Summary: The best fertilizer for grass generally is one called a complete fertilizer. This is usually a lawn fertilizer in a solid form and not a liquid fertilizer.
Question: What is the best fertilizer for grass?
When we visit the garden center and venture into the lawn care section there are so many lawn fertilizers products – slow-release fertilizer, granular fertilizers called “weed & feed”, organic, and liquid lawn fertilizer. Can you help unconfuse the confused? Ben, Raleigh, NC
Answer: Ben, the question of the “best lawn fertilizer” for growing grass will always be debated.
For convenience and adequate turf nutrition, in our opinion “complete fertilizers” are the best grass fertilizer types; that is, a fertilizer containing all three of the major nutrient materials required in your lawn fertilization program.
The law requires that every package of fertilizer (lawn food) be labeled to show the guaranteed minimum percentages (or grade) of the three important fertilizer nutrients.
For example, a 10-6-4 fertilizer contains at least 10% nitrogen, 6% phosphoric acid, and 4% potash. Many grades of complete fertilizers are available for plants.
Most fertilizers are composed of simple chemicals quickly absorbed by plants.
These inorganic chemicals are the least expensive, but require some care for safe application to get the best fertilization of your grass during the growing season.
Natural organic fertilizers (such as activated sludge, processed tankage, vegetable meals even organic lawn compost) release their nutrients somewhat more slowly.
They are more expensive but they will not burn growing grass even if they are applied carelessly. Otherwise, the effect of the two types of fertilizer is similar, especially where grass clippings are left on the lawn.
FYI barnyard manure is not a good fertilizer for lawns, for it is relatively low in nutrients and usually contains large numbers of weed seeds, so it is rated low.
Weed-free fertilizers are to be preferred, even when manure can be had without cost. New commercially dried manures are relatively expensive for the benefits received.
Liquid fertilizer of lawns may be more convenient to apply (usually applied by spray) than dry fertilizers under certain circumstances and they do green the grass in a yard rapidly.
This is their only advantage over equivalent amounts of the more economical dry fertilizers, more frequent applications are required for growing grass with liquid water-soluble fertilizers increasing the time for yard maintenance.
Fertilizing Established Turf
If your yard is an average lawn with turf in good condition (free of lawn fungus), fertilize the grass in early fall. If your soil is poor, repeat the fertilizer application in early spring.
Even on good lawn soils this second application will do no harm. We will mention that we do also like fertilizing grass in the spring as well to help improve the grass health before the summer heat arrives.
Lawn Fertilizer Rates To Use
The fertilizing recommendations given here are in terms of pounds of 5-10-5 or its equivalent food, only because 5-10-5 is widely available rate/ratio at competitive prices and often is on hand for other purposes.
Some other complete fertilizers may be more economical for you, depending upon your local market conditions.
Perhaps you will choose to buy natural organic fertilizers or combination organic-inorganic fertilizers because they are safer to apply to growing grass and stimulate the grass somewhat more gradually.
So far as the benefit to the grass is concerned, any of the many common grades of complete lawn fertilizers will be satisfactory so long as you use it at the proper rate.
To determine the proper rate for a single application of any fertilizer, consider only the first figure (nitrogen) of the grade you have chosen. Then find the rate for 1,000 square feet as listed in the table.
How To Apply
Apply fertilizers evenly on the soil, or your lawn will have dark and light streaks. A mechanical fertilizer spreader is best for this work. You may fertilize using a natural organic matter fertilizer at any season without danger of burning your grass.
Inorganic fertilizers will not burn if you spread them in early spring before growth starts. Inorganic fertilizers are entirely practical during the growing grass season, also, but take these precautions against burning:
- Be especially careful about even distribution
- Spread fertilizer only when the grass is completely dry
- Use proper lawn watering and irrigation practices to thoroughly wash the fertilizer from the grass blades to the ground