We’ve all heard the old saying about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. It’s an overused cliche. If you want greener grass, stop worrying about your neighbor’s yard and get some lawn fertilizer for your own. It’s far more satisfying when everyone is staring enviously at your gorgeous green lawn. All you need is a little patience and some information to help you get started.
Feel free to try out different brands and application methods to see what works best for your lawn. We’ve curated a list of our favorites, so you have a place to start when you’re looking for a new fertilizer. Every product here can help you have a fuller and greener, more beautiful lawn if appropriately used. Here is a list of our 5 best lawn fertilizers:
- 1 1. Miracle-GRO Water Soluble Lawn Food
- 2 2. Scotts Natural Lawn Food
- 3 3. Simple Lawn Solutions Extreme Grass Growth Lawn Booster
- 4 4. GreenView Fairway Formula Fall Lawn Fertilizer
- 5 5. Espoma Organic Lawn Food
- 6 A Guide to Lawn Fertilizer
- 6.1 What Grass Needs
- 6.2 How To Choose Grass
- 6.3 What USDA Hardiness Zone Are You In?
- 6.4 What Grasses Grow Well in Your Area?
- 6.5 How much water do you need for the grass you prefer?
- 6.6 The Grass You Have
- 6.7 How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer
- 6.8 Testing Soil (What Your Lawn Needs)
- 6.9 Package Indicator
- 6.10 Granules Vs. Spray
- 7 Final Thoughts
1. Miracle-GRO Water Soluble Lawn Food
Our first pick goes to the well known Miracle-GRO. When the company that makes a product has been in business over 150 years, and they built themselves up from a single brick-and-mortar shop, it’s a safe bet that they know their business.
Most gardeners have used a Miracle-GRO product at some point because they work. We wouldn’t call it a miracle, but they know their science for sure. When you want a product from a well-known industry leader, you can’t go wrong with Miracle-GRO.
Did You Know: Civil War Veteran Orlando McLean Scott founded Miracle-GRO in Marysville, Ohio. One of his first products was weed free seed for farmers. They still have a shop in Marysville to honor their founder and their roots.
What We Like
- The two pack gives us a great deal, so we can cover more area or get more applications for our money.
- Excellent Coverage, and because it’s water soluble, you can use a hose attachment to spread it as you water your grass.
- In addition to working well on existing lawns, it also makes an excellent spot treatment.
What Needs Improvement
- The sprayer can be a little challenging to use because there’s no indication of when the last of the food is used.
- You have to judge for yourself just how much to apply.
- It’s possible to burn your lawn if you aren’t careful.
2. Scotts Natural Lawn Food
There can never be enough chemical free options in lawn care. With the increasing concerns over pollution and resources, returning to a less processed lifestyle is a great way to show you care. Products like Scotts Natural Lawn Food help you keep your lawn lush and beautiful without synthetics.
When you need an easy to spread granulated fertilizer, this is a great choice. Scotts has a history of restoring lawns that seemed like a lost cause. The Nitrogen content is exceptionally high for a natural alternative, and we think you’ll be pleased with the results.
Did You Know: In 2015 Scotts merged with TruGreen to create a larger, more dynamic company. Before the merger, Scotts was a part of the Miracle-GRO company.
What We Like
- Scotts Natural Lawn Food is kid and pet safe.
- Apply it in any season, on any grass.
- Has a shelf life of up to five years, so there’s no waste if you don’t need it all right away.
What Needs Improvement
- The smell isn’t great for humans, but it does attract lots of dogs.
- You can burn your lawn if you don’t apply it correctly.
- You can’t get it in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Washington or Wisconsin.
3. Simple Lawn Solutions Extreme Grass Growth Lawn Booster
This spring and summer lawn solution can help make your lawn fuller and more beautiful. It’s designed to help with cell division and elongation and increase seed germination. That means you’ll see lateral growth and vertical growth. Use it to help fill in bald patches while increasing height.
In addition to filling in your lawn, this product should help your grass get the most out of your soil by enhancing the minerals already present. Extreme Growth Booster helps the grass maximize it’s chlorophyll production as well. That means better health for the grass and a greener lawn for you.
Did You Know: Simple Lawn Solutions is designed to feed all grass types. Buffalograss, named for the animals it feeds, is probably the most common native grass in the USA. It’s a broadleaf grass that consumes less water than many varieties. That makes Buffalograss a fantastic choice for dry climates like the southwest where water is less abundant.
What We Like
- The sprayer is included, so you don’t need to go out and buy that part separately. Some companies only sell the fertilizer itself and don’t include a way to apply it. Some gardeners will have sprayers on hand, but we feel that including the equipment is a nice upgrade.
