Here Is the Best Time to Fertilize Your Lawn

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Man fertilizing his lawn
Semmick Photo /

If you love a lush, green lawn, it’s important to fertilize your grass. Fertilizer can help your lawn cope with pests and protects it from sweltering heat and bitter cold.

But when and how often should you lay down fertilizer?

Frank Rossi, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science, tells Consumer Reports you should not fertilize it more than twice yearly. Too much fertilizer can damage the roots of your grass and cause scorching.

Instead of getting green grass, overfertilizing can turn the blades brown and patchy.

The best time to fertilize generally is in late summer/early fall. Once the lawn begins to thin, applying the fertilizer can help you “feed roots more than leaves,” Rossi tells CR.

However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. While early fall can be a good time to fertilize a lawn in the Northeast and Northwest, late spring typically might make more sense in the South and Southwest.

The key is to fertilize when the grass grows more roots than blades.

The folks at the Scotts lawn care company say that with a spreader, you can fertilize your lawn in as little as 15 minutes. To do the job right, Scotts says you should:

  • Water the lawn a few days before.
  • Apply fertilizer around your lawn’s perimeter.
  • Fill in the middle.

Scotts recommends that you lay down the fertilizer in a fashion similar to how you mow the lawn by “walking back and forth in straight lines while slightly overlapping with each pass.”

Just make sure not to fertilize before a big storm. Consumer Reports says doing so can lead to runoff.

For more on keeping your lawn healthy, check out:

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