Creating gorgeous, luscious lawns requires regular maintenance and a bit of know-how. If you’ve recently laid down a new grass seed but are unsure how to nourish its growth, this guide is here to help. Making the correct choice regarding lawn fertilizer isn’t always easy, so we’ll be breaking down the key benefits of different types and helping you find exactly what your new grass needs. Read on to learn all you need to know about picking the most effective fertilizer for growing greener, healthier turf. As a lawn care expert, let me help you through the process of choosing the most effective fertilizer for new grass.
Why Fertilizer is Essential for New Grass?
During its early stages, grass requires a robust support system to establish deep roots and proper nutrients for healthy growth. Fertilizers for starting grass are essential because they:
- Encourage fast germination and establishment of new grass
- Provide essential nutrients for growth, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
- Help grass overcome stress from drought, disease, or pests
Choosing the Right Grass Seed for Your Lawn
To ensure a thriving lawn, consider your location, climate, soil type, and desired feel. Some popular grass seeds include:
- Cool-season grasses: Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and ryegrass
- Warm-season grasses: Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine
Assessing Soil pH
It’s essential to test your soil’s pH before applying any fertilizer. Soil pH affects the availability of crucial nutrients to the grass. You can use a home testing kit or send a soil sample to a professional lab. Generally, grasses prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Essential Nutrients Your Grass Needs
There are three primary nutrients to look for in fertilizers:
- Nitrogen (N): Encourages leaf and stem growth, making the grass green and dense.
- Phosphorus (P): Helps with root development, energy transfer, and seed production.
- Potassium (K): Supports overall plant health, enhances disease resistance, and strengthens the root system.
- Fertilizer Ratios for Established Lawns: For a healthy, established lawn, it’s best to choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as a 30-0-0 or 27-3-3 ratio. On the other hand, when sowing new grass seed, you’ll need a starter fertilizer with closer to a 21-22-4 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; these should be quick-release so your seedlings can easily access them, and they will help the lawn establish quickly.
- Starter Fertilizer Ratios for New Grass Seed: A starter fertilizer for a new lawn should have a ratio of 21 – 22 – 4 nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is important to use quick-release nutrients so the seedlings can access them quickly and help establish the new lawn rapidly.
Understanding Different Types of Fertilizers
- Chemical or Inorganic Fertilizers: These are artificially manufactured with specific nutrient ratios tailored to grass needs. They are fast-acting and relatively low-priced, but they may damage the grass or environment if misapplied.
- Organic Fertilizers: Derived from natural sources, they release nutrients slowly and improve soil structure. They are eco-friendly but typically more expensive.
- Synthetic Blends: Combined organic and chemical fertilizers provide a balanced nutrient release. They offer the best of both worlds but may require more frequent applications.
What is Starter Fertilizer?
Starter fertilizer is a nutrient-rich, concentrated fertilizer explicitly formulated to help young plants and seedlings grow efficiently during their early stages of development. It provides an extra boost of nutrition, resulting in rapid initial growth, establishment of strong root systems, and improved yields. This fertilizer typically contains higher phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen levels – the three primary nutrients for healthy plant development.
How are Starter Fertilizer Used in Farming?
Starter fertilizer is applied near seeds or seedlings during planting or shortly afterward. It can be used in various methods, such as:
- In-furrow application – The fertilizer is placed directly in the furrow (trench) made for sowing seeds, ensuring nutrients are easily accessible.
- Banded application – Nutrients are applied in a band 2-3 inches to the side of the planted seed, providing a concentrated zone of nutrients that young roots can access.
- Pop-up application – A small amount of fertilizer is placed near but not in direct contact with the seed to provide nutrients without causing seed injury.
Starter vs. Regular Fertilizer: Key Differences
While both starter and regular fertilizers aim to provide essential nutrients to plants, there are several notable differences:
- Nutrient levels – Starter fertilizers contain high concentrations of primary nutrients, especially phosphorous, crucial for efficient root development in young plants. Regular fertilizers usually have balanced nutrient ratios for maintaining plant growth throughout the growing season.
- Application methods – Starter fertilizer is applied near seeds or seedlings to give them immediate access to nutrients. Regular fertilizer can be broadcast or side-dressed around growing plants during various growth stages.
- Crop Yield Potential – The early development boost from starter fertilizers may result in higher crop yields than regular fertilizers. However, using both fertilizers in a balanced nutrient management plan can benefit maximum profit.
Which is the Best Starter Fertilizer for Grass Seed?
Using the right fertilizer when planting grass seed is essential for creating a thick, strong lawn. I recommend Jonathan Green Veri-Green Starter Fertilizer for Seeding & Sodding – formerly labeled “Green-Up” – to get your turfgrass off to a great start.