- The company that created this product started out doing lawn maintenance. They are family owned, and you’ll love how customer service oriented they are.
- SLS Extreme Growth Booster is non-toxic, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about your kids, pets, or anyone else who might come in contact with your grass after fertilizing.
What Needs Improvement
- The sprayers can sometimes be miscalibrated, resulting in the distribution being a bit off. Make sure you’re getting even coverage and check often. Bad calibration will result in getting less coverage or even possibly burning your grass.
- For the best results, you need to pair it with a second product they make called 20-4-8 SR & Green Booster. This means you aren’t buying an all-in-one fix, but rather half of what you need for optimum green lawn growth.
- If you purchase this product too far in advance if when you need it, storing it could result in the fertilizer solidifying and becoming unusable. Buy it when you need it.
4. GreenView Fairway Formula Fall Lawn Fertilizer
There are a lot of fall lawn foods available. GreenView is meant to be used at the end of fall. You’ll like the way it helps your grass root and self-insulate to survive the winter. After all, who needs to buy new grass every year when you could simply help preserve yours during the cold months.
You’ll appreciate how GreenView promotes early spring green-up in your lawn. If you live in an area where the winter is cold enough to shift your lawn into a dormant period, fall lawn food is a must-have for a beautiful springtime lawn. They go a step further as well. The extra nitrogen this product provides can help your lawn all year. Having more nutrition present in the soil can help save your grass from the summer heat or drought later in the year.
Did You Know: GreenView fertilizer is one way to help roots grow in soil that doesn’t have enough nutrients, but people have been doing this for centuries. When the Pilgrims first landed in America and began to communicate with the Native Americans, they learned about an early form of fertilization. Because the soil near the sea is sandy and full of salt, corn seeds were placed inside of fish and buried. This gave the corn enough nutrients to grow for the season.
What We Like
- Quality for value. Price isn’t always an indicator of the best quality lawn care. You’ll appreciate the cost-effective quantity of this fertilizer.
- While this is a slow release formula, so you won’t see the results right away, the long term benefits of GreenView will be visible all year.
- GreenView lives up to its name by promoting a gorgeous, verdant green lawn over time.
What Needs Improvement
- Since you apply it yourself, over-fertilizing can be a problem. This leads to yellow patches and dead grass.
- It’s hard to tell right away whether it’s working. You’ll have to be patient to see the results.
- If your lawn is already overstressed or experiencing drought, it may not work as well as when you start with a healthier lawn.
5. Espoma Organic Lawn Food
As an organic spring fertilizer, Espoma is outstanding. The long-lasting soil improvements from using this natural product are more lasting. Many products only fertilize for eight weeks, but you’ll get a full twelve from this organic lawn food.
If you’re considering switching brands, this should be on your short list to try. Likewise, if you’ve been hesitant to switch to an organic, you can rest easy with a product like this. Go for long-term, environmentally friendly soil amendment for a happy, healthy, green lawn.
Did You Know: Gypsum, like the kind used in this organic fertilizer, is a lovely crystalline rock in its natural form. Surprisingly, it has many everyday uses. You’ll find it in your plaster, and even in chalks used for writing and drawing on blackboards. We like it best for making things grow.
What We Like
- As it says right on the bag, “Doesn’t burn lawns.” You have to go out of your way to kill grass with this product. Plus you shouldn’t need to mow quite as often with Espoma.
- Espoma is environmentally friendly. Lawn fertilizer companies can use some incredible chemicals to make the grass greener, but Espoma proves that you don’t need to do that to have a lush lawn.
- Ingredients you can pronounce. Feather meal, gypsum, and poultry manure are all things we understand. You don’t need a chemistry degree to know what you’re putting on your yard
What Needs Improvement
- Using an organic lawn food like this doesn’t necessarily work as quickly as the chemical variations so that you won’t see improvement as quickly.
- If you’ve never smelled chicken and poultry manure, or ground feather meal, the smell is going to surprise you, and not in a pleasant way.
A Guide to Lawn Fertilizer
If you’re just getting started, the world of lawn care can seem a bit daunting. There’s a whole lot more to it than watering and mowing. Plants, all of them, not just grass, have particular needs. You’ve probably heard that farmers rotate their crops, and you may have wondered why.
Minerals from the soil are what help plants to grow. As the plants use them up, the land becomes depleted. As you may have guessed, soil without nutrients cannot sustain life. When you see bare patches of ground in your lawn, this is most likely what happened.
In short, you can’t grow something in the same soil forever without adding the nutrients back into the ground. Those ‘bald,’ patches on your lawn are typically the result of a lack of essential ‘food,’ for the grass that you want to grow there.
