fertilize or Seed First?  How to Overseed and Fertilize?

When starting a new lawn from grass seed, the short answer is to fertilize right before you lay seed.  Don’t forget to work seed into the soil or add a thin layer of topsoil/compost.  For a more comprehensive guide, see our post:  How to Plant Grass Seed for a New Lawn – DIY Guide

When overseeding, we recommend dethatching using a rake (or in more extreme cases – use a dethatcher).  Spread a starter lawn fertilizer using a spreader or dropper.  Then, seed generously to any thin areas of your lawn as if grinding pepper into a bowl of soup.  It is then helpful to spread some screened organic soil or compost to cover the seed because grass seed needs contact with soil in order to germinate.

Follow-Up:  6-8 weeks following overseeding and using starter fertilizer, fertilize once more with a mature lawn fertilizer (see  What Do Numbers on Fertilizers Mean? How to Choose the Right Fertilizer?)  For optimal results, perform the overseeding ritual in the early Spring and again in early Fall.  This will result in a total 4 rounds of fertilizing (2x starter fertilizer during overseeding + 2x mature fertilizer follow-up).  Finally, lightly water roughly need seed 3x a day with a fine mist.

Do Fertilizers Really Work?

Heck YES!  As mentioned above, this is the MOST economical and fastest way to achieve a greener, healthier lawn or garden.  There really is no cheaper or easier way to get greener, healthier lawn.  Remember, choosing the right fertilizer products and following product instructions is critical to success!

Warning:  Remember, we always advise you to spot test any garden chemical before applying it to the entire lawn!


To see one of our reader’s results, check out How Maria Got Greener Grass Than Her Neighbor in 7 Days.


Please let us know if you have any other questions, concerns of feedback!  Time to go GREEN!