8 Best Lawn Fertilizers For Spring | Lawn Fertilizing

In my opinion, the ideal turf grass is one that requires little, if any, fertilizer to thrive. But the reality is that some soils lack the necessary nutrients needed to support even the hardiest of grass varieties.

Spring is one of the most important times of year for lawn growth. If your native soil is low in nutrients, it won’t be able to support that growth, and your grass will suffer. Applying fertilizer in spring — as soon as grass wakes up from its winter slumber — will set the stage for a lush and happy lawn come summertime.

Spring fertilizing can be highly effective but takes a bit of know-how to master. It’s not enough to get the timing right. You also need to use the correct fertilizer for your lawn’s needs at that specific time. Fortunately, I’ve broken down these topics and more below.

Best Lawn Fertilizers for Spring

A lot more goes into spring lawn care than just choosing the best fertilizer. If you’re short on time, however, my most recommended spring fertilizers are right here:

Lawn Fertilizers For Spring

Best Liquid Spray Fertilizer

Advanced Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer 16-4-8

Easy to apply thanks to the pre-mixed formula, containing macronutrients as well as iron, seaweed, and fish emulsion to improve foliage color and root strength.

The Andersons PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer

Best Slow Release Fertilizer

The Andersons PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer

Slow-release granules fortified with iron for complete nutrition to ready your lawn for the growing season ahead.

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Choosing Lawn Fertilizers for Spring

Before you can choose an appropriate fertilizer for spring, you need to know what type of grass your lawn contains. Cool- and warm-season grasses require slightly different nutrition at different times. 

Cool-season grasses — such as tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and ryegrass — do some of their best work in spring. These grasses prefer cooler temperatures, so spring fertilizing is necessary to support vigorous growth.

At the same time, warm-season grasses — popular examples include zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass, and Bermuda grass — are just waking up. Applying spring fertilizer is more about preparing for summer than encouraging immediate growth.

Despite these differences, spring fertilizer should always be a rich source of nitrogen. A slow-release formula will benefit both warm- and cool-season grasses. However, the latter will perform best when given a combination of slow- and instant-release nutrients.

Spring Fertilizer N-P-K Ratio

The N-P-K ratio is the most important piece of information on any fertilizer label. This ratio tells you how much of each macronutrient is in a given formula. You can determine a fertilizer’s N-P-K ratio by looking for a sequence of 3 numbers separated by hyphens.

The N-P-K ratio most commonly prescribed for spring fertilizing is 4-1-2. This equals 4% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus, and 2% potassium. That’s not to say that other NPK combinations won’t work. They will, depending on the nutrient requirements of your grass type as well as the needs of your soil.

An N-P-K ratio displays the percentage of each nutrient. So it’s just as crucial to look at all 3 numbers in relation to each other as it is to consider the total amount of each nutrient. For example, a fertilizer labeled 16-4-8 has the same nutrient ratio as one labeled 4-1-2. However, the former fertilizer is more concentrated than the latter.

Controlled Release Lawn Fertilizer

A controlled- or slow-release fertilizer is highly recommended for turf grass because it delivers nutrients over an extended period instead of all at once. The only time I don’t suggest opting for a slow-release formula is when feeding young grass that is prone to root burn.

Lawn Fertilizer Spray

Spray fertilizers excel at delivering nutrients almost instantly upon application. The problem is that those nutrients only remain in the soil for a week or two at most. I recommend using fertilizer sprays to provide immediate nutrition in spring or to feed newly planted grass.

Granules Vs Liquid Concentrate

Understanding your lawn and its specific needs will help you choose between a granular or liquid fertilizer for spring. 

Granular fertilizers are ideal for most spring feedings of established lawns. Granules are much easier to evenly distribute over a large area than liquid options. While granular fertilizer is more expensive on average, choosing a slow-release formula will ensure you get plenty of nutrition out of each application.

Liquid concentrates are best for young grass because they contain fewer harsh salts than granular fertilizers. I also recommend opting for a liquid fertilizer if you want to feed your lawn as early as possible in spring. If you have a large lawn, however, evenly applying liquid fertilizer can be extremely difficult.

Chelated Iron Supplement

Chelated iron is the most effective type of iron supplement for plants. According to the University of Florida, chelated iron is treated to prevent oxidation. This makes it more readily available to grassroots than “regular” iron. Most chelated iron supplements are liquids that can be applied to the soil or foliage. 

