Throwing the sprinkler on your lawn a few times a week during the spring and summer and hoping for the best is a recipe for dry, dead grass by mid-July. For your yard to reach its full potential, you need to establish a fertilization regimen that feeds it the nutrients it needs when it needs them.
Fertilizing your lawn puts you ahead of most people, but getting the timing right will take your property to the next level. Professional lawn care companies like TruGreen make it their business to get your lawn the nutrients it needs at the right time, making it easy to cultivate a healthy lawn.
If you’d like a quote from TruGreen, fill out this quick form or call 1-866-817-2172.
Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn
The best time to fertilize your lawn depends on where you live and what kind of grass you have. Most properties have either cool-season grass or warm-season grass. However, in most cases, the best time to fertilize your lawn is when the ground temperature is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which for most homeowners is in March or April. You should also fertilize a moist lawn, so be sure to water it a few days for applying fertilizer.
Year-Round Fertilizing Schedule For a Greener Lawn
Some fertilizers get applied once per year, leveraging slow-release technology to keep your lawn fed throughout its growing period, while others recommend re-fertilizing every eight weeks. Follow the directions on your fertilizer since overfertilizing is detrimental to your lawn’s health as forgoing fertilization altogether.
Most grass species are dormant during the winter months when sunlight is scarce, and low temperatures make winter fertilizing unnecessary. However, late winter fertilization can help kickstart your lawn’s growing season if you have warm-season grass and live in a region with mild winters.
Your lawn needs to be fed with nitrogen and phosphorus as soon as it enters its growing season, making it essential to start fertilizing no matter what the calendar says. If you have warm-season grass and live in the south, pay attention to the weather from late February to early March and be ready to fertilize when the temperature rises.
When daytime temperatures start to hit the high 60s and 70s, it’s time to break out the fertilizer.
Spring is arguably the most important season for lawn care. Early spring is when most people fertilize their lawns, and it’s a good time for many climates and grass types. If you’re only going to make one fertilizer application per year, spring is probably your best bet.
Spring fertilization gives cool-season grass some extra fuel to help it recover from months of dormancy, even if you already fertilized your lawn during the fall. Warm-season grass also benefits from spring fertilization since the spring and summer are when it enters its peak growing season and requires the most nourishment.
The timing of spring fertilization depends on whether you have cool or warm-season grass. You need to fertilize cool-season grass during early spring before the temperatures reach their summer peak and warm-season grass in late spring or early summer as temperatures reach their yearly highs.
Many people assume that summer is too late to fertilize their grass, but early summer is ideal for some warm-season grasses.
Warm-season grass enters its peak growing season when the weather gets hot, which means fertilizing in early spring is too soon if you want your lawn to be lush and full throughout the summer.
Many warm-season grass types do best with a bi-annual lawn fertilizer schedule, with one round at the start of summer and one near the end as temperatures decline. You should avoid fertilizing in the middle of the summer when temperatures are highest, even with warm-season grass.
Most people make the mistake of only fertilizing their cool-season grass in the spring, and their lawn’s health suffers later in the year. For these grass types, early fall is typically ideal.
Cool-season lawns benefit from fall fertilization primarily for two reasons. Cool-season grass tends to take a beating during the summer, so fertilizing it in the fall helps it replenish vital nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium as it enters a growing cycle. Fall fertilization also helps make your lawn as healthy as possible, heading into the dormant winter months, allowing it to emerge in better condition when spring arrives.
Mid to late fall is ideal for fall fertilization, although the specific time depends on when the ground freezes. In frigid regions, early fall fertilization works better.
You would give your lawn a heavy dose of fertilizer 2–to 3 weeks before the ground freezes in a perfect world. Of course, it’s difficult to know precisely when the ground will freeze beforehand, making mid or late October the best option for most lawns.
Identifying Your Grass Type to Choose a Grass Seed
Before fertilizing or reseeding your lawn, you need to know what grass you have. Most regions have either cool-season or warm-season grasses, although some have a combination of both.
All lawns need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow, but the amounts of each vary depending on the type of grass you have. Getting the correct fertilizer for your grass type will make a big difference.
Cool-season grasses grow in the country’s northern parts and require lower temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive. The peak growing periods for cool-season grasses are late fall and early spring, when temperatures are cooler. Most people fertilize cool-season grass heavily in the fall to recharge the soil after the summer and prepare their lawn for its dormant period over the winter.
Common cool-season grasses are annual and perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, creeping red fescue, and similar types of turfgrass.
Warm-season grasses do much better in the south, with warmer temperatures year-round. These grass varieties reach peak growth when the weather is hot, usually between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they do most of their growing between July and September.
Late spring or early summer is the best time to fertilize warm-season grasses, although late winter or early spring works well in extremely hot regions like the southwest desert. Popular warm-season grasses include zoysiagrass, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine grass.
Transition Zone Grasses
People who live in the transition zone between hot and cold climates have a tougher time caring for their lawns since the conditions are rarely ideal for either cool-season or warm-season grass. If you live in the transition zone, your best option is to grow either a warm-season or cool-season lawn, depending on which way your region’s climate skews.
If you live in a warmer part of the transition zone, you can usually get away with warm-season grass like zoysia or St. Augustine. Some people choose to overseed with a cool-season lawn during the winter to give their yard a thicker appearance and protection against thinning if the warm-season grass dies from the cold.
On the other hand, cool-season grass works well at the northern edge of the transition zone, where temperatures might drop more during an unusually harsh winter. Many varieties of fescue—especially Tall Fescue—work well in the transition zone.
Here are some general fertilizing tips to help you get the most out of your lawn care program and give your lawn an extra boost.
