When to Apply Starter Fertilizer for Grass Seed or Established Lawn

If you’ve ever wanted to have that lush and beautiful lawn that you may see the old guy next door have, it’s not that impossible for you either. There are numerous things that your neighbors are probably doing to maintain their lawn, and it goes a lot further than just simply seeding and mowing your grass. As a matter of fact, if you mow it too much, or too little, or too short, it can even kill your lawn. When you first decide to sow your lawn by planting seeds, you may need to get a jumpstart by applying some fertilizer. In this guide, we’re going to answer frequently asked questions that many people ask when it comes to applying a starter fertilizer to your lawn so you don’t overdo it, or under-do it.

What is Starter Fertilizer for Lawns?

Starter fertilizer is specially formulated to provide additional nutrients to not only your lawn once it’s grown, but also your soil to help balance PH levels, and do add nutrients that will help your grass and plants to be healthy. There are many different brands and types of starter lawn fertilizer, as well as some that are designed only for certain types of grasses to be planted. So, you need to shop around and keep an idea of what you’re wanting to plant for your grass type. On the plus side though, most lawn fertilizers contain the same main ingredients and nutrients. You can use starter fertilizer to an entirely new lawn, or to heal damaged bare spots in your lawn.

What Makes Starter Fertilizer for Your Lawn?

As mentioned earlier, there are a few main ingredients that are in lawn fertilizers. More than anything though, starter fertilizers normally have a few – or all – of the following ingredients in them:

Phosphorous – This ingredient is the key nutrient that your roots need in order to set properly and help maintain the growth of the plants. It is one of the most essential ingredients that you need in a starter fertilizer.

Nitrogen – Nitrogen helps the plants to produce the right amount of chlorophyll and helps with overall plant growth as well. If you want a good, lush, green lawn, make sure your fertilizer is rich in this nutrient as well.

Potassium – Potassium is one of the key ingredients to help plants fight disease, and it helps with growth. Many people use things like banana peels because of the potassium they contain to help with their flower gardens. Therefore, having nutrient rich can also help your grass be more tolerant when the summer heat starts to dry out your lawn, and it can even help turfgrass be stronger in the winter months.

Some starter lawn fertilizers have additional ingredients and nutrients in it, but they call the ingredient mixture that is necessary for lawn starters as N-P-K. As mentioned above, make sure that the phosphorous content in a lawn starter is the primary highest number out of the three ingredients.

When You Should Apply Starter Fertilizer to Your Lawn

You can apply starter fertilizer to both your lawn seeds and the sod itself. When you have seedlings, they need more nitrogen and phosphorous than an already matured lawn. You can put it town and take more time when you reseed your lawn, however it is a lot cheaper than buying the sod itself. When you do decide to put it down however, the best time is to not directly put it on planted sod. As a best practice, it should be approximately 4-8 weeks before planting to give it an even better amount of purity and richness. For the best results, even if you have a bare patch, you should always till the soil about 4-6 inches deep while grinding in the starter fertilizer. If you’re skipping this step, you can sprinkle the fertilizer directly on the grass seed once you decide to plant it.

Do You Need to do a Soil Test?

Some soils are not very nutrient rich, but yes, you can test your soil for phosphorous levels. If you recently put starter lawn fertilizer on your lawn the previous year, then you probably won’t have much lower levels of phosphorous. Phosphorous and nutrients don’t dwindle out that quickly in soil, but after a few years, you may experience lower levels. Therefore, if it’s been a couple years, you definitely want to collect a sample once the ground isn’t frozen and get it off to a lab ASAP. 

How Much Starter Fertilizer Should I Use?

One of the main things is that you don’t want to overuse your fertilizer. If you didn’t do a soil test before you purchased your starter fertilizer, then you can use the standard amount, which is approximately anywhere from a half pound to a whole pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. If you use too much fertilizer, you can end up burning your young sprouting lawn and it will make the ground too chemically rich. You don’t ever want to use lawn starter as a substitute for phosphates.

When Should You Not Use Starter Fertilizer?

If you already have a good amount of compost on your lawn instead of starter fertilizer, you probably don’t need any. Some people decide that they’re going to use natural fertilizer because of the organic properties, and bio-solid and manure fertilizers can actually contain enough nutrients to get the job done well. Therefore, if you use a natural compost layer, you may want to save your money, time, and lawn by not putting too many nutrients in it.

Can I Use Starter Fertilizer on my Already Grown Lawn (Established Grass)?

This is a very common question believe it or not. The answer is that you don’t want to use this in already established turf. Part of the reason is that the nutrients in your lawn are already dense enough to grow grass correctly, and adding starter fertilizer can end up damaging and burning your grass, causing it to die off quickly. There’s a reason why starter fertilizer is meant for lawns that aren’t established. Not only that, but once a lawn has already been established, it draws from many more nutrients other than the three primary ingredients that are needed by seedlings and sprouts. Therefore, if you’re wanting to completely refresh your lawn, aerate your soil and get a good regular lawn fertilizer to help it regrow appropriately. 

How Do I Apply Starter Fertilizer?

If you’ve done a soil test on your plot of land, you’ll want to make sure you get the right starter fertilizer as mentioned earlier. Consider your land’s soil nutrient levels, as well as your grass seed that you’re going to use. Some species of grass and turfgrass require more or less of certain ingredients. It’s generally pretty easy to fertilize your lawn though. Simply pour or sprinkle the amount you’re going to need into a fertilizer spreader, and then maneuver it around the planting area so it will be dispersed evenly. After you do this, you can begin to till the fertilizer into the soil. Otherwise, if you’ve already dropped grass seed, all you have to do is spread the product directly over your seedlings evenly (with the spreader of course), and then water your lawn.

It’s important that you don’t put too much fertilizer as mentioned, because it can greatly harm your lawn rather than help, or make it die off too quickly. But what’s most important is that you take your time and realize that a little bit of starter fertilizer goes a very long way.

What About Watering Post-Application?

Some people don’t think they need to water their lawn as much as they should, while others make the common mistake of watering too much. After you apply your fertilizer, it’s important that you water your lawn, but you don’t want to wash away your grass seed and the nutrients on the ground either. And you thought that that lawn sprinklers are just for show? The truth is, they are more frequently used after planting and applying starter fertilizer, because they can evenly spread out and distribute the water with a fine mist over time, rather than acting like a garden hose that can end up washing away the vital nutrients that your lawn needs to grow and thrive.

Final Thoughts

When you’re wanting the best lawn fertilizer to start your lawn, you may want to consider and shop around for certain brands. But be careful of what you pick. If you pick one that is too nutrient dense for your soil, then you’re not going to have a good producing lawn, it can take longer to grow, and it sometimes it won’t take at all. Otherwise, you may end up with a lawn that gets naturally burnt out too quickly. Take your time, use your resources sparingly, and be sure that you use the proper techniques in order to achieve that beautiful green lush land that you can be proud of all spring and summer long!