If your lawn is naturally iron-deficient, spring is the best time to amend the soil. Chelated iron is best applied when the temperature is between 60 and 70°F. Applying this supplement when the days are hotter increases the risk of fertilizer burn.

Avoiding Fertilizer Burn on Grass

Turf grass is vulnerable to overfeeding just like any other plant. Applying too much fertilizer at one time can stress or permanently damage your lawn. While nitrogen is the most common culprit behind fertilizer burn, other nutrients can also cause harm when applied in high concentrations.

Measuring the amount of fertilizer you use each time is crucial to preventing fertilizer burn. In my experience, taking extra care during this one step will eliminate most cases of accidental overfeeding. Performing regular soil tests will also help you get a better idea of what nutrients your lawn needs versus which ones are already readily available in the ground.

Another common cause of fertilizer burn is feeding when the grass is dormant or drought-stressed. Dormant lawns are not taking in nutrients to any significant degree. So it’s very easy for the soil (and, consequently, plant roots) to be overwhelmed with fertilizer applied too early in the spring.

Best Lawn Fertilizers for Spring Reviews

Every fertilizer on the market promises to make your lawn lush and green but that doesn’t mean all are created equal. 

When choosing the best fertilizer for spring lawns, there are several factors worth taking into account. While that can be overwhelming for the average homeowner, I’ve put together a simple overview of my top-pick formulas and how I recommend using them:

81htI4gfx4L. AC SL1500 e1619268762241
  • Type: Liquid Concentrate
  • N-P-K Ratio: 16-4-8
  • Coverage: 3,200 sq.ft.
  • Application: Hose End Spray


  • Packaged in a ready-to-use spray bottle
  • Offers immediate spring nutrition


  • Not a slow-release formula

With a nutrient ratio most often prescribed for turf grass maintenance, this is one of the best liquid concentrates available for spring fertilizing. I particularly recommend it for stressed lawns that need immediate access to key nutrients.

This formula is super convenient to use — the concentrate comes in a ready-to-use sprayer that connects to a standard garden hose. Since it’s a fast-acting fertilizer, it won’t provide nutrients for more than a couple of weeks so you may need to fertilize again thereafter.

I can confidently recommend this liquid fertilizer for all warm- and cool-season grasses. Just be sure to wait until your lawn is actively growing before applying this fast-acting nitrogen source.

How To Use: Connect the spray bottle to your garden hose and apply evenly as directed by the label. Water the area for 20 minutes within 24 hours after applying the fertilizer.

1. The Andersons PGF Complete 16 4 8 Fertilizer
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 16-4-8
  • Coverage: 10,000 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Contains humic acid for soil health
  • Fine particle size for better distribution
  • Slow-release formula feeds for up to 8 weeks


  • Pricier than other spring fertilizers

This fertilizer contains the ideal mix of macro- and micronutrients for turf grass. I also appreciate the inclusion of humic acid, which is an organic material that boosts soil quality. 

You can use this granular formula on all types of grass. While you will need a broadcasting fertilizer spreader to properly apply this fertilizer, the ultra-fine particles ensure even distribution.

With adequate moisture, you can expect to see better growth and color in as little as 14 days after applying in spring. Each application of this slow-release fertilizer feeds for up to 8 weeks at a time.

How To Use: Apply to dry grass for the best results. Thoroughly water the granules immediately after. Leave lawn clippings on the grass the next time you mow.

Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Weed Killer Fertilizer
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 16-0-1
  • Coverage: 4,000 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Kills and prevents broadleaf and grassy weeds
  • Appropriate for most turf grass species


  • Not recommended for southern lawns
  • Very concentrated source of nitrogen

Maintaining a green lawn takes a lot of time but this Scotts Turf Builder fertilizer packs three benefits into one product. Applying this weed and feed granular formula in spring will simultaneously feed the grass, kill common weeds, and prevent future weed seeds from germinating.

You can use this product on the most popular warm- and cool-season turf grasses. According to Scotts, however, this fertilizer is ideal for northern and transition zone lawns. The built-in herbicides target mature broadleaf weeds — i.e., dandelions and clover — and the seeds of grassy weeds like crabgrass and foxtails.

Keep in mind that this fertilizer is almost pure nitrogen. While some lawns will respond wonderfully to this N-P-K ratio, I wouldn’t recommend it as an all-purpose formula for spring-feeding new lawns. 

