Lawn Fertilizing Schedule: A Simple Lawn Fertilization System

Lawn care advice and tips from a leading expert on turfgrass management can generate a stress-free guide to easy, effective, and inexpensive lawn care and landscaping.

Lawn care can be easy, effective, and inexpensive. The following advice and tips organized into a lawn care fertilizing schedule can generate a stress-free guide to lawn care and landscaping.

Guiding concepts in lawn care schedules

  • Development of vigorous, healthy root systems in grasses that make up the lawn is the leading priority;
  • Sound roots systems lead to excellent top – blade or leaf growth;
  • Solid and lush top growth decreases weed problems – lawn grasses shade them out

Early spring

Rake thoroughly with a sturdy leaf rake to remove dead leaves, stone and twig litter, and easy-to-remove thatch from the previous season. Wait until the lawn soil is nearly dry – no squishiness – to avoid compaction and later problems.

Around May 31 (Memorial Day in the USA)

lawn fertilizing

Spread a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer according to package and spreader directions. Nutrients in slow-release fertilizers become available at a slower rate than in water-soluble types. Adding large amounts of high nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring promotes a quick flush of lush blade growth that looks great. However, the root system and ultimately the entire plant suffer from this treatment. There may also be leaching, a draining away, of nitrogen components.

Slow-release fertilizers are more expensive than water-soluble ones, however,

  • leaching is not a problem, so nutrients are not wasted;
  • fertilizer burn is absent; and
  • fewer applications are necessary.

The date above varies slightly because weather and, regional climate and soil conditions control the rate of nitrogen release. There are many slow-release nitrogen fertilizers on the market. Knowledgeable people at local garden centers or extension agencies can tell homeowners which is best for their region. Here are some examples of available slow-release nitrogen fertilizer and how they work:

  • Osmocote: These types of fertilizers are pelleted, or formed into prills, and then coated with chemicals inactive in the soil. The release rate of these fertilizers is dependent on temperature, moisture, and thickness of coatings. Coating thickness varies from one pellet, or prill, therefore separate prills release nutrients at different times.
  • Milorganite: One of many “organic” processed sewage sludge fertilizers. The nutrients are “stored” in complex carbohydrate-based molecules until soil microorganisms break them down and “release” the nutrients. Rate of release is dependent upon soil moisture activating soil microbes.

Around November 30 (usually after October 31, but before mid-December)

Apply a 10-10-10 soluble fertilizer according to package directions. An alternative is to apply slow-release fertilizers like Milorganite. This is sometimes termed dormant fertilization – grass growth slows, but carbohydrate production is still active and soil is still moist. This approach disagrees with some popular programs that advocate a heavy dose of nitrogen early in the spring. However, like Troll, supporters of this approach believe that this late season balanced fertilization fosters strong root growth and ultimately more vigorous turf.

Grass blades slowly cease growing shortly before soil moisture under the lawn freezes. Whatever food grass plants manufacture at this time goes directly to the roots and rhizomes. This carbohydrate food builds up these storage organs for the winter ahead and for next spring’s growing season.


Nitrogen is probably the most important nutrient in building a good lawn. Be economical in nitrogen application by applying it in the correct season and in effective quantities. Be realistic about lawn fertilization and remember other aspects of lawn maintenance and irrigation basics.

Consider alternative sources for nitrogen. Shamrocks for the Home Landscape tells about using white Dutch clover as a nitrogen source in low-maintenance lawns. Before the 1950’s and the adaptation of synthetic fertilizers white Dutch clover provided nitrogen for most residential lawn grasses. It is slowly making a comeback in Canadian lawns and those in the northeast USA.


About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...