This starter fertilizer contains a balanced supply of nutrients designed to promote and sustain new growth, resulting in a dense and healthy lawn. It can be spread with any spreader on hand and is suitable for seeding and sodding applications.
If you’re looking for other top fertilizers well-suited to grass planting, read on! I’ll be outlining some of the best choices available today so that you can choose the best product for your seeding project.
When to Use Regular Fertilizer?
Regular fertilizing can begin once the lawn has been established after two applications of starter fertilizer. Depending on your available time and effort for lawn maintenance, it may be necessary to feed three times a year (early spring, mid-summer, or early fall) or just once (in either early spring or fall). This will keep the lawn healthy and green.
How To Choose the Right Fertilizer Solution?
When selecting the ideal fertilizer solution for your crops and soil types, consider these factors:
- Soil testing – Conducting a soil test is essential, as it helps identify nutrient deficiencies, allowing you to address them efficiently.
- Crop requirements – Each crop has unique nutrient requirements. Research the optimal nutrient ratios for your crop and adjust your fertilizer program accordingly.
- Local availability – Consider the availability and cost of different fertilizer types in your region, as this can influence your decision.
- NPK ratio: Choose a balanced ratio as mentioned above. The numbers represent the percentage by nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium weight, respectively.
- Soil pH: Check the label for soil pH recommendations; some fertilizers can raise or lower your pH.
- Release type: Slow-release fertilizers are more suitable for new grass, as they provide nutrients consistently over time.
When to Fertilize New Grass for Best Results
Fertilizing your new grass is crucial to maintain its health, growth, and overall appearance. But knowing when to fertilize fresh grass can be a bit confusing. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we will discuss the best times to fertilize your new grass for optimal results based on various types of grass.
Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fescue, or bentgrass, are best suited for cooler climates and tend to grow actively during the cooler months. Here are the guidelines for fertilizing cool-season grasses:
1. Initial Fertilization
Fertilize your cool-season grass immediately after seeding or sodding. This is essential for good root development, establishment, and growth. Use a starter fertilizer specifically designed for new grass, and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
2. Late Fall or Early Winter
The next round of fertilization should be done when the grass is about 60-70% dormant but is still slowly growing. This is typically during late fall or early winter. Applying fertilizer at this stage gives your grass the nutrients needed to store energy and recover faster when the next growing season begins.
3. Early Spring
Fertilize your cool-season grass during early spring when it starts to grow actively. This application will provide the necessary nutrients to promote lush and vigorous growth.
Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, or Centipede, thrive in warmer climates and grow actively during the warmer months. Here are the guidelines for fertilizing warm-season grasses:
1. Initial Fertilization
Like cool-season grasses, always fertilize your new grass immediately after seeding or sodding. Use a starter fertilizer designed for new grass, and follow the provided instructions.
2. Early Summer
The next round of fertilization should be done during early summer when your warm-season grass starts to grow actively. This will supply the required nutrients for growth and robustness.
Fertilize your grass again in mid-summer to maintain its health and encourage continuous growth. Be careful not to over-fertilize, which could lead to weak and shallow root systems.
When to Feed a New Lawn
The second feeding of starter fertilizer should be done when the seed has germinated, or the sod has taken root, which you can tell by gently tugging on a handful. The nutrient needs for newly seeded and sodded lawns differ slightly.
- Fertilizing a Newly Seeded Lawn: Based on your climate and chosen turf grass, the new lawn may need its second fertilizer application anywhere from four to eight weeks after sowing. Select a higher nitrogen (N) content in the NPK ratio, like 24-25-4.
- Fertilizing a Newly Sodded Lawn: Apply 16-16-16 at planting time for newly sodded lawns. Adjust the amount according to grass variety, climate, and other factors.
Fertilizing Your New Grass
- Start by measuring your area to determine the amount of fertilizer you need.
- Lightly rake your soil and apply a starter fertilizer before sowing grass seed.
- After this first application, regular fertilization should occur every four to eight weeks.
- Depending on the growth and upkeep of your lawn, one or two feedings of fertilizer per year are sufficient.
My Methods for Seeding a New Lawn
- Dethatch and Aerate the lawn if needed.
- Apply starter fertilizer to the soil.
- Level and grade the lawn area if required.
- Spread grass seed evenly.
- Water regularly, keeping the soil lightly moist but not soggy.
- Fertilize again at 4–8 weeks with higher nitrogen (N) content in the NPK ratio, like 24-25-4.
- Mow when the grass reaches 3–4” height and gradually reduce height as needed.
- Water regularly to maintain adequate moisture levels.
