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How to Spread Turf Fertilizer

Putting down fertilizer is a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it if you want to have a lush lawn.


  • Step 1: Test your soil Test your soil to find out what nutrients it needs. Garden centers sell do-it-yourself kits, or you can arrange a test through the Cooperative Extension System, a national agricultural network. Find a nearby Extension office on the USDA web site.
  • Step 2: Get your fertilizer The soil-test report will recommend a fertilizer grade. Bags are marked with three numbers: for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For an eco-friendly fertilizer, no number should be higher than eight, and the sum of all three shouldn't exceed 15.
  • TIP: Consider using a fertilizer that releases nitrogen slowly. It costs more, but it's better for both your grass and the environment.
  • Step 3: Wait for the right day Wait for a day with no wind and no heavy rains in the forecast to spread your fertilizer.
  • TIP: Check with your state's Department of Agriculture to find out if your area restricts the amount of fertilizer you can spread at one time.
  • Step 4: Make sure the soil is moist Make sure the soil is moist enough to absorb the fertilizer. If you step on the grass and it stays depressed, it's too dry; give it a light watering before proceeding.
  • Step 5: Spread the stuff around Spread evenly, and use as little as possible to cover your ground. If you're doing it by hand, wear gardening gloves. Start by fertilizing the edges, and then scatter it over the rest of the lawn twice: first, from east to west and then from north to south. For a large area, use a fertilizer spreader.
  • TIP: Wear goggles, a dust mask, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and rubber boots when applying fertilizer. Keep people and pets off the grass for 24 hours afterward.
  • Step 6: Water it Lightly water the lawn after you've finished so that the fertilizer gets pushed down to the roots.
  • FACT: A popular earth-friendly fertilizer is made from worm poop and sold in recycled plastic soda bottles.

You Will Need

  • A soil test
  • Fertilizer
  • A non-windy day with no imminent rain forecast
  • Moist soil
  • Familiarity with local fertilizing restrictions
  • Protective gear
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • A fertilizer spreader

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