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Lawn Fertilization Tips

Fertilizing Image

Lawns that are lush, thick and gorgeously green require a little help to stay that way. The key is applying the best lawn fertilizer for your grass. Careful fertilization won't damage soil or soak it with toxic chemicals. Fertilizer feeds soil, giving it extra nutrients and improving its texture and water-retention properties. Follow these steps to grow a thick, smooth carpet of healthy green grass.

Test Your Soil

  • Find out what your soil needs with an inexpensive soil testing kit. It takes only a few minutes to complete and will tell you what nutrients your soil needs for the best possible growing results. Read more about performing a soil test.
  • Interpret your results with the help of a Lowe's Garden Center associate to find the right additives for your lawn. For example, a soil test may reveal that your soil is too acidic and you need to add powdered lime. Or you may find that your soil is too dense with clay and you need to add gypsum.

Choose the Right Fertilizer

Liquid Fertilizer

You'll see many types of fertilizers in the garden center. The technical details and promises vary from product to product, so bring in your soil test and talk with someone in the Lowe's Garden Center to pick the right fertilizer for your yard.

  • General-purpose lawn fertilizers — often labeled Lawn Starter — are a good first choice if you've never fertilized your lawn before. These fertilizers release a mix of the most commonly needed nutrients, bit by bit for three to four months.
  • Liquid fertilizers are fast-acting. Because they're quickly absorbed, they require frequent application, usually every two to three weeks.
  • Granular fertilizers are easier to control than liquids because you can see how much fertilizer you're applying. Also, these fertilizers usually release nutrients slowly over the course of six to 12 weeks.

Consider Organic Fertilizers

Nonsynthetic organic fertilizers and soil additives are available at the Lowe's Garden Center and other nurseries. Because these products typically lack ingredients that slow down nutrient release, you may have to apply them more frequently. As with synthetic products, always apply properly and with caution.

Commonly used organic fertilizers:

  • Green sand — Made from marine sediments and also contains potassium and iron
  • Blood meal — A byproduct of the meat-packing industry and is rich in phosphorous
  • Compost — A mix of decaying plant material and is an excellent all-around soil improver — buy it at Lowe's or make it yourself.
  • Cottonseed meal — A good source of nitrogen
  • Fish emulsion — A byproduct of the fish-processing industry and safe for young plants — but it does smell like fish
  • Superphosphate — Combines rock phosphate with sulfuric acid so plants can more easily absorb phosphorous
  • Manure — Great for all-around soil conditioning. Mix a hot manure, such as horse, pig and poultry manure, with compost to avoid burning plants, or add a cold manure, such as cow, sheep and rabbit manure, directly to the soil

Apply Fertilizer Carefully

Granular Fertilizer

  • Always handle fertilizer with care and follow package directions regarding proper clothing and protective gear, application procedures and safety precautions.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions to determine when to apply fertilizer. For example, never apply slow-release fertilizer to your lawn late in the growing season — you don't want to boost grass growth prior to the dormant season. 
  • Most liquid fertilizers are concentrated, so you should mix them with water as the label recommends or use a special attachment on your garden hose.
  • Apply granular fertilizer with a spreader, adjusting the application rate based on the level of coverage that fertilizer bag recommends. Work the fertilizer into the ground with a rake and spray the entire lawn with water.
  • Regardless of which type of fertilizer you choose, avoid over-applying. Too much fertilizer is never a good thing. Plants can only absorb so much fertilizer, so over-applying wastes fertilizer and may chemically burn or even kill plants.

Clean Up

  • After working with fertilizers, thoroughly clean all equipment, containers and the soles of your shoes.
  • Sweep up any dry fertilizer that ends up on driveways. Put back in bag or dispose of properly.
  • Don't let fertilized water run into water sources like retaining ponds or streams.

Forget the Guesswork