A Beginner’s Guide to Achieving a Vibrant Lawn: Fertilizing New Grass

Starting a new lawn requires a delicate balance of science and tender care. Fertilizing is a crucial step in keeping an established lawn healthy and vibrant, but what about new grass? Is fertilizing necessary, and if so, how should it be done? This comprehensive guide to fertilizing new grass will provide all the information needed to grow a picture-perfect lawn from scratch. Get ready to become a lawn-growing pro!

The Secret to Success

Before laying down grass seed or sod, it is essential to give the soil a boost of nutrients with starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizer acts as the extra push that new grass needs to grow into a lush, green carpet. However, not all starter fertilizers are created equal. It is crucial to choose the right one for optimal results.

Choosing the Perfect Starter Fertilizer

When shopping for fertilizer for new grass, look for a starter fertilizer specifically designed to promote growth in brand-new grass. These fertilizers contain a special blend of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, known as the NPK ratio. Among these nutrients, phosphorus is the most important for new grass as it helps develop a strong root system and speeds up germination.

Starter fertilizers generally contain more phosphorus and less potassium compared to regular lawn fertilizers. Understanding the NPK ratio and selecting the ideal fertilizer for your specific grass type is essential. Conducting a soil test to determine nutrient deficiencies can help ensure the right fertilizer is chosen.

Further reading:  Unveiling the Mysteries of Ferrous Sulfate Heptahydrate

The Need for Starter Fertilizer

The soil plays a crucial role in helping grass reach its full potential. While the soil naturally breaks down organic material to release essential nutrients over time, it can be difficult for young grass roots to access these nutrients initially. Starter fertilizer fills this gap by providing grass seedlings with everything they need to thrive right from the beginning.

Phosphorus, in particular, plays a vital role in root development. Adding starter fertilizer before planting ensures that young plants have immediate access to phosphorus, allowing them to establish roots faster. Many starter fertilizers contain a high concentration of phosphorus and quick-release nitrogen to boost root and shoot growth simultaneously.

Fertilizer Options for New Grass

Common starter fertilizer NPK ratios for new grass include 10-10-10, 16-8-8, and 20-10-10. It is important to determine the specific nutrient needs of your soil before selecting a fertilizer. Conducting a soil test will provide valuable information about your soil’s composition and nutrient content, allowing you to make an informed decision.

Testing Your Soil

A soil test is a crucial step in achieving a healthy and vibrant lawn. It provides valuable insights into your soil’s condition and helps determine which nutrients should be added. You can purchase a DIY soil test kit for quick results or opt for a lab soil test through your local Cooperative Extension office for more detailed information and recommendations.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fertilizing New Grass

Now that you understand the importance of starter fertilizer and how to choose the right one, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide for applying it effectively. From soil preparation to fertilizer selection and application, these tips will ensure your new lawn project is a success.

Further reading:  10 Natural Fertilizers to Boost Your Garden

Step 1: Prepare the Soil

Preparing the soil is crucial for successful grass growth. Remove any debris, weeds, or pests and level the area, ensuring proper water drainage. Then, spread a two-inch layer of organic material, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil fertility and aeration.

Step 2: Select the Right Starter Fertilizer

Choose a high-phosphorus starter fertilizer that is suitable for your grass type based on soil test results. Common ratios like 10-10-10, 20-10-10, or 16-8-8 are usually effective. Ensure a balanced nitrogen and phosphorus level if sowing seeds, while more phosphorus can be added when laying sod.

Step 3: Apply Fertilizer Evenly

Using a spreader or sprayer, apply the starter fertilizer evenly across the entire area where your new lawn will be. Start in one corner and move in overlapping strips, covering the entire space. Refer to the fertilizer packaging for instructions on the proper application amount.

Step 4: Lay Grass Seed or Sod

Once the fertilizer is applied, it’s time to sow grass seed or lay sod. Make sure the soil is moist before planting to ease the process and help the new grass establish roots.

Step 5: Water Carefully

Watering is essential for new grass. Water the area twice a day for 5-10 minutes during the first week, gradually reducing the frequency to 1-2 times per week afterward. Water in the morning or late evening to allow for proper absorption, avoiding excess moisture that can lead to fungal diseases.

Step 6: Transition to Regular Lawn Fertilizer

After six to eight weeks of applying starter fertilizer and planting new grass, it is time to transition to regular lawn fertilizer for established grass. Regular fertilizers are specially formulated to provide essential nutrients for mature grass. Follow the instructions on the packaging for best results.

Further reading:  The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Lawn's Potential

Additional Considerations

While fertilizing new grass is crucial, there are other factors to keep in mind for a successful lawn:

Go Organic

Consider using organic fertilizers as a natural alternative to synthetic ones. Organic fertilizers are environmentally friendly and do not harm beneficial microorganisms in the soil. They also provide nutrients without the risk of overloading the soil.

Proper Mowing Techniques

Allow new grass to grow to a height of 3-4 inches before mowing. Keep the blades at a height of 2 to 3 inches to promote healthy growth and prevent damage or disease.

Understanding the Difference

Differentiate between regular fertilizer and starter fertilizer. Regular fertilizer is used throughout the season to provide nutrients, while starter fertilizer is specifically for establishing a new lawn. They have different nutrient compositions and release periods.


If overseeding existing grass, starter fertilizer can still be used. The nitrogen will benefit the existing grass, while the phosphorus will boost the new grass seeds. Avoid using weed and feed products until the third mowing to ensure successful seed germination.


Achieving a vibrant and healthy lawn requires proper fertilization. By understanding the importance of starter fertilizer and following the steps outlined in this guide, you can establish a beautiful lawn that will last for years to come. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local lawn care professional for expert advice. Now go out there and create the lawn of your dreams!

(Main Photo Credit: Elena Photo / Canva Pro / License)

Ames Farm Center