A lush green lawn is what many homeowners strive for, but sometimes our grass needs a bit of assistance for it to look its best. Although regular irrigation and mowing is an important aspect of good lawn care, it's also important to regularly feed your turfgrass. Replenishing the necessary nutrients results in a thicker and healthier turf with stronger root growth, fewer weeds and best of all, the rich, green color everyone desires.
Whether you need a lawn fertilizer for weed control, a starter fertilizer for new grass, a pre-emergent weed preventer or an organic fertilizer, there's a type of fertilizer for each of your needs. Homeowners have so many choices of lawn fertilizers that it can become overwhelming trying to select the right one. Always familiarize yourself with the specific brand's ingredients and what it treats, the grasses it's safe to use on, directions for use and any special precautions for its use.
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Familiarizing yourself with the product assures you're using exactly what's safe and what your turfgrass needs. Most importantly, don't use more than what's recommended because it won't speed up the process of greening—and can even burn and kill your grass if you use too much. We've taken a bit of the mystery out of lawn fertilizers and have some suggestions for quality products outlined below.
What to Consider When Purchasing Lawn Fertilizer
Know Your Lawn's Needs: For you to know what type of lawn fertilizer your grass needs, it's important to first know what those needs are. This is why it's important to get a soil test done so you know exactly the makeup of your soil and what's lacking, which affects the growth and health of your grass.
Getting a soil test is especially important if your turfgrass is showing signs of problems like yellowing, brown or dead patches or has a generally unhealthy appearance. By testing your soil, you take all the guesswork out of what your grass requires in the way of nutrients contained in a lawn food.
Is the Fertilizer Safe for My Grass?: Not all lawn fertilizers are made the same and not all are not safe to use on all grass types. It's important to read the specifications on the package to make sure the product you're selecting is safe for use on your grass and won't burn or kill it. The last thing you want to happen is to spend money on fertilizer, spread it all over your nice lawn and then see it start to die after a few days. Always read the label.
Is It Safe for Children and Pets?: If you have pets and children that will be using the lawn, you'll want to make sure you either purchase a nontoxic product, or else know the precautions and how long everyone needs to stay off the grass. When waiting to use the lawn isn't viable or you just want a less toxic fertilizer, fortunately, you have choices of products that allow for safe entry onto the grass right after use.
Type of Fertilizer: Familiarize yourself with the fertilizer package and what it's going to do for your turfgrass, as well as what conditions it deals with so you know you're purchasing the right product for your particular needs. For example, water-soluble or liquid fertilizer types you apply through a hose are more quick-acting than granular or slow-release types—but aren't as long-acting. They require more frequent application.
Nitrogen fertilizer, whether fast-action or slow-release, leads to a greener lawn, as does iron. For weed control, a pre-emergent deals with weeds before they sprout, while a post-emergent blends deal with weeds after germination. Some products contain both. Whatever blend you select, be sure to know the ingredients and the conditions it treats and promotes so your grass gets what it needs.
The Best Overall Lawn Fertilizer
Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer is a good all-around choice if your grass isn't suffering from any potential problems and just needs regular feeding and to look a bit greener. It's safe for use on all turfgrass types so you don't have to worry about it potentially killing your grass. Its suggested use is late spring through summer and you can apply the product to either dry or wet grass. It's a granular type so, you'll need to apply using a spreader.
The grass fertilizer contains 10.5% nitrogen and 5% iron, all of which lead to a thick and lush, greener lawn. It has an NPK ratio of 30-0-4 and continues working for three months. The product promotes quick greening and stronger root growth, which strengthens the turf against drought conditions and heat. Overall, it's a good choice to keep your lawn looking green, lush and healthy.
The Best Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer
With 90 years behind the product, Milorganite Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer is a good choice if you only need to primarily add nitrogen to your lawn. The good thing about Milorganite is there's no chance of burning the grass and the product can also be used in your potted plants and flower beds. Since the product doesn't contain any salts, it's safe to use in drought conditions or in locations with restraints on water usage. It's also considered an organic fertilizer.
Milorganite's NPK ratio is 6-4-0, with no less than 6% nitrogen, of which at least 85% is water-insoluble, released slowly into the soil. The product also contains around 4% phosphate and 2.5% iron. The fertilizer is a suitable choice if you desire a nitrogen blend that won't burn your grass or plants and is safe to use throughout the landscape.
The Best Product for All-Around for Weed-Control
Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns is a good selection if you're looking for a product containing only pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides. It's safe to use on all grass types and you can apply it anytime during the growing season, spring through fall, while the turf and weeds are actually growing. You'll need a broadcast spreader to apply the product. It gives five months of weed control.
The pre-emergent herbicide prevents the dreaded crabgrass, as well as other weeds. Whereas the post-emergent herbicide kills annual weeds like dandelions, clover and chickweed, Spectracide Weed Stop kills more than 200 weeds commonly infesting lawns, keeping your turfgrass looking green and healthy.
The Best Triple Action Fertilizer
If you need a product that feeds your lawn as well as deals with pre-emergent and post-emergent weeds, then Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action is a suitable choice. Its three-in-one formula not only feeds your turfgrass, leading to a green, thick lawn, but also prevents broadleaf weeds like crabgrass and kills already germinated weeds like dandelions and clover, working for up to four months. It has an NPK ratio of 25-0-2, with 25% nitrogen for a greener lawn.
However, be sure to read the label to make sure the product is safe to use on your particular type of grass. Apply when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and allow the product to remain on the grass for 24 hours before watering. You'll also want to keep children and pets off the area until the fertilizer dust settles. You'll start seeing results in a couple of weeks.
The Best Pet-Safe Fertilizer
The last thing we want is to make our pets sick by walking on the lawn after we apply fertilizer or other products to make it look better. However, with Scotts Natural Lawn Food, you won't have to worry about this because it's safe to venture onto the grass right after application, whether it's your pets, children or an adult. There's no waiting necessary.
Another bonus about the lawn food is that it's safe to apply during any season. Plus, you can use it on any type of grass without the worry of damage. The product doesn't have an unpleasant smell and is a granular type, so you'll need a broadcast spreader to apply. It contains 11% nitrogen, 2% phosphate and soluble potash, as well as 1.5% calcium and 1% sulfur. The product also contains the OMRI label, as the fertilizer is certified organic.
The Best Value Lawn Fertilizer
GreenView Lawn Fertilizer is a good choice if you're looking for a product that will green up your lawn but won't bust your pocketbook. Its 48-pound bag will cover 15,000 square feet of lawn, so one bag is enough to fertilize most yards. It's safe to use on all grasses anytime during the year.
The fertilizer has an NPK ratio of 22-0-4 and doesn't contain any phosphates which are known to harm our waterways. The product promotes faster growth and stronger grass roots, which improves the absorption of water and nutrients and helps protect the grass during periods of drought. It has readily released and controlled-release nutrients containing 22% nitrogen, 4% soluble potash, and 3% sulfur. Once applied, it continues feeding the grass for eight weeks.
The Best Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Lawn Food is a water-soluble fertilizer blend, so you don't have to worry about burning your grass. It's safe to use anytime throughout the year and on any type of turfgrass. A 5-pound container feeds 7,200 square feet of grass, but you'll need the Miracle-Gro® garden feeder and a hose for application.
Applying the lawn food mixed with water allows the grass blades to instantly absorb the product, leading to a quicker green. You should apply every three to four weeks during the growing season for the best results. The fertilizer contains 36% nitrogen and 0.325% iron, both leading to quick greening, as well as 3% sulfur and 6% soluble potash.