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Lawn & Garden

Select The Best Fertilizer For Your Lawn

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Grass needs to be fed anytime that it is growing. Lawns that go dormant do not need to be fertilized during their dormant period. Apply fertilizer to those lawns after they have become green in the spring, and at least 4 weeks before they enter the dormant state in the fall.


Test the Soil

After you determine the type of grass that makes up your lawn, the next step is to select the fertilizer that best suits its needs. Having your soil tested for nutrients and pH will give you the best information for determining your lawn’s needs. The local Extension Service in your area can test your soil. Take several samples from your yard to them for analysis. It takes a few weeks and might require a small fee.

Extension services will make recommendations based on tried and true agricultural practices. They will also avoid recommending brand name commercial products. This means that the products in stock at The Home Depot might not agree exactly with their advice, but we can get a good idea on which fertilizer will be best for you.

Fertilizer Nutrients


Fertilizer is labeled with numbers that represent the amount of the nutrients by percentage, contained in the bag or bottle. The order of the three main nutrients is always in the same order of Nitrogen (N) first, followed by Phosphorus (P) and then Potassium (K). 

•  Nitrogen promotes top growth and green color. 

•  Phosphorus helps new roots to develop and boosts blooms in flowering plants.

•  Potassium maintains the overall vitality of plants.

These are the three main nutrients, but they are not the only nutrients needed. Other nutrients are considered Minor Nutrients, and are needed in less than 1% increments. Iron is one of these minors. If your lawn doesn't green up when you add nitrogen, an iron deficiency is likely the cause for yellow grass color.

Premium lawn food contains nitrogen (the first of the three fertilizer numbers) that is available over a longer period of time. This slowly released fertilizer feeds longer and maintains an even supply of the necessary nutrients for the grass. Nitrogen is water soluble and will wash out of the soil with water. Nitrogen is also used to produce chlorophyll to replace the green grass blades that we mow every week. This is why lawn food is often much higher in nitrogen than any other nutrient.


Centipede grass does not utilize phosphorus, so fertilizer that is especially formulated for centipede has ‘0’ as its middle number. The most common example of that fertilizer is 15-0-15, since centipede benefits from added potassium. Centipede is a rather unique grass in that it also prefers soil with a lower pH than most lawn grasses. This is why you generally avoid adding lime to centipede grass.


Seeded or newly sodded lawns, other than centipede, will use phosphorus (the middle fertilizer number) to produce roots faster and deeper. After the lawn is established, additional phosphorus is not needed. Phosphorus and potassium (the third fertilizer number) do not leach out of the soil a quickly as nitrogen.

Applying Various Types of Fertilizer

Pure fertilizer, those without weed killers, should be applied to a dry lawn and watered in soon thereafter. This will settle the nutrients to the soil where they can be taken up through the roots as they dissolve. Chemical burn can occur when nitrogen activates while in contact with the grass blades. Watering the lawn immediately will help avoid this condition.


Conversely, Weed and Feed fertilizer is food with added weed killer. These post emergent weed killers need to enter through the foliage of the weeds, so they should be applied to moist grass and not be watered for at least 24 hours. 


Long lasting, slow release fertilizer will feed for 12 to 16 weeks, so apply premium lawn food every three months for optimum feeding. All purpose fertilizer will quickly release its nitrogen within 30 days, so all purpose fertilizers need to be applied monthly.

Click here to learn How to Use A Spreader To Feed Your Lawn.

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Posted 2016-01-15T20:01:44+0000  by Travis_HD_ATL Travis_HD_ATL