In nature, mulch, flooding, and numerous other processes can refresh soil over time and help keep plants fed. In your front yard, this is a lot to ask. Instead of holding your breath and hoping, it’s better to be sure. That’s where lawn fertilizer comes in. Fertilizer gives your soil back some essential nutrients so you can keep growing the same thing (a lawn) in that space.
In some rare cases, barren (empty) soil can be caused by other factors. Too much salt or heat can make it almost impossible to grow anything. Alternately, too much cold or too many nutrients can affect growth. Once you know what you need, you can practically always amend the soil to grow grass or other plants if you wish to do so. The exception would be when you have extreme temperatures. You can bring in heat and cold hardy substitutes, but you’re unlikely to see a plant thrive outside its hardiness zone.
What Grass Needs
There are three primary ‘ingredients’ that your lawn needs to be happy. We don’t mean soil, water, and sun. To stay healthy bodies need energy, and to produce that they need a long list of essential vitamins and minerals. The grass is much the same, but the list is a whole lot shorter.
Cellular division, growth, and making new tissue would not be possible without phosphorous. Everything from surviving the winter to maturation is affected by the phosphorous levels in your plant. A lawn can’t grow strong roots or make complex chemical changes without this crucial nutrient.
To boost things like flavor, color, size, and shape, plants need potassium. It helps activate growth enzymes, regulate water uptake, and create ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Furthermore, it helps regulate the closing or opening of stomata, which changes the CO2 absorption or plant breathing.
This protein is one of the building blocks of plant-life. Without it, no plant can grow or reproduce. Nitrogen is a part of nucleic acid, which is a significant component of DNA. Additionally, it’s part ofATP, which allows a plant to save or use the energy from metabolism. That means photosynthesis, which is what makes your grass green.
How To Choose Grass
Picking out the perfect green grass sounds simple. However, many kinds of grass make beautiful lawns. Whether you need to identify what you have to fill in a bald patch or start fresh, choosing the right grass is vital.
The Grass You Need
When you are just starting a new lawn, or you want to start all over, then it’s the perfect time to find the right grass for you. So how can you do that? You could ask a neighbor what they have or someone at the garden center. Unfortunately, that’s pretty hit-or-miss. Either or both of those choices could end up getting you wrong information. Instead, we suggest doing some research. Asking the following questions will help you get your lawn growing in no time.
What USDA Hardiness Zone Are You In?
Temperature ranges determine hardiness zones throughout the year. You can quickly look yours up by typing a query about it plus your state and city into google. For example, “What USDA hardiness zone is Seattle Washington located in?”
What Grasses Grow Well in Your Area?
This will depend on things like your annual rainfall and heat. In general, Warm Season Grasses do well in the south where it’s warmer and Cold Season Grasses fare best in the north. If you live in the middle of the country, things will be a bit more challenging to determine, but don’t get discouraged, there are only about a dozen varieties to pick from.
How much water do you need for the grass you prefer?
If you live in a hot climate, low water grass is probably your best bet. Alternately, if you live somewhere with plenty of annual rainfall, then you may not need to worry so much about how much water it takes.
A lawn that needs a lot of attention isn’t going to work for you if you work two full-time jobs. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a gorgeous lawn, but you’ll need a lower maintenance grass, or you’ll need to hire someone to do your lawn care.
The Grass You Have
When you already have grass in your yard, it is sometimes best to stick with what’s already there. Doing so will give you an attractive and uniform appearance. If your lawn is mostly green and you only need to help it along, then don’t try to ‘fix,’ what’s not broken. The grass is likely well suited to your area and your yard.
We like to think that almost any lawn can be saved. However, sometimes your pre-existing grass isn’t right for your yard. The only way to choose the right grass is when you know what variety you are looking at.
- Bent – Bentgrass is perfect for a putting green. As a Cool Weather dense grass, it does well mown very low and maintains it’s lovely texture even when you shorten it as low as 1/10″.
- Bermuda – Bermudagrass is a somewhat high maintenance warm season grass. This is an incredibly popular home lawn grass in the south. because it spreads bystolons (above ground) and rhizomes (below ground), it can be a little difficult to keep contained if you let your maintenance lapse.
- Bluegrass/Rye/Fescue – If you live in the north, then you’ll be familiar with this incredibly popular lawn grass. As a thin and tall grass combination, it does well with foot traffic, but you’ll notice it has little to no shade tolerance. It’s a combination of grass seed; as such, it isn’t truly a single ‘type’ of grass.
- Dichondra – This is not a real grass. However, Dichondra is popular in places like California and Arizona because it can be mown like grass. Unfortunately, it’s susceptible to pests and other problems.
