How to choose the best lawn fertilizer depending on soil and grass type?

Soon after you start getting interested in learning about lawn, you will get interested in fertilizing it and finding, of course, the best lawn fertilizer. At least this is how I started… Soon I realized there is more than meets the eye here and the process is way deeper since the right lawn fertilizer heavily depends on various factors such as soil type, grass type and season and, why not, on what exactly you want from your grass. Let me tell you what I mean.

When looking for the best fertilizer you should find out what type of soil you have

Is your soil alkaline? Is it an acidic soil? You can easily find this with a quick and inexpensive pH soil test that you can buy from a nearby store or you can perform your own test using a couple of failproof methods our grandparents used decades ago (we will speak about that in another article, so for the moment you can stick with purchasing a specialized pH tester from a local store)

Just to get an idea about what numbers we should expect, the pH of the “normal” soil should be somewhere between 6 and 6.5. Less than 5 and you have an acidic soil. More than 7 and you have what is called a basic, or alkaline soil. Why is that important? Well, if the pH is outside the specified range, the grass won’t be able to get all the nutrients it needs, so you’d better fix it soon.

And how exactly can you fix acidic soil (remember, acidic soil has a pH below 5)

In order to increase the pH of soil, you need to use garden lime. In case you don’t know what lime is, in this context, it’s a soil additive made from pulverized limestone or chalk. It has more benefits than increasing the pH of soil and I can list here the fact that it becomes a source of magnesium and calcium for you lawn, it helps the acidic soil to easily absorb water and improves the uptake of plant nutrients, so, again, in case you have an acidic soil, you should consider products such as Espoma GL6 Garden Lime, Good Earth Organics 15105 Hydrated Lime or similar.

Check below a couple of commercial products you could use

Espoma GL6 Garden Lime Soil Amendment, 6.75-Pound lawn fertilizerEspoma GL6 Garden Lime Soil Amendment, 6.75-PoundEspoma$4.4
Hoffman 15208 Pelletized Garden Lime, 8 Pounds lawn fertilizerHoffman 15208 Pelletized Garden Lime, 8 PoundsHoffman$$5!!

OK, how can you fix alkaline soil (soil with a pH above 7)?

In order to decrease the pH of soil, you need to apply gardener’s sulfurus. You can find in nearby stores a few products such as Espoma GSUL6 Soil Acidifier or Encap 10898-24 20LB Sulfur Plus Ast, they will get the job done in no time. I list below a few products you should check for yourself

Espoma GSUL6 Soil Acidifier, 6-PoundEspoma GSUL6 Soil Acidifier, 6-PoundEspoma$4
Encap 10615-6 Sulfur Pouch Cover, 2.5 Pounds, 1250-Square FeetEncap 10615-6 Sulfur Pouch Cover, 2.5 Pounds, 1250-Square FeetEncap$$3

So, because we decided to speak here about the best lawn fertilizer, I should tell you that today’s fertilizers come in a great variety, created with various goals in mind, each having it’s own use and particular composition. Some of them fight insects, some are prepared for weed control, some for other jobs, but no matter what they are created for, they all have in common one little thing: they all contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

The percent of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is clearly written on the label of each bag of fertilizer, in groups of 3 numbers, in the exact order: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. So, if you see on a fertilizer bag numbers such as 10-10-10, it means that out of the whole bag, 10% is nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium. If we take a concrete example, let’s say a bag of 25 kilos, 2.5 kg would be nitrogen, 2.5 kg would be phosphorus and 2.5 kg potassium.

Guy fertilizing the lawn with a tractor and the right fertilizer, the best solution for your yard and gardenWhy is this good to know? Well, because these chemical substances affect differently the growth of a plant and depending on the percent of each substance in the bag, we may have 3 different types of fertilizers. Which one is the best lawn fertilizer? Well, it still depends…

The first substance (nitrogen) is responsible for the quick growth of your lawn and for that beautiful green, while phosphorus is vital for your grass’ roots. That is why, starters fertilizers have a higher middle number (phosphorus), in order to help the grass develop strong and healthy roots. Once grown, the grass won’t need that much phosphorus, that’s why fertilizers for mature lawn won’t have the middle number very high. Potassium helps the plant to develop resistance against diseases and cold and helps it’s overall growth. Do you see now, there is difficult to choose one single product as the best lawn fertilizer when it heavily depends on a lot of factors. And I’m not done yet, let’s read further…

Now, another factor to consider: a quick release or slow release lawn fertilizer? Which one is best?

Quick release lawn fertilizers are based on ammonium and contain a nitrogen that is more soluble and easier to be absorbed by grass, while slow release fertilizers are based on urea and contain sulfur or polymer coated nitrogen granules that are absorbed over a longer period of time, making sure more nutrients are absorbed and less are lost by leaching. Also, the probability that a slow release fertilizer burn leaves is far smaller than with a quick release fertilizer (to avoid this, avoid applying fertilizers on wet grass).

How often should you fertilize your lawn?

As a short conclusion, you should use the right lawn fertilizer for your lawn, depending on a lot of factors such as soil type, season, grass typeDepending on the type of grass and on the season, you need to use more or less fertilizer and to apply it on a different moment so, again, there is no magic formula for choosing the best lawn fertilizer and applying it on your lawn. Warm season grass like Bermuda or St. Augustine grow faster over the year and need more nitrogen, while cold season grass such Fescue or Kentucky varieties need less nitrogen per year and you also won’t need to apply it often. Usually you only need to fertilize in the fall and spring.

There is no easy answer to the question in the title and I can’t even tell if there is such thing as the best lawn fertilizer since grass needs special attention depending on various factors and you saw above, it depends on the pH of the soil, on what exactly do you want from your grass. For all those reasons, I decided that it is best to present you with the above information and let you decide for yourself. I am pretty confident that you agree with me and that you will pick not only one lawn fertilizer, but more, depending on your particular situation and grass growth. It is more important that you understand why you should pick one fertilizer or another and how each type can help you.

There are still a lot of things left unsaid here but I will try to cover them in another article, to have the big picture. One topic that I have in my mind as we speak is how to test soil ph, because I didn’t develop this section at all and there are so many possible answers here, but I will write about this soon so stay close. However, for the moment, my article about how to find the best lawn fertilizer ends here, with the joy of being able to shed a little light on the subject.


3 thoughts on “How to choose the best lawn fertilizer depending on soil and grass type?

  1. Very informative! Soil and grass type are indeed important factors to consider when buying lawn fertilizers. I got here a list of fertilizers perfect for your lawn. It includes information on type of grass to help your readers pick out the right fertilizer for their lawns. Feel free to visit our site for this information!

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