There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn in Spring

Interested in having a gorgeous, deep-green, thick lawn? If so, this post is for you. Here’s the advice about fertilizing that I often pass along to friends, family and neighbors.

It’s important to fertilize your lawn.

I think of my lawn a pet. Just like a family dog, it requires regular watering, grooming and feeding.

Fertilizer is a lawn’s food. Even though I don’t recommend fertilizing most other landscape plants, fertilizing a lawn periodically is an absolute must. If you don’t, it will become shorter and thinner, which means it will be damaged by traffic more easily. The right amount of fertilizer causes grass to be thick, deep green, and resilient.

Fertilize your grass in the next two weeks.

The first two weeks of May are an ideal time to feed your lawn along Colorado’s Front Range. This is the ideal time is because of two reasons. The weather is still cool enough to sustain healthy growth of the lawn, but the roots are already firmly established.

Take advantage of this optimum window of time. If you fertilize too early in the year, the fertilizer indirectly stunt the lawn’s root growth for the summer. If you fertilize too late, you have to water extremely often to prevent the rapidly-growing grass from becoming drought stressed. This is the only time I recommend fertilizing until September, so don’t miss it.

Choose a good quality fertilizer.

Choosing a good, slow-release fertilizer that contains mostly nitrogen is key. Grass is Colorado needs nitrogen primarily (and sometimes iron) to grow well, not a bunch of other nutrients. Furthermore, avoid the fertilizers than contain insect killers, grub killers, and weed preventers. For more information, check out my post on choosing a fertilizer.

Use a drop spreader.

Once you’ve invested in a quality fertilizer, make sure you purchase a drop spreader to apply it. This is something you want to get a little nerdy about in order to get the best results.

Drop Spreader

Here’s the drop spreader that I use. I’m pretty happy with it and it’s stood up for over five years for me.

Drop spreaders allow the fertilizer to drop straight down through holes onto the grass as you wheel it around. With the dial, you can adjust how wide or narrow the openings of the holes are in order to control how much fertilizer you put down. This is good, because you can put the amount of fertilizer you desire right where you want to put it. To grow a great-looking lawn, you need to fertilize at the right rate, which a drop spreader can do.

If you use a cheaper spreader, it flings fertilizer around. With a “whirlybird spreader” it’s hard to figure out how much fertilizer you’re putting down.

In addition, it flies all over the place…onto your patio, in the flower beds, on the sidewalk, and into the swingset. That’s not good from an environmental point of view.

Put down the right amount of fertilizer.

Here’s the easiest way to make sure you’re putting down the right amount of fertilizer. Before you buy a bag of fertilizer, check the back of the bag. Many of them tell you what number to set the dial on your drop spreader for the fertilizer formulation in the bag.

In order to be able to tell if the information is there, make sure you know what brand and model of drop spreader you intend to use. This takes all the calculations and guess work out of the equation. You just get the spreader, buy the fertilizer, set the dial and boom…you’re ready to roll.

If there are two settings listed, use the LOWER setting. This setting usually equates to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, which is the rate that the turfgrass specialists in Colorado recommend. The higher number is what the fertilizer companies would like you to put down so you’ll buy another bag of fertilizer sooner. Just go with the lower setting.

After you’re done, store away the spreader and any unused fertilizer for the fall. Lawn grass naturally slows its growth during the hot summer months. Letting it slow down is good for the grass and keeps your water bill reasonable. Don’t fertilize at all in June, July and August.

Don’t overdo it.

If you overfeed your dog, it gets fat. Lawns can also develop problems if you overfeed them. If you put down too much fertilizer at once, it can cause you to have to mow all the time. Also, it can even kill the grass if the concentration is great enough.

Although fertilizing in early May is important, don’t fertilize too often throughout the spring and summer. If you fertilize too often, you’ll have to water all the time to provide enough moisture to keep the lawn from becoming drought stressed. Also, there are several lawn diseases that only show up in Colorado on lawns that are fertilized too often.

Get ready to mow!

May is a good month for grass. The temperature range is usually ideal for lawn grasses to grow. And once you feed them, they grow even more.

That means you need to mow and mow often. Be sure to check out this post about mowing frequently in spring.

So get ready to fertilize your grass in the next two weeks. You’ll be rewarded with a healthy green lawn all summer.


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