Skip to main content

The Handy Homeowner’s Guide to Lawn Fertilization

lawn fertilization

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we’ve all begun to notice that spring is finally just around the corner. It’s the time of year to soak in the fresh green beauty of nature. However, if you’d like to see some of that natural green beauty in your own yard, then it is also the most important time of the year for you to fertilize.

If you’re ready to take on this lawn task yourself, then consider this your all-inclusive guide to properly fertilizing your lawn this year.

1. Understanding why we fertilize.

Just like we take vitamins and supplements for our health, plants (like grass) need a vitamin boost from time to time as well. Basically, fertilizer supplements plants with essential nutrients.

Fertilizing your lawn properly and routinely is absolutely crucial to maintain optimal health in your yard.

So what are these essential nutrients that grass needs? 3 of the 6 essential nutrients that grass needs are Oxygen (O), Carbon (C), and Hydrogen (H). Lucky for us, plants get these 3 nutrients from above-ground sources like rain and air, so supplementing these is not necessary.

Where your plants need some extra help are with their other 3 necessary nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Plants absorb these nutrients from sources below ground, i.e., the soil in which they are living.

So if our plants are "planted" in soil, then why is it necessary to supplement these 3 soil-based nutrients with fertilizer? The problem with the soil in our yards is that it is often nutrient deficient. This lack of nutrients is due to the high amount of activity that happens under the surface.

Rain, irrigation, and the erosion that follows shift the soil and wash the nutrients away depleting their supply in the soil. This is why we must fertilize! Our plants can not thrive without the added boost of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium found in fertilizer.

Why are these 3 nutrients so crucial to grass health? Adding Nitrogen primarily affects the blades of the grass, and encourages leaf growth and development. Basically, Nitrogen makes the green happen – and who doesn’t want plenty of green in their lawn? Phosphorous stimulates root growth and development and is also responsible for fruit and flower production.

The primary purpose of Potassium is to strengthen the plant cells in the grass. Stronger cells promote disease resistance and help plants to survive severe temperatures. 

It's important to note that not every bag of fertilizer is made the same – in fact, it's quite the opposite. Bags will differ in how much of each nutrient they contain. Every bag of fertilizer displays three numbers separated by dashes. These numbers represent the three nutrients that your plants rely on:

  •  Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). They always appear in that order.

These numbers tell us the proportion of that nutrient in the fertilizer bag. For example, if the bag of fertilizer reads 10-10-10, then that bag contains 10% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus, 10% Potassium, and the rest is inert fillers. The inert fillers help to distribute the nutrients in a way that doesn't burn your lawn.

2. When and how often to fertilize

The absolute best time for lawn fertilization is in early spring. Spring is the growing season, and your lawn will definitely need a nutrient boost. An added perk to fertilizing in the early spring is that it will encourage your grass to green up a bit more quickly.

The tell-tale sign that your lawn is ready for its first fertilizer treatment of the year is when it starts to show green again after winter.

When green starts popping up, it means your grass is finally waking up from winter dormancy and that it's ready to grow again.

Exactly how much fertilizer your lawn will require for the year is dependent on your type of grass, the size of your property, and the environmental conditions around it. Texas A&M recommends that in a year, North Texas lawns with common grass types (such as Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, or St. Augustine grass) should receive about 4-6 pounds of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet

4-6 pounds of N/1000 sq. ft. sounds like a lot of product, right? It is important to remember that this is the amount of N that your grass needs for the entire year, and it should be spread out through several treatments. The ideal treatment plan includes about 6 fertilizer treatments per year. Each one of these treatments should spread about 0.5-1.5 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft. totaling up to 4-6 pounds for the year.

Your yard's nutrient needs change through the seasons. For example, your grass doesn't need as much fertilizer during dormant times as it would during a growth cycle. Environmental conditions also affect the amount of nutrients that your grass needs. For example, lawns that are heavily shaded require slightly less fertilizer than yards with full sun.

Every lawn is unique, and determining the amount of fertilizer to spread and when to do it can be rather complicated. Your best option is to consult with lawn care experts or to hire a local lawn care company to take over treatment for you.

3. Have the right tools ready

The average homeowner will typically encounter three different options of fertilizer spreaders.

The Drop Spreader

First is the drop spreader, which operates just as it sounds. When the spreader is pushed, the fertilizer drops straight down between the two wheels. Drop spreaders aren’t usually the best option because they require extra passes, and the user has to be very precise in the application or they'll end up with green stripes.