How To Use: Apply granules using a broadcast spreader. Ensure the grass is damp so that the granules will stick to weed leaves. After 24 hours, water the area to wash granules into the soil.

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food 30 0 4.
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 20-0-8
  • Coverage: 5,000 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Prevents and kills damaging insects
  • Protects grass from heat stress


  • Does not contain phosphorus

If you live in a warmer climate, spring can turn to summer faster than expected. Those hot spring days can also trigger insect activity well before summer actually arrives. In such scenarios, this Scotts Turf Builder fertilizer is a great option.

This granular fertilizer is specially designed to protect your lawn against heat and drought. Perhaps even more notable, however, is the inclusion of a targeted insecticide that controls ticks, ants, chiggers, crickets, and other unwanted bugs found in turf grass.

Personally, I would recommend using this fertilizer in late spring — either as a first application or following a fast-acting liquid formula — to prepare the grass for rising temperatures. 

How To Use: Using a broadcast spreader, apply evenly to a dry lawn. Water the area thoroughly to activate the granules. Do not use any other insect, disease, or weed treatments within one week of application.

Scotts suggests applying this fertilizer at the first sign of insect damage. You can re-apply if needed to control pests at least two weeks after the first application.

5. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Lawn Food
  • Type: Water-Soluble Powder
  • N-P-K Ratio: 36-0-6
  • Coverage: 7,200 sq.ft.
  • Application: Hose End Spray


  • Feeds grass quickly
  • Ideal for small lawns


  • Free of phosphorus

Miracle-Gro is one of the most recognized lawn care brands for a reason. As far as spring fertilizer is concerned, I recommend the brand’s Water Soluble Lawn Food in most cases.

This is a dissolvable powder that can be applied with a hose-end sprayer or diluted in a standard watering can. However, the latter option is extremely impractical for larger turf grass applications. In this case, you will need to consider purchasing the compatible Miracle-Gro sprayer, which is sold separately.

With this liquid fertilizer, you can get nutrients to grass and start seeing results remarkably quickly. It’s ideal for small lawns that need an extra boost of nitrogen in the spring but should be combined with a slow-release fertilizer for optimal results.

How To Use: Apply evenly to your lawn using a compatible hose-end sprayer. Re-apply as often as every 2 weeks when the grass is actively growing.

5. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Lawn Food
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 6-4-0
  • Coverage: 2,500 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Supports beneficial soil microbes
  • Sourced from an innovative recycling program


  • Not a source of potassium

As far as lawn fertilizers go, Milorganite is very interesting. This granular fertilizer is made by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in Wisconsin using recycled waste byproducts. The end result is a nutrition formula that works great on warm- and cool-season grasses.

Each application of Milorganite delivers nitrogen and phosphorus which results in lush foliage and strong roots. This product also contains a wealth of organic material that benefits long-term soil health. 

While Milorganite can be applied up to four times a year, it’s ideal for spring feedings. This fertilizer releases nutrients for up to 10 weeks and even improves soil quality for better water retention throughout summer. 

How To Use: Evenly distribute granules over grass using a calibrated broadcast spreader. Watering in is not necessary but will help ensure the fertilizer makes contact with the soil.

5. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Lawn Food
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 27-0-2
  • Coverage: 5,000 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Contains iron for improved color
  • Will not stain concrete


  • Does not include phosphorus

This Scotts fertilizer is another high-nitrogen formula that works great on hungry spring lawns. Plus, the inclusion of supplementary iron helps boost color in as little as 3 days.

You can confidently use this granular fertilizer on any grass type. If you have a driveway or patio on your property, you’ll also be happy to know that this fertilizer is designed to not stain concrete.

According to Scotts, this fertilizer is appropriate for use in spring, summer, and fall — there’s no need to purchase a different formula for each season. However, I recommend providing an additional source of phosphorus if you plan to use this product in the fall.

How To Use: Apply granules using a broadcast spreader over the entire lawn. This fertilizer can be applied to dry or damp grass. 

8. Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer
  • Type: Granules
  • N-P-K Ratio: 30-0-4
  • Coverage: 5,000 sq.ft.
  • Application: Broadcaster


  • Formulated to improve lawn color
  • Contains slow- and instant-release nitrogen


  • Not recommended for early spring

Another spring fertilizer that promises to improve lawn color quickly is this formula from Pennington. Its green-boosting power comes from the high nitrogen percentage and the inclusion of iron.

