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How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer

You can apply dry lawn fertilizers to your grass with one of two types of spreaders — drop or broadcast. If you don’t need this equipment often, don’t buy them; both are available at rental yards, and many nurseries loan them.

To use a broadcast spreader properly, you need to know how wide a band the spreader covers. If the directions that came with the spreader don’t indicate the width, put some fertilizer in the spreader and run the spreader over a short stretch of lawn to find out. Don’t measure the coverage on concrete unless you plan to sweep up the fertilizer.

Applying dry fertilizers evenly by hand is very difficult. If you have no other option, apply the fertilizer very carefully and only on small lawns. Wear gloves and walk backwards across the lawn as you throw the fertilizer as evenly as possible with a sweeping motion.

You can apply liquid or water-soluble fertilizers with handheld, hose-end applicators. Liquids are more difficult than dry fertilizers to apply evenly because it’s done by hand, and the handheld sprayers require frequent refilling on large lawns. Still, they save you the cost of a fertilizer spreader. When using liquid fertilizers and handheld sprayers, follow the label instructions precisely.

The key to applying fertilizer evenly is to use the spreader properly. Uneven fertilizer application leads to uneven greening or burning of the grass. Take the following steps to achieve a well-nourished, attractive lawn:

  1. Set the spreader settings to correspond to the amount of fertilizer you want to apply.

    You can find the information you need on the fertilizer label or spreader instructions. If not, you need to calibrate the spreader.

  2. Place the spreader over a hard surface (like a driveway or walkway) and fill it with fertilizer.

    Sweep up any fertilizer that spills.

  3. Spread fertilizer over the edges of the lawn first.

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    Move at your normal walking speed. Then move back and forth between the edges. To avoid missing strips, make sure to overlap the path of the wheels when using a drop spreader. You should have a little overlap at the edges of broadcast spreaders.

    Turn the spreader off when you reach the end strips, when you come to a stop, or when you’re turning around to avoid uneven application.

    Water the lawn thoroughly after fertilizing. Watering in the fertilizer washes the nutrients into the soil where lawn roots can use them and where they won’t be washed away by a heavy rain. Watering also gets the fertilizer off the leaves which may cause burning. A dry lawn is more likely to burn than a wet one.

    When you finish, clean the empty spreader with a hose. If you skip the cleaning, the spreader can slowly corrode. Wash out the spreader on the lawn. Let the spreader dry before storing.

If you have a spill, clean up the fertilizer as best as you can (you may want to try a vacuum cleaner) and flood the area with water to prevent the lawn from chemical burns.

To apply liquid fertilizers, start in a corner or edge of the lawn and walk backwards in a straight line as you spray. Turn the sprayer off at the end of each row.

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