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Fertilize and Amend the Soil

Home lawn.

Most lawns need extra nutrients such as fertilizers and soil conditioners to keep them healthy. Find out what your lawn is missing and take some steps toward a beautiful landscape.

Tools & Materials

Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.

Testing Lawn Soil

Soil testing kit.

The easiest way to learn what your lawn needs to grow healthy is to first perform a soil test. You can purchase soil test kits at Lowe's, or send a soil sample to a nearby university extension service. A soil test can give you a detailed analysis of pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg), as well as other minerals and organic matter in the sampled soil. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the test kit.

TIP: You can test the soil nearly any time during the year as it typically doesn't change.

The pH test measures the balance between acidic and alkaline soil. Water has a pH of 7.0, which is neutral. Soil with a pH number higher than 7.0 is alkaline and soil with a pH number lower than 7.0 is acidic. Most grass seeds prefer a pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.8, slightly acidic. If the soil for your lawn isn't within the lawn seed's recommended pH range, you can amend the soil to bring it into pH balance for optimum growth.

- If the test shows that lawn soil is highly acidic, you'll need to add lime or gypsum. Gypsum is also great for use in soils with high clay content. Alkaline soil may need some sulfur.

TIP: A Lowe's associate can assist you in selecting the optimum amount of lime, gypsum or sulfur for your lawn soil and seed as well as offer instructions on proper application. Bags of soil amendments also offer suggestions on how much to apply for optimum results.

- Add the amendments after applying the fertilizer.

Before you fertilize and amend the soil for your lawn, read and follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer(s). If needed, discuss the job with a Lowe's associate or call a professional for help.

Fertilizing the Soil

Lawn fertilizer starter bag.

Apply fertilizer to ensure optimum health of grass and growth of new seed.

1. Select a lawn starter or lawn maintenance fertilizer. Lawn maintenance fertilizers are best for established lawns that are in relatively good condition. Some fertilizers are recommended for both applications, suggesting different spread rates depending on the application.
2. Refer to the lawn fertilizer directions on the package for application instructions and precautions.

TIP: It's best to fertilize four times per year. Consider using major holidays as reminders: St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Independence Day and Halloween.

3. Set the lawn spreader's drop rate as suggested by the fertilizer and spreader manufacturers.
4. Spread the fertilizer in the pattern recommended by the fertilizer manufacturer. Most suggest a criss-cross pattern that ensures even coverage.
5. Add lime, gypsum or sulfur if needed.
6. Use a rake to work them into the soil.
7. When done, clean up any fertilizer that falls on driveways, patios, sidewalks, etc.
8. Clean all tools and your shoes with a hose. To avoid chemical runoff, don't clean them near water sources or sensitive plants.

Don't use a weed and feed fertilizer or crabgrass preventer on a newly started or overseeded lawn. If you have used a weed and feed product recently, check the package to determine how much time must pass, typically 4-6 weeks, before you plant new seed.

Forget the Guesswork