Garden Advice

When Should You Apply Fertiliser on Your Lawn and How It’s Done?

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How great would it be to have your lawn perfectly green and thick all year round? As experts, we know that in order to maintain the health and appearance of your lawn, the grass requires regular feeding. Pale and thin grass might be a sign of your lawn not getting enough nutrients, that is why one of the best decisions you can make, in this case, is to fertilise your lawn.

So what does fertiliser do? In a few words, it improves the appearance of your lawn, provides it with extra nutrients and makes it healthy. Moreover, proper care not only makes it greener but as well prevents it from moss and weed invasion.

So, if you are:

  • searching for a way to keep your lawn in a good shape ;
  • want to know what is the proper way to apply fertiliser; 
  • wondering when to feed your lawn.

Then keep on reading. 

What fertiliser should you use?

Plants need six main nutrients to grow healthy:

  1. Carbon
  2. Oxygen 
  3. Hydrogen 
  4. Nitrogen 
  5. Phosphorus 
  6. Potassium 

If carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are received from the water and air, the rest of the nutrients are received from the soil. So, in order to choose the right fertiliser, you need to know what type of soil you have (clay, loam or sand). For example, clay is better at providing nutrients than sand. 

How to determine the structure of your soil

  1. Take about 2 tablespoons of your soil and wet it;
  2. Squeeze the soil between your thumb and forefinger. It should form a flat line, however, it can break. 
  3. Measure the length of the flat line that is not broken or crumbled. If it is less than 15 mm, then it is more likely that you have sandy soil and you need to nurture it frequently. If the line is between 15 to 25 mm, then it is loam. Loam is fertile, rich in nutrients and loose enough for the roots to grow. It doesn’t require heavy fertilising. If the piece of soil is longer than 25 mm, then it contains clay. Clay soils are relatively fertile, however, they require regular fertilising. 

When you have determined the structure of your soil, it is time to decide what type of fertiliser you should use. 

As we already mentioned, the main nutrients for grass are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). On grass foods, they are represented as N-P-K. Generally, all-purpose fertilisers have an equal proportion of each of the elements, meaning that the proportions that you will see on a pack might look like 10-10-10, depending on the amount. 

Tip: To have the best results, order a soil test. It will not only show your soil type but give you a hint on your lawn care!

Types of lawn fertilisers

Time-release fertilisers

This type of fertiliser is perfect when you want to feed your lawn over a long period of time. All you need to do is apply the preferred fertiliser and water it regularly. 

Controlled-release fertiliser

Controlled-release fertiliser needs to be applied only once per season. Generally, it might seem that it has the same effect as the time-released fertiliser, however, it is not exactly the same. The effect of the controlled-release fertiliser is longer and it requires warm and wet conditions for it to start working.

Granular or liquid? 

Granular fertilisers are easier to apply. All you have to do is to spread it around your lawn. Whereas with a liquid fertiliser, you will need a hose to spray it all over the area. The main benefit of the liquid fertiliser is that the effect is almost immediate, due to the nutrients being directly received from the leaves.

Interesting fact: Plants absorb nutrients through their leaves up to 20 times better and faster than from the roots. 

Synthetic or organic?

If you want an immediate effect, then a synthetic fertiliser is your choice! However, the biggest drawback of synthetic fertilisers is in their nature. Because they are produced chemically, they do not have the same effect as the organic fertilisers. They do not improve the soil, as the organic fertilisers do.

In fact, if you use too much chemical fertiliser you risk to “burn” your lawn. However, this type of fertiliser can be beneficial during early spring, when the soil is cold and not active yet. 

For the long-term health of your lawn, the best idea will be to build a healthy and nutrient-rich soil with organic matter. Organic fertilisers are produced of natural materials and byproducts. The nutrients that organic fertilisers contain, can be released over a period of several months, even years.

Because of that, it is recommended to apply it in autumn, so the lawn will be nurtured during the winter season. 

Need help with your lawn?

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Need help with your lawn?

Rely on the experts.

Learn more

When to apply fertiliser to your lawn?

