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

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

The steps for fertilizing a lawn are really easy. Just follow the steps below.

Step One: Get the right kind of spreader

First get a drop spreader rather than a broadcast spreader. It drops fertilizer straight down rather than throwing it out. It’s much more accurate. These are about $60 each, but well worth the investment. They’re available for purchase at any home improvement or garden center, or you can purchase through Amazon here.

Drop spreader

A drop spreader lets the fertilizer drop straight down rather than throwing it to the side.

Why does accuracy matter? Well, the right amount of fertilizer improves the health and appearance of the grass. Too much fertilizer burns the grass or causes it to grow too fast. Too little fertilizer leads to a thin, stunted lawn. A drop spreader is a great tool to help you apply the right amount of fertilizer.

Step Two: Set the spreader

Drop spreaders have a dial that controls how quickly the fertilizer drops out of the spreader. This allows you to add more or less fertilizer depending on the type of fertilizer you are using. If you’re not sure what kind to buy, check out this post.

Here’s how you know which setting to use. Get your bag of fertilizer out. The label on the fertilizer bag will tell you what setting to put your spreader on to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. If there are two recommended settings on the label, choose the lower setting that covers more square footage. That gives you a lighter application, but that’s generally getting you in the range of 1 lb of nitrogen per 1000 square feet, which is best for the grass. Set your spreader at that setting.

Fertilizer Bag & Spreader Settings

On the back of lawn fertilizer bags, it usually lists the setting for the dial on the spreader. I like to use drop spreaders and the “regular” setting rather than the “recommended” setting. In this case, I’d set my drop spreader dial to 6,

Fill your spreader on the pavement, not the lawn. This way, if you spill any, you can just sweep it up. If a lot of fertilizer spills on one spot in the lawn, it could kill your grass in that spot.

Step Three: Start fertilizing

The goal here is to walk across over every spot of the lawn once with the fertilizer dropping out of the spreader as you walk. You can accomplish this by walking down the length of the lawn, turning around 180 degrees, and walking back the other direction just next to where you just fertilized.

When you want the fertilizer to come out, pull open the trigger. Make two header strips at both ends of the lawn, then walk back and forth between the header strips to fill in. Walk at a steady pace so the fertilizer spreads evenly.

When you reach the header strip, release the trigger so no fertilizer comes out when you’re turning around. That way, you don’t double fertilize the ends of the lawn.

With a drop spreader, there are two ways to know how far to overlap your previous path. Some models have an arrow on top of the hopper. That’s meant to go right on top of your last wheel track. If your spreader doesn’t have an arrow, overlap the previous wheel track by about an inch, so that your new wheel track is just inside the old wheel track. This will ensure you get a nice even layer of fertilizer over the grass.

Step Four: Clean up

After you’re done spreading, pour the remaining fertilizer back in the bag. Sweep up any spills, which can also go back in the bag if there isn’t a lot of debris. Open the hopper to its widest setting, then hose the entire spreader off, spraying all the tiny places. Let it dry and store it with the hopper wide open.

Step Five: Water in the fertilizer

Now you need to water the fertilizer off the grass blades. Turn on your sprinklers and set out some cups. Run your sprinklers long enough that you get roughly ½ an inch deep of water in the cups. This moves the fertilizer down into the soil so the roots can take it up.

So that’s about it. Follow these five steps to provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs.

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