The Broadcast Spreader

The second (and more preferable) option is the broadcast spreader. This is another aptly named tool, as it also operates just as it sounds. When the spreader is pushed, a wheel at the base spins and throws the fertilizer out over a large area. Exactly how wide of a path that the fertilizer is tossed over can vary dependent on the type of equipment used.

Average broadcast spreaders disperse the fertilizer out in a 4-foot wide path. Most commercial-grade spreaders can broadcast fertilizer in a range of 6-8 feet. Some lawn professionals (like Gecko Green) use spreaders capable of broadcasting fertilizer as wide as 12 feet out.

There are a few benefits that come with the fertilizer being tossed over a wider path. It makes fertilizing more convenient as you won’t need to make as many passes. Also, less precision is necessary because the fertilizer product is spread more evenly across a larger area. Broadcast spreaders also create ease of mind. You won't have to worry about over-fertilizing/burning areas or missing areas - phew!

The Hand Spreader

Operating this spreader requires you to hold the tool while turning a crank. The crank turns a small wheel that spins to broadcast the fertilizer out. The hand spreader is only recommended for very small lawns. As you can imagine, using a small handheld tool for a large yard would be very inefficient and time-consuming.

4. Choosing the best fertilizer for your lawn

Our recommendation is that you use a granular slow-release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer is the best option for the average homeowner because it is easier to apply accurately, and the results last longer. 

The next step is to buy a bag of fertilizer that will work for you. All fertilizer bags have a label that matches that bag with different types of spreaders. Once you find a bag that mentions your spreader, the label lists what setting you need to put your spreader on while dispersing the fertilizer.

So keep it simple and choose a bag that has your particular spreader listed, so you know that you're putting down the right amount of fertilizer. Always read the entire label on the bag for instructions and safety.

Next up - which N, P, K ratio is right for your yard? Choosing your ratio depends on exactly what your goals are for your yard.

  • If your goal is overall plant health and growth – select an all-purpose fertilizer with equal parts N, P, and K.
  • If your goal is to promote lush green grass growth – select a fertilizer with a high 1st number (high in Nitrogen).
  • If your goal is to encourage root growth or fruit/flower production – select a fertilizer that has a high middle number (high in Phosphorus).
  • If your goal is to strengthen your grass against disease/heat/cold – select a fertilizer that has high 2nd and 3rd numbers (high in P and K)

5. Getting ready to spread

Now that you’ve purchased your spreader and fertilizer, it’s time to put them together.  First and foremost, you should always read the label for safety information and for instructions on what conditions to fertilize in (such as wet or dry grass).

Preparation on your lawn actually begins a couple days before you plan to fertilize. It's best to mow the yard a couple days in advance. Mowing ahead of time will create more access for fertilizer to reach your soil. So be sure to clear out the clippings and any other debris that may be blocking the surface. Around the same time, you should also water your lawn so the soil will be better able to soak up the fertilizer granules.

Now, you’re ready for the “day of” preparations (which are pretty straightforward). Before you put the fertilizer into the spreader, lay a tarp or blanket down to avoid spilling onto the grass. Check the label for the setting that your spreader should be set at and insert fertilizer into your spreader.

Never forget - more fertilizer is not better. Be sure to follow the directions on the bag according to the size of your lawn. Over-fertilizing can burn your grass.

6. Tips on how best to spread your fertilizer

  • Be precise in your walking lines.
  • Walk at a consistent, faster than normal pace.
  • Make two passes across your yard in two different directions. Make one pass across your yard using up half of the fertilizer. Then the second half should be spread in the perpendicular direction.
  • It can be helpful to water right after fertilizing. The water is meant to activate the fertilizer and push the granules down into the soil.
  • After fertilizing, try to wait a day or two to mow your grass. Mowing will displace the fertilizer and cause it to be unevenly spread.

How Gecko Green can professionally care for your lawn

At Gecko Green, we understand that every yard is unique. After one of our lawn care experts personally inspects your property, they will expertly calculate the precise amount of nutrients that your lawn needs. With perfectly timed lawn care treatments and the optimal amount of fertilizer applied, your lawn will shine!

Gecko Green is a family-owned lawn care company that has been greening up the DFW area for years. Our team has the best equipment and the most knowledgeable and friendly experts in the business.

Our experts always available to you, and we guarantee all our services. If you’re ready to start enjoying a beautiful and perfectly fertilized yard, give Gecko Green a call today!

Get a Free Lawn Care Inspection & Lawn Care Quote Today!

Call Now