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The Best Lawn Fertilizer for Your Needs

You want the greenest grass on the block, but nature may be working against you. Sure, your lawn’s soil is full of nutrients that grass needs to grow, but it may seem lackluster or not growing fast enough for you to make good use of your riding lawnmower. The answer to your problem may be lawn fertilizer. Fertilizer can help by giving your