If you've never fertilized your lawn before, you might have a lot of questions. When do I fertilize my lawn? Should I fertilize my lawn? What do I need to do and what do I need to get to fertilize my lawn? The answer is yes. Yes you should fertilize, but there is a few things to take into consideration before you go out to the local box store and pick up a bag of fertilizer.
What are the important things to know before you lay down a bunch of fertilizer on your lawn? Well, for starters its good to know your lawn size. How much fertilizer are you even going to have to buy to sufficiently cover your lawn? On most bags when you purchase them, they will tell you how much yard they cover based on square footage. You can either use Google Earth to measure out the sections of your lawn you will be applying fertilizer, or measure it out with a tool such as a measuring wheel or a tape measure, depending on the size.
So, now that you know the size of your lawn, what's the next step? If you're looking to have the best lawn in the neighborhood, then getting a soil test done to tell you what type of soil you have is a good idea. This isn't 100% necessary, but it will allow you to get it right the first time. This will tell you if you need to add fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphates, or whether you need to put down some lime to neutralize the soil.
If you simply don't have the time to do this, then Scotts® sells a few fertilizers that have you covered. They sell a Scotts® Turf Builder® granular fertilizer that is sort of a one size fits all. Most box stores in your area will carry the proper fertilizers for your geographical location, grass types, and weather patterns. Box stores really take the guess work out of what product you need to buy. A personal favorite is the 3 in 1, or triple action, fertilizers that kill weeds, stop new weeds from growing and fertilize the lawn all at the same time. Its like 3 birds with one stone!
One last tip is to buy a good seed/fertilizer spreader. A spreader will allow you to efficiently and effectively spread the seed across the lawn. By knowing how much ground you need to cover, spreaders allow you to add a measured amount and set the spreader to the desired speed to drop out fertilizer equally across the lawn. This means you won't add too much fertilizer because they usually come with a guide on how much to add in the chute, how to set the dials, and how fast to walk. They couldn't make it any easier without having someone do it for you!
Before you actually go and start fertilizing your lawn, there is a few things to do to prep it, and this is where we explain when to fertilize. Most fertilizers can be put down about every 6-8 weeks apart. Its good to apply up to about 4 times a year, but in PA, three times is a good number. A study done by Penn State University say that late April or early May is a good time to apply the first time of the year, then apply again around late summer, labor day is a good reference point. Lastly, apply again in late fall some time around thanksgiving. The late application keeps your lawn healthy and happy through the rough winter, allowing it to come back greener than ever.
"Okay, so, how do I fertilize?"
I'm glad you asked!
Now that you have everything you need, don't forget to prep the lawn for fertilizing. Don't waste all your money for fertilizer to skip steps. Water the lawn a few days ahead of time and make sure the ground is softening up, porous and ready to accept the fertilizer. Like mowing your lawn, start fertilizing with the perimeter. Starting on the outside allows you to cover all the hard to get areas first, so it's smooth sailing the rest of the way. As mentioned, make sure you set the spreader to the correct setting per the bag's instructions. This varies on size, speed, and the spreader itself. so don't forget this step! Walking back and forth in a straight path at a moderate pace is the best practice for applying your fertilizer. Its like mowing your lawn in straight lines, but with the spreader you want to see a small overlap in the fertilizer going down as you make each pass. The slight overlap allows you to ensure you aren't skipping areas, but don't overlap too much or you'll run out of fertilizer before you get to the end. Congratulations, your lawn will thank you, your neighbors will envy you, and you're going to be proud of the lawn you're grooming.
Items we discussed:
Soil test (optional)
When to fertilize in PA
Steps to fertilizing
Its really that simple. A few key points that are really just a 2 or 3 step process that can really be simplified as buy and apply. Now go tackle that lawn!