One of the reasons I recommend this fertilizer for spring feeding is that it contains both fast- and slow-release nitrogen. This combo promotes rapid growth early in the year while also feeding for up to 3 months after application. For the best results, apply this fertilizer in April or later.

How To Use: Distribute evenly to wet or dry grass using a broadcast spreader. 

Fertilizing Grass In Spring

In spring, the vast majority of plants are at their most vigorous. This is the time of year when perennial trees, shrubs, and grasses recover from winter stress and prepare for the impending growing season. It’s also a time when adequate nutrition is extremely important.

The role of spring fertilizer is to replenish nutrient stores in the soil that may have been drained during the previous year. If your lawn is well-fed year-round, spring fertilizing isn’t 100% necessary. (In general, it is considered the most important to fertilize in fall. Spring is a close second.) 

When to Apply Fertilizer to Lawn

Most lawns respond best to twice-annual feeding with a slow-release formula (however, you can fertilize turf grass up to four times per year if desired). Following this schedule, you should plan to fertilize once in spring and again in late summer or fall. Both warm- and cool-season grasses grow well under these conditions.

It’s crucial that the grass has left winter dormancy before any nutrients are applied in spring. The clearest sign that your lawn is no longer dormant is the appearance of new, green growth. This typically occurs between February and April or approximately 6 weeks after your area’s last frost date. 

Regional Climate and Grass Dormancy

The best time to fertilize your lawn in spring is dependent on your local climate. You shouldn’t expect to fertilize your lawn at the same time as someone living several zones north or south of you. 

There are several benchmarks you can use to determine when it’s safe to fertilize turf grass in spring. My preferred method, however, is to check the soil temperature. 

Your first fertilizer application should not occur until the soil is at least 55°F. Since temperatures can change dramatically from one day to the next, I recommend waiting to fertilize until the soil temperature is 55°F for several days in a row.

How to Apply Lawn Fertilizer

Prepping your lawn before applying fertilizer will ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck. I recommend mowing several days before fertilizing to remove any excess blade height. Be sure the lawn is well-watered prior to fertilizing as well.

Granular fertilizers are best applied with a broadcast spreader. Spreaders come in many sizes and styles to suit individual needs. Always reference your fertilizer’s label when calibrating the spreader to the desired application rate.

Liquid lawn fertilizers are most often applied with a hose-end sprayer. Achieving an even application with this type of fertilizer requires a very steady pace. 

Calculating How Much Fertilizer You Need to Apply

The simplest way to calculate how much fertilizer you need is to measure your lawn’s area and compare it to the application directions on the product packaging. This strategy will produce good, consistent results as long as you’re starting with relatively balanced soil.

A more precise way to measure the correct amount of fertilizer is by looking at the total amount of nitrogen in pounds. Up to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application is ideal (if your lawn needs more, I suggest splitting it into multiple applications). I recommend using a conversion chart — Rutgers has a good one — to determine how much nitrogen by weight is in your chosen fertilizer.

How Often to Apply Fertilizer

Many lawns thrive with only one or two feedings per year. If your lawn is very low on nutrients, however, it could take multiple applications within a single season to meet its needs.

Slow-release fertilizer can be applied as often as every 6 to 10 weeks during the growing season. Be sure to follow your fertilizer’s recommended schedule to prevent overfeeding. 

Liquid fertilizers are usually applied every couple of weeks. Again, your fertilizer’s product label will include the ideal timing for additional applications.

Verdict: Best Grass Fertilizer for Spring

Spring is one of the best times to fertilize turf grass, especially if you want to prepare your lawn for summer. While almost any lawn fertilizer will offer some improvement, I think it’s clear that some formulas shine above the rest.

Advanced Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer 16-4-8

Best Liquid Spray Fertilizer

Advanced Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer 16-4-8

Easy to apply thanks to the pre-mixed formula, containing macronutrients as well as iron, seaweed, and fish emulsion to improve foliage color and root strength.

For a liquid formula, go with Advanced Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer 16-4-8. It’s my preferred formula when gentle, fast-acting nutrition is needed.

The Andersons PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer

Best Slow Release Fertilizer

The Andersons PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer

Slow-release granules fortified with iron for complete nutrition to ready your lawn for the growing season ahead.

On the other hand, The Andersons PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer is a great slow-release formula without any unnecessary frills. Applying this fertilizer in spring will provide you with a happy and healthy lawn before you know it.

FAQs Spring Lawn Fertilizer