When you start reading about lawn feed and attempting to look after your lawn, it can become sooo complicated sooo quickly!
That’s why this post will explain everything you need to know about lawn feed, which is also known as NPK fertiliser by the pros – I’ll explain that too.
I’ll answer questions like which is the ‘best fertiliser for a specific time of year‘. I’ll also explain the different types like liquid, organic, granular and even weed vs feed.
Are you wondering when it’s best to use each one? We’ll look at that too.
If you just want to know the exact process to keep your grass looking consistently great, read my other article – How to take care of your lawn year round.
Before we dive in, it’s good to give you a simple overview of the make-up of the stuff in terms of the nutrients it contains and how they each help the grass beat the forces of nature – especially in shaded areas – like my lawn.
There are multiple nutrients a lawn needs to get from the soil in order to stay healthy. The 3 main ones are Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium or N-P-K (don’t ask why K is for Potassium, but it is). But the grass only needs a certain amount at each time of year.
Oh and the answer is YES – feed is just another name for fertiliser.
When you buy a product that does other jobs like kill weeds or moss, then they often contain micro nutrients such as Iron, Magnesium or calcium too.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the when is the best time to feed and which ones to use based on their levels of nutrients for each season.
When is the best time to feed your lawn?
The best way to feed your lawn is to have an all year programme. If you don’t already have a programme that you stick to, then it’s best to start late Winter or early Spring and deal with problems such as moss and weeds before overseeding and feeding
Thinking about the yearly lawn programme, the fertiliser you use will be dependent on the time of year. That’s because different feed compositions will produce different nutrients during the growing seasons compared to the dormant seasons.
Below, we’ll go through the different seasons and what nutrients are increased in order to keep the grass strong all year.
Note if you’re creating a brand new lawn from scratch, your best option is to use a pre-turf fertiliser regardless of the time of year. In fact this product is one of our top sellers.
Best lawn feed or fertiliser for Spring & Summer
Spring and Summer or the ‘growing seasons’ are the times we want to give the grass some extra nutrient to help with growth above the soil.
We also want the blades to be nice and green, so we’ll usually offer some nutrients that will promote colour in the grass.
The macro-nutrient that is best at delivering the above is the N in N-P-K, which is Nitrogen. So, we will be giving the lawn a high nitrogen fertiliser in Spring and Summer.
A Quick Boost vs Lawn Feed Longevity
Be careful though, while a high nitrogen, quick release fertiliser is great for giving your lawn a boost in the short term it’s not necessarily the answer in the long term. That’s because it will feed the soil for around 4-6 weeks but after that you’re back to minimal nutrients for the lawn.
Slow release fertilisers will release their nitrogen over the course of 3 months, which means there aren’t any sporadic growth spurts in the lawn. As you would get with high nitrogen, quick release formula – which are usually cheaper too.
So, be aware of some products that are just packed with cheap nitrogen and giving quick results – especially if you’re looking for a great lawn for the long term.
Best lawn feed or fertiliser for autumn
Autumn is the time when the growth of your lawn will start to slow down.
So, we need to apply a fertiliser that will accommodates this change. There’s no point trying to fight nature.
What does that mean?
It means, in Autumn, we need less emphasis on Nitrogen, the macro-nutrient which promotes leaf growth but more emphasis on Phosphate and potassium, The P in N-P-K, which promotes root strength and the K which promotes photosynthesis.
For example, a great NPK would be 10-5-10 +2% Mg with 30% Slow Release Nitrogen. Added Magnesium (Mg) will help to improve the green colour and soil microbes.
Root strength is really important for the grass to make it through the harsh weather during the Autumn and Winter months.
It’s also a good idea to use a slow release fertiliser in Autumn, so the soil will be fed for up to 3 months, giving you plenty of time before you need to apply the next feed.
The most common form of Autumn fertiliser is a granular form which will need to be watered in after application. The dry months have passed so there’s a much lower chance of scorching the lawn while using a granular fertiliser. Much less than during the summer months.
Your best option will be a 2-3 mm which is easily spreadable by hand and the size means its much easier to get an even spread whether you’re using a spreader or doing it by hand.
Best lawn feed or fertiliser for Winter
It’s tough to feel like going outside during the winter and tend to the garden. Especially when there’s so much to sort out for Christmas and you’re trying to get in the gym in Jan. I am anyway!
But, getting just one application of lawn feed down during these cold months can give your lawn a massive boost. Just one application means by next Spring, your grass will look healthy and green.
If your lawn is problematic with moss in Spring, then one of the best fertilizers for the winter is one with added iron. Iron will help kill moss and if you apply it during January or February, it will contribute loads to preventing moss.
If you’re able to prevent moss during winter, then you will have a much nicer looking lawn very early in the season. You’ll also have less work to do in terms of scarifying and then remove the need for over seeding because the lawn will have stayed strong and healthy.
So, ultimately, you want to buy a feed that is high in phosphate and lower in Nitrogen. It will stay strong during the winter months with just one application. Strength in the lawn means less chance of moss and almost zero chance of weeds coming back.
One of the main things to look out for at the end of winter is grubs or worms. Worms won’t harm the lawn and will merely create unsightly worm casts soil but some grubs might.
Best Dog & Cat Friendly Fertiliser
The best feed that’s safe for pets is always going to be an organic fertiliser. However, if you fully water-in your products immediately after application, then almost any application that doesn’t contain weed killer will be pet friendly. The main one to watch out for is feed and weed products – make sure there are no pets around during and within 3 days of application.
The sooner the better with watering in the granules because the water will activate the releasing of their nutrients straight away, especially with granular lawn feed.
If you have pets or children, then it’s a good idea to buy organic products, which are guaranteed not to cause any harm to them.
Best Lawn Feed by Type
There are 3 main types of fertiliser to use on the lawn. They are liquid, granules and soluble granules. Here’s the difference.
Some granular feeds are manufactured with slow release technology so that the nutrients can be released over a prolonged period of time. Others are made with quick release technology to give the lawn a quick boost of thickness and extra green shoots.
Liquid fertilisers are generally used during the hotter months in between applying a granular Spring fertiliser and an Autumn one.
It’s often said the granular ‘slow release’ fertiliser is a main feed with liquid feeds being more of a supplement booster. A bit like an energy bar is to us. It wouldn’t fully feed us but it would keep us going when we are most active.
As we’ve seen above, organic fertilisers are the most pet and child friendly products you can buy.
The main challenge with organic is they take a bit longer to deliver results.
You could even add a thin layer of used coffee granules to the lawn because they contain approximately 1.45% Nitrogen.
Weed & Feeds – Best for Weed & Moss Control
Feed and weed is usually advertised as 4-in-1 or 3-in-1. They are often high in nitrogen and therefore best used during the Spring at the start of the growing season.
The best ones to use are based on the N-P-K value. Here at The Relentless Gardener, our feed and weed includes Moss killer and has a Nitrogen level of 14%, which is high enough to give the grass a boost after killing the weeds and moss.
Ultimately the best way to overcome weeds is to make sure your lawn is strong all year round. That way, the weeds won’t have a chance and you won’t have as much trouble when you want your grass looking it’s best – usually during Spring and Summer.