A person fertilizing a lawn.

Keep Your Lawn Looking Fresh — Use Fertilizer!

How to Fertilize a Lawn

Homeowning comes with many joys but also responsibilities. One of those is the maintenance of your lawn! Especially if your house is part of a Homeowners Association (HOA). You will probably be expected to meet minimum standards of keeping it mown and watered, as well as lushly green. If you keep to a regular schedule of fertilizing your lawn, you are guaranteed to keep it healthy and beautiful. Luckily, there are both organic and chemical fertilizers available to help you achieve your goal! So, let’s take a look at how to fertilize a lawn.

Grass Clippings

The easiest and most environmentally friendly way to feed your lawn is with its own clippings! Invest in a mulching mower that will chew up the cut grass and deposit it back on the lawn, where it will quickly rot down and return its nitrogen to the soil. Thus, not only are you enriching your yard with valuable nutrients, but you are saving yourself the trouble of having to bag up your lawn clippings. While you will still need to provide some additional fertilizer in spring or fall, it is a worthwhile part of your lawn feeding regimen.


Whether you buy it from a landscaping center or make it yourself in your backyard, compost is an excellent way to feed your lawn. Apply a top-dressing in early spring or fall after the first hard frost. The easiest way to do it with minimum equipment is to broadcast it thinly — no more than half an inch — using a spade. Rake it as evenly as possible with a leaf rake. And that is it! The compost will feed your grass slowly and evenly, and it will help the soil hold more water and resist drought more effectively in the heat of summer.

Corn Gluten Meal

If your grass has a weed problem, corn gluten meal can help both weed and feed in a completely natural way. It’s a great source of nitrogen, and when applied at just the right time — when forsythia shrubs start to bloom — it will kill weed seeds as they sprout, including the dreaded crabgrass. Even if weeds are not an issue, the high nitrogen content results in a lush, deep green lawn. The only downside is that you must wait at least 60 days to over-seed your lawn to fill in bare spots, as the corn gluten will also kill grass seeds. However, it is usually a better idea to seed your lawn in early fall, anyway, when there’s more reliable rainfall and no punishing summer heat ahead.

You can buy corn gluten meal at home centers and nurseries and apply it using a broadcast fertilizer spreader.

Organic Fertilizer

If you want the safety of organic fertilizer with the convenience of chemical products, you can buy pelleted fertilizers made with all-natural ingredients. While they cost more than conventional fertilizers, they will feed your lawn without harsh chemicals, which can seep into the groundwater. Apply them using a standard broadcast spreader every six weeks starting in early spring for best results. Water the lawn thoroughly after application.

Chemical Fertilizer

Chemical fertilizers have been the top choice for many decades. They are convenient to use, readily available at any home center or landscape supply, and reasonably priced. They do have some disadvantages, though, that you should consider when choosing your lawn fertilizer.

Chemical fertilizers are manufactured using petroleum products, a non-renewable resource. In addition, the excess nutrients that get into streams, lakes, and rivers cause algae blooms that destroy the oxygen in lakes, killing fish and other aquatic life. And the fertilizer that remains on the lawn may pose a health danger for children — and what good is a lawn if children can’t play on it?

However, if you decide that chemical fertilizers are still preferable to more natural methods after doing your research, make sure that you follow the product’s instructions carefully. Apply only as much as indicated — more is not better, and in fact, can burn your lawn. Water the lawn thoroughly after application, and keep children and pets off of it for at least three days. For best results, apply chemical lawn fertilizer once a month from spring through fall.

Other Lawn Maintenance Tasks

You’re feeding your lawn regularly, mowing it when needed, watering when it’s dry (aim for an inch a week) — what else do you need to do for your grass?

You should rake your lawn thoroughly in early spring to remove old, dead grass and whatever else has accumulated over the winter. Getting rid of this thatch will allow the grass room to grow and allow water to reach its roots more easily. Another good way to give your grass a new start is to aerate your lawn in spring — an aerator is a device with spikes that you run over your lawn to pull out plugs or open up the soil. Using a lawn roller in early spring will help even out your lawn if it’s developed a bumpy surface.

These three spring chores will pay off all season long with more vigorous growth and a smooth appearance.
A well-maintained lawn is not just the backdrop for a beautiful garden and home but also an integral part of the suburban landscape. Keeping it well-fertilized and maintained is key to keeping it green and growing all season long!