- Fescue – Collectively known as Fine Fescue, Chewings, Hard, Red,and sheep Fescues are thin bladed Cool Season Grasses. They multiply rapidly and tolerate shade well, making ‘Fine Fescue,’ a popular blend.
- Kentucky Bluegrass – Bluegrass is probably the most well known because it shares a name with a musical genre. However, most people might not be able to identify this aggressive, deep green, Cool Season Grass. Because of the color and its softness, Kentucky Bluegrass is popular in seed mixtures.
- Ryegrass – Popular from the mid to the northern US, Ryegrass is easy to spot. It’s a soft and shiny Cool Season grass with a whitish appearance when it’s freshly mown.
St. Augustinegrass/Floratam- Floratam/St. Augustinegrass is probably the most popular southern lawn grass, at least in the southeast where it’s more likely to be damp. This means it’s a water-loving Warm Season Grass, so don’t try planting this in Maine or Southern California.
- Tall Fescue – Though it is a Cool Season grass, Tall Fescue does well further south than it’s sibling Fine Fescue. Unfortunately, because it grows in clumps, this grass is not commonly used in grass mixes.
- Zoysia – A prickly and slow-growing Warm Season grass, Zoysia does better with patient care, in a yard where residents don’t walk barefoot. You’ll find this carpet-like grass in the mid-U.S., East to the Carolinas.
So, as you can see there’s a variety of grass types! Once you know what will work best for your yard, the real fun begins. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as making something thrive and grow with your own hands. Picking your ideal grass is arguably the most critical part of lawn care.
How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer
To fertilize your lawn without killing it, you need to understand the basics. First, you need to know a little bit about what kind of grass and soil you have. Second, you need to know how to read the packages to find the right lawn fertilizer. Lastly, you have to decide what form of fertilizer is the right choice for your lawn. Luckily, there is plenty of information here to help you along the path to your best lawn.
Testing Soil (What Your Lawn Needs)
You can get a DIY home soil testing kit. Of course, if you’d rather send your soil samples out for professional analysis, that’s an option too. There are benefits to both methods. An expert soil analysis will provide you with detailed information and often give you suggestions beyond what you might attempt on your own. However, it’s much faster to do it at home to help determine what your lawn needs.
A professional soil analysis will test your soil’s pH to see how acidic the dirt is. It also measures calcium, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, and zinc to see how much is available to your plants. A good soil test may also measure for pollutants.
If you plan to test for yourself, you need experience or resources to translate the results into useful data. The process is relatively simple. Soil gets placed in tubes, and a chemical solution with a coloring agent gets added. The depth of the color indicates how much of the nutrient is present.
Every lawn fertilizer bag or container has a series of numbers on it. They are easy to find, usually in bold print on the front. They’ll say something like 10-10-10 or 8-0-24. These are an indication of how much of each nutrient is in the mix. A 10-10-10, for example, would contain 10% of nitrogen, 10% potash, and 10% phosphorous.
Interestingly, if you only need a single nutritional resource like nitrogen, you might see a label that says something more like 46-0-0 for all nitrogen, 0-46-0 for purely phosphate, or 0-0-50 for potash. The various blends allow you to make more accurate adjustments to the soil than you would if there was a ‘one size fits all,’ approach. Each blend is perfect for a specific application.
Granules Vs. Spray
Now that you know why you need the best lawn fertilizer. You’ve learned how it works and what it does. Plus, you know how to test your soil to find the right blend. The final question before choosing the brand for your home is, of course, should you use a spray or granules? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type.
Liquid fertilizer is uniform. You can use it to blend with crop protection product, and it’s excellent for either in-season touch-ups or a starter. On the other hand, liquids can be difficult to apply. Clogged nozzles and bad calibrations can leave you with burnt or unfertilized grass and little control over how much you are spraying.
When you choose the granular form, you have a slow release option you can’t get with a liquid. Besides, it stores much better over time and gives you great control over the spread. Solid lawn fertilizer is also usually more cost effective. Unfortunately, some plants may avoid coming in contact with the granules, and the uniformity of the fertilizer is much less guaranteed.
It can be a little frustrating if you’re just getting started. Especially if you don’t know what you need. Sad yellow patches of dead grass are something you don’t need to live with. Looking out over a stunning sea of perfectly manicured emerald green grass is a singular joy when you nurtured and cared for it all yourself. Hopefully, this guide can help point you in the right direction. Please let us know about your favorite lawn fertilizer or success story and don’t forget to share this article. If you’re looking for more information on fertilizer, check out the Wikipedia page.