- Apply regular fertilizer according to your lawn’s needs.
How do you Apply a Starter Fertilizer?
If you are laying down sod, apply fertilizer beforehand. If you are planting seeds, fertilize before or after the sowing process.
If you use starter fertilizer before planting grass seed or sod
Measure the required quantity of starter fertilizer, then pour it into a standard fertilizer spreader. Spread the product evenly over the planting area and work it 4 to 6 inches into the soil. Doing so will ensure that your seeds get off to a healthy start.
If you use starter fertilizer after you’ve planted grass seed
Apply the fertilizer to your soil using a spreader. You can use liquid or granular fertilizers, although Michigan State University recommends using liquid.
Granular fertilizers may be unevenly distributed and could damage young plants if they are too concentrated in one area. Ensure you follow your chosen fertilizer’s directions for the best results. Then, water in the fertilizer to help it reach its full potential.
Should You Fertilize Again in the Fall?
In the fall, applying a modest amount of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to your grass can help prepare it for the winter months. However, this should be done before the first frost – no later than November 1st in southern regions and even earlier for northern states. It’s best to use a fertilizer with a high potassium content that allows an easier transition into colder temperatures.
Fertilizing with nitrogen before snowfall can create snow mold and potentially damage or kill your lawn; this is something Roger Cooke discusses in detail in his video below.
When spring comes around again, established lawns should be fertilized once they have regreened after mowing at least twice. This should happen about 6 weeks after overseeding, and regular fertilizer with a higher nitrogen ratio should be used.
To boost neglected lawns, apply slow-release fertilizers at 45 to 60-day intervals in late spring and early summer.
How Do I Fertilize New Grass Seeds?
Begin by clearing any weeds from the space you plan to plant. Gently rake the top layer of soil to loosen it, and fertilize if needed. Use a broadcast spreader to distribute grass seeds across the area evenly. Finally, cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil using either a rake or a spreader. Give them light water but avoid uncovering them in the process.
Can I Use a Starter Fertilizer for Grass That Is Established?
Probably No. When caring for an established lawn, you should use a well-balanced fertilizer explicitly designed for grass rather than a starter fertilizer. While the latter won’t harm the turf, it may not provide all the essential nutrients for continuous growth and optimal health. A specialized fertilizer, on the other hand, can ensure that your lawn is getting everything it needs.
Where You Shouldn’t Use a Starter Fertilizer?
Starter fertilizers should never be used for established lawns, as they provide a different ratio of nutrients needed to maintain healthy grass. Starter fertilizers can also be dangerous when used on seedlings or young plants, as they may contain too much nitrogen, which could burn the tender foliage. Using a fertilizer specifically designed for your grass type and climate is always best. Always read and follow all instructions carefully to ensure the safety of your lawn.
What Standard Amount of Starter Fertilizer Should I Use?
A soil test is always recommended when determining the right amount of starter fertilizer for your lawn. However, if you didn’t conduct a soil test, Lands hoot recommends applying between 0.5 and 1 lb of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Using more than 1.5 lbs of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet can potentially cause damage to the newly-established turf.
When Should You Apply Starter Fertilizer?
Apply starter fertilizer before seeding or laying sod, but not directly to newly planted sod; otherwise, it may cause burning. Wait 6-8 weeks before applying another balanced fertilizer after planting the grass so it isn’t damaged by overfeeding.
Knowing how much starter fertilizer is necessary requires a soil test as this contains essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for the turfgrass’s good growth and health.
The fertilizer should be tilled into the soil 4-6 inches deep, along with any other amendments, and spread on top of the site after sowing the new grass seed.
Will fertilizer kill new grass?
Excess fertilizer can potentially burn new grass, so it’s always best to carefully read and follow the instructions on the label when applying starter fertilizer. You should also only use a starter fertilizer before planting grass seed or sod, not afterward. If you are unsure how much fertilizer to apply, consult your local garden center for advice.
Fertilizer for new lawns is essential to promote healthy growth and ensure the grass gets all the nutrients it needs. Starter fertilizer should be applied before or after sowing grass seed, depending on your preference.
During the first couple of months, fertilize every four to eight weeks. Afterward, one or two regular feedings per year should be sufficient. Make sure you use a fertilizer specifically designed for the type of grass your lawn contains.
A soil test is always recommended first to determine how much fertilizer you should use. Then, water the product after spreading it over the planting area and follow the directions on the label for the best results. Finally, avoid fertilizing too close to winter to prevent snow mold from growing.
Douglas Mackalie is a Founder of Mackalies Garden. He is one of the most exciting people you’ll ever meet. He has 25 years of experience in horticulture and gardening, most of which he’s spent outdoors getting his hands dirty.