Best Lawn Fertilizer For Late Spring, And How To Apply It

I've been adding fertilizer to my own lawn as well as other people's lawns for quite a few years. So I have some experience telling which fertilizers work better than others.

Unfortunately, I know all too well how confusing and frustrating it can be to compare different fertilizers and decide which one to get. So I've combined by own personal experience plus additional research I've done and I'm going to do my best to answer the all important question, "What's the best lawn fertilizer for late Spring?"

For late Spring application, we recommend using a quick-release "weed and feed" type fertilizer that has plenty of nitrogen (which helps grass shaft growth). This will give your grass a much needed boost just before the Summer heat comes, and helps to prevent weeds from taking over.

If you already know what you're doing and you just need an honest recommendation on lawn fertilizer, you can get my top recommendation here. Or keep reading to get a couple of your other fertilizer-related questions answered while you're here.

Maximum Green & Growth- High Nitrogen 28-0-0 NPK- Lawn Food Quality Liquid Fertilizer- Spring & Summer- Any Grass Type- Simple Lawn Solutions, 32 Ounce- Concentrated Quick & Slow Release Formula
Simple Lawn Solutions: 28-0-0 contains 70% quick release nitrogen to jump start Green & Growth and 30% slow release nitrogen so growth doesn’t drop between applications. Use to enhance Green and Growth or to correct nitrogen deficiency.

Why Wait Till Late Spring?

While it can be tempting to get a "head start" and fertilize your lawn as soon as spring is in the air, that might not be what's best for your grass (disclaimer: every lawn is different, so you'll have to make your own judgement call on this).

Why not early spring?

In early spring, your grass is focused on strengthening its root structure, not growing the blades.

Fertilizer tends to help more with blade growth/development than root growth, so applying fertilizer too soon could divert your grass' focus on root development too soon and may cause issues later on in the year.

So be patient!

Wait until spring is in full-swing. Popular Mechanics recommends waiting till the ground rises to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This could be as early as mid-April or as late as the end of May (or early June at the absolute latest), depending on where you live.

Also, check the label of the fertilizer you're using for instructions, because some fertilizers recommend watering your lawn before applying the fertilizer and others recommend a light watering afterward. Either way, remember to water your lawn several times during the week after you fertilize the lawn to give your grass the best chance at growing and thriving.

What about after the late spring application? It's a bit outside of the scope of this article to answer that question in depth, but the short answer is that most people find it helpful to fertilize their lawn one or two other times throughout the summer for best results.

How To Apply Fertilizer To Your Lawn

You'll need some sort of spreader to apply fertilizer to your lawn in order to make sure it gets evenly spread. If you don't have something already, let me give you the quick run down.

Use The Right Kind of Spreader

There are three main types of spreaders:

  • Drop spreaders: these are very precise and thus give you the ability to spread fertilizer exactly as you need it
  • Broadcast spreaders (aka "rotary spreader"): as you could guess from the name, these do a better job at spreading the fertilizer over a wider surface area.
  • Hand held spreaders: these spread the fertilizer in a similar manner to broadcast spreaders, and they're easy to use, but have a much smaller capacity for fertilizer

If you're new to this, I recommend using a broadcast spreader because it's harder to fail (it's much more forgiving than a drop spreader) and they're actually a good bit cheaper than drop spreaders. This is the one I personally recommend because it can hold a large amount of fertilizer plus it can spread more than just fertilizer (you can use it to apply salt to snow/ice in the winter).

But if this isn't your first rodeo, you may want to consider using a drop spreader. The application of fertilizer will be much more precise, which means that if you do it right you'll have a slightly better result than with a broadcast spreader.

If your lawn is very small, you can save even more money and get a hand held spreader. It takes a little more muscle power since you're holding it the whole time, but again if your lawn is small, it's not that difficult to do.

Fill It Up

Once you have a good spreader, your first step is to fill it up with whatever fertilizer you chose.

Just remember to close the hopper first or else the fertilizer will fall out of the spreader as you're adding it.

Use the instructions on the fertilizer to determine approximately how much fertilizer you'll need.

Apply Fertilizer To Lawn

Begin by applying fertilizer to the entire perimeter of the lawn to ensure nothing on the edges of the lawn gets missed.

Then walk back and forth to cover the middle of the lawn, overlapping as you go.

If you still need to add more fertilizer after this first pass, go back over the middle of the lawn again but this time in the other direction (turn 90 degrees) and then finish up by going around the perimeter once more.

Clean The Spreader

Return and remaining fertilizer into the original bags and store them in a dry place.

Clean the spreader by washing it down with a hose or a wet cloth. After you've used the spreader several times (this typically falls toward the end of the season, late fall) you may find it helpful to spray some WD-40 on moving parts to keep things moving smoothly.

Water Your Lawn (depends on fertilizer)

Most fertilizers work best when you water the lawn after applying the fertilizer, sometimes immediately after applying fertilizer and other times the day after. So be sure to check the label and instructions and follow them. If the instructions don't specify, the safe bet is to wait a couple hours or until the next day to water the lawn.

Can I Use Fall Fertilizer In The Spring?

This all depends on the fertilizer you're using, but typically Fall fertilizer has a lot of slow-release nitrogen and does not have any weed killers in it. In that case, yes, you could use fall fertilizer in the spring.

That said, for spring specifically, we recommend a fast-acting nitrogen based fertilizer that also has weed control features, and you typically won't find that in a fall-specific fertilizer. Therefore, we think it's worth buying a spring-based fertilizer just for spring and storing your fall fertilizer till fall.

Can I Use My Leftover Spring Fertilizer In The Fall?

No, we recommend that you save your spring fertilizer till the next season. The main reason for this is that most spring fertilizers are quick acting which is great during Spring time because it gives grass a nice quick boost.

But during Fall, grass needs a slow-release fertilizer for two reasons. First of all, you don't want your grass growing super fast at the end of the season. Second, some of the slow release fertilizer tends to settle in the the ground near the roots so it's ready for the following Spring when the grass can absorb it, giving it an boost early on in the season.

Hopefully this has answered most of our questions about which lawn fertilizer to use in late Spring and how to apply it. If I missed anything, please feel free to ask your questions by submitting a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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Ed Kirkland

Hi, I'm Ed, and I've been doing lawn work since my mid teen years, picking up jobs here and there mowing and helping with basic landscaping projects. I worked at a couple different lawn care / landscaping companies throughout my college years, and now thanks to the internet I'm able to make a share my knowledge and advice with people about lawn care and landscaping.

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