Spreading lawn fertilizer

The quest for the perfect lawn preoccupied homeowners for centuries. One simple way to help out nature is to apply fertilizer to your yard and garden.

Difficulty level : 
Duration : 
3 hours

Timing fertilization

  • 1.1A lawn should be fertilized during peak growth periods, the timing depends on where you live. In Canada, where cool-season grasses such as bluegrass or fescue lawns have a peak growing period in the spring, decline in the summer and have a small growth spike in the fall.
  • 1.2Depending on the species of grass, you can apply 1 ½ to 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn a year.

Pro Tip

You should never spread more than 1 pounds of fertilizer per month for 1000 square feet of lawn. Excessive amounts of nitrogen at one time can burn grasses.

Collecting soil samples

  • 2.1Make a semicircular cut through the sod with a shovel or a garden edger.
  • 2.2Use a garden trowel to slice a wedge of soil about 6 inches deep and wide from under the sod.
  • 2.3Deposit the sample in a clean dry bucket and press the sod back down.
  • 2.4Remove any debris, such as stones, grass or roots from the soil and mix the soil thoroughly.

Analyzing the soil

  • 3.1Wipe the tester rod clean with a paper towel.
  • 3.2Insert at least 2 inches of the rod into the soil sample in the bucket and let it sit for 2 minutes. The soil should be packed firmly around the rod. If the soil is dry and crumbly, add some water to moisten it.
  • 3.3Remove the tester, clean it, and plunge it again for 1 minute and take a reading. Good to know that lawns grow best in slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6 and 7.

Pro Tip

You can remedy excessive acidity (below pH 6) by adding dolomitic limestone. Overly alkaline soil (above pH 7) can be corrected with iron sulfate, aluminum sulfate or ground Sulphur.

Calculating quantity of fertilizer needed

  • 4.1If your lawn is rectangular, calculating its surface area is simple. Multiply the length by the width.
  • 4.2If the lawn is irregularly shaped, first divide it into sections that are roughly rectangular. Measure the length and width of each section, to calculate its surface area, then add the results together.

Safety first

Many fertilizers contain harmful chemicals; wear long sleeves and work gloves to protect your skin and a dusk mask to avoid inhaling airborne particles.


Adjusting the spreader

  • 1.1Make sure the spreader holes are closed and fill the spreader body about ¾ full.
  • 1.2Adjust the holes opening to the setting suggested by the manufacturer.

Applying fertilizer

  • 2.1Wheel the spreader, with the holes closed, to a corner of the lawn. Open the holes and push the spreader at a moderate pace along one end of the lawn.
  • 2.2Close the holes, at the end of the row, turn the spreader around and move it over by the width of the housing. Open the holes and return to your starting point so the second pass just touches the first without overlapping it.
  • 2.3Cover two more end rows on the opposite side of the lawn in the same way.
  • 2.4Cover area between the end rows with perpendicular passes.


Setting up the spreader

  • 1.1Make sure the spreader holes are closed and fill the body about ¾.
  • 1.2Adjust the size of the holes as suggested by the manufacturer.

Applying fertilizer

  • 2.1Open the holes and push the spreader a steady, moderate pace along the side of the lawn, starting at a corner. When you get to the end, turn and come back to your starting point without stopping, overlapping the 3 to 4 foot spread of fertilizer made by the first pass by about 1 foot.
  • 2.2When you have covered the entire lawn and reached the opposite side, turn 90 degrees and cover the lawn again so that each pass is at a right angle to the first series.

Pro Tip

This type of spreader lays a lighter load of fertilizer than a trough spreader. Two passes are needed to ensure a full coverage.

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