- Fertilize after watering your lawn or after a light rain: A dry lawn won’t accept fertilizer as easily as a moist one, so lightly water your grass or wait for it to rain before fertilizing.
- Don’t fertilize when there’s rain in the forecast: On the other hand, fertilizers before a heavy rainfall waste fertilizer since most of it will wash away and won’t absorb into the soil.
- Slow-release fertilizers can help even outgrowth: They can keep your lawn looking great for longer since they give grass a continuous supply of NPK for months after application.
- Fertilize after mowing: Applying fertilizer after mowing gives your lawn a chance to absorb it before it gets disturbed by the mower.
How Often to Fertilize
How often you should fertilize depends on the type of grass you have and where you’re located. Warm-season vs. cold-season grasses need different frequencies of fertilization, plus your climate impacts when peak season is for your lawn. Our lawn care experts recommend fertilizing every 6-8 weeks during peak lawn season. Ideally, you’ll fertilize once in early spring, once right before peak summer, and once more in the fall. It would be best to be careful not to overfertilize, as this will significantly damage the grass root system and cause poor drainage. Poor draining can cause many issues, like standing water pooling in your yard.
Weather’s Impact on Fertilizing
There are two times you shouldn’t fertilize when it comes to watching out for the weather:
Don’t Fertilize During a Drought
Although your lawn may be suffering, be sure not to apply fertilizer during drought periods. Your lawn needs to be watered regularly for fertilizer to work correctly, and arid conditions can lead to grass surface burns and slower growth. Additionally, in many states where droughts are a huge concern, there are often regulations on how often you can water your lawn.
Don’t Fertilize Directly Before or After Heavy Rainfall
Heavy rainfall can cause various issues on your lawn, such as eroding soil, soil compaction, pooling water, and saturated areas. Properties experiencing high water volume will need to drain the water somehow, diluting the fertilizer you applied and carrying it away from your yard.
Professional Lawn Fertilization vs. DIY Lawn Fertilizer
Professional lawn care services are an excellent option for people who don’t have the time or ability to maintain their lawn or for people who are disappointed with their lawn after trying to care for it themselves. Even though it’s cheaper to fertilize your lawn yourself, it’s also easier to wind up with a less vibrant lawn if you don’t know what you’re doing. The difference in cost between professional fertilization and DIY fertilization is also more minor than most people realize.
Best Professional Lawn Care Service: TruGreen
TruGreen is a professional lawn care service available everywhere in the United States except for Alaska. The company has decades of experience providing lawn care services, and its technicians are highly trained professionals who know how to get the most out of your lawn.
One of the best things about TruGreen is that you can choose what lawn care services you want, so you get what you’re looking for without paying for extras to fit into a pre-configured plan.
TruGreen’s lawn care plans offer fertilization, line soil amendment, and weed control, and advanced programs include aeration, overseeding, and tree care. You can also purchase one-off services like soil analysis, tick and flea treatments, grub control, and mosquito defense.
TruGreen doesn’t list its prices online because rates vary depending on where you live, how many square feet your lawn is, what services you need, and the current condition of your lawn. Customer reviews almost universally mention that TruGreen is competitively priced for their region and offers good value compared to the quality of service it provides.
TruGreen is the best professional lawn care service for anyone looking for an all-in-one plan that includes everything they need to maintain a beautiful lawn. It’s also an excellent choice for those who want to do most of their lawn care and only need a specific service.
Best DIY Lawn Care Provider: Sunday Lawn Care
If you like to do lawn care yourself or are looking to save money, Sunday Lawn Care provides all the tools you need to grow a thick, carpet-like lawn yourself. Sunday Lawn Care prides itself on selling safer lawn care products that use safe, natural ingredients instead of dangerous chemicals and herbicides. The company is based in Boulder, Colorado, and ships to all 50 states.
Sunday Lawn Care sells various products, from potassium-rich fertilizers to specialized formulas that protect your lawn from the summer h. Still, these customized plans are the company’s bread and butter. Send Sunday a soil sample, and the company will send you back the right fertilizer you need when you need it, along with instructions for how to use it properly. And if you have any questions, you can get support from an actual human at any time.
Sunday Lawn Care’s products are reasonably priced, given the amount of customization. Still, they’ll run you a bit more than a generic bag of whatever fertilizer your local garden center has on hand. The legions of satisfied Sunday customers suggest the products are worth the price, but it might not be the best option for people on a tight budget.
Sunday Lawn Care is an excellent option if you want a team of lawn experts to craft a custom fertilizer explicitly designed for your lawn. The soil test service and custom fertilizer formula make it the best option short of hiring a professional service like TruGreen.
TruGreen is the easiest, most cost-effective way for most people to grow a lawn they can be proud of. TruGreen’s service has been outstanding for decades, its technicians are experts, and it won’t cost as much as you might think. If you’re tired of struggling all year to keep your lawn alive, TruGreen is the way to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I have a professional fertilize my lawn?
Unless you have professional lawn care experience, a professional service will get you better results and probably save you money in the long run.
Does my lawn need to be fertilized?
Yes! Not fertilizing their lawn or treating fertilization as an afterthought is the number one lawn care mistake most homeowners make.
How do I apply lawn fertilizer?
Experts recommend applying fertilizer with a drop spreader or broadcast spreader, depending on the kind of yard you have. Our guide to how to fertilize your lawn can help advise you in your DIY fertilization efforts.
What is the best lawn fertilizer?
The best fertilizer is the one that’s right for the type of grass you have, your local climate, and your soil’s chemical composition.
Today's Homeowner Rating & Methodology
At Today's Homeowner, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.
Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.
We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:
- Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
- Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
- Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
- Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
- Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
- Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
- Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.