Here are some tips on how to apply fertiliser correctly: 

  • Check if the soil is adequately moist – When applying fertiliser, the turf should be moist. Even if it has not rained, as long as there is enough moisture in the soil, you can feed your grass.
Some fertilisers require watering before application. Read the instructions carefully!
  •  Spread the fertiliser after you cut your grass – That way you ensure that the fertiliser has enough time to settle to the lawn before the next cut. 
  • Leave the mower box off after the use of specific fertilisers  – If you use iron or liquid products to give your lawn a boost, we recommend keeping the mowers box off for the first cut.

Fertilising in Spring

Spring lawn treatment should be done somewhere around April. Wait until the weather gets warmer. When you have already cut your lawn a few times, then it is the time to fertilise it. Fertilisers with high nitrogen concentration are recommended during spring because they encourage growth and make the lawn greener. 

Time your spring lawn feed to the daffodils blooming period. When they are fully open, it is time to add some fertiliser.

Fertilising in Summer

Summer lawn fertilising should be done somewhere between 10 to 14 weeks after the spring fertilising. Keep an eye on the weather, it is not recommended to treat your lawn during hot summer days.

In order for the treatment to be productive, the soil should be moist, otherwise, you risk to stress your lawn. When it gets chiller, you can apply some granular or liquid fertiliser.

Fertilising in Autumn

In Autumn you want to help your lawn to recover from summer damage and prepare it for the cold winter months. The best time to feed your grass in autumn is in the end of August or the beginning of September. Wait until the rains start and apply your fertiliser. 

Depending on the weather conditions and patterns, the autumn lawn care period can vary between August and October.

Timing is important with autumn care because you risk to damage your lawn if you put in nitrogen too late. Moreover, it is important to use fertilisers with high potassium concentration during this season, because that way you allow your plants to grow enough strength for the upcoming winter season. 

Fertilising in Winter

In winter you have to consider the weather conditions of the area that you live in. September is the best time for the northern parts of Scotland, however, for the warmer the conditions, the later you should feed your grass. Winter fertilisers are regularly low on nitrogen and might have additional elements for the health of your lawn. 

You may also like:
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Winter Lawn Care in 5 Simple Steps

Want to know more about different garden jobs and when to do them? Check out our helpful UK gardening calendar!

How to spread lawn fertiliser

We highly recommend using a spreader – it’s far more convenient. However, if you don’t own one it is not a problem – your lawn can be fed by hand. To apply fertiliser without a spreader, just grab a handful of it and distribute it across the area with a sweeping motion. Note that this way you might find it challenging to understand if you have covered the area evenly and in the right amount. 

If you opt to invest in a spreader, then you should choose one that will best fit the size and shape of your garden. That said, here are some guidelines for when buying a spreader for your lawn:

  • Shoulder or handheld spreaders are good for gardens that have an irregular shape.
  • Rotary spreaders use a mechanism that spreads the fertiliser over the area around the spreader, which makes it good for large areas.
  • Drop spreaders have wheel tracks that drop the fertiliser onto the grass while spinning, therefore they are good for medium to big garden areas.
  • If you apply liquid fertiliser, use a sprinkler and spray it directly on the lawn.

How to spot if you’ve used too much fertiliser

The “fertiliser burn” occurs when you have used too much fertiliser. Chemical fertilisers contain mineral salts that tend to build-up in the soil, causing a drying effect. You might recognise this effect by the colour change of your lawn. 

It can be hard to predict whether your lawn will recover from the burn because it depends on the amount and type of the fertiliser used and the conditions of the soil. Lawn that has slight yellow colouring has chances of being revived, whereas the possibility of brown grass recovering is close to nonexistent. 

Do you need help taking care of your lawn?

No worries – Fantastic Gardeners has got your back! We can provide you with a professional lawn top-dressing service. A group of two professionals is always sent to ensure that the job gets done efficiently. Book your lawn care service now, and enjoy the benefits of a custom-tailored treatment for your lawn!

Don’t know when is the best time to feed your lawn?

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  • Don’t spread the fertiliser on dry turf – that way you risk to burn the grass.
  • Too much fertiliser can burn or scorch your lawn. Chemical fertilisers have a higher chance of scorching the lawn.
  • The proportions of necessary minerals depend on various factors: time of the year, conditions of your soil and the effect that you want to reach using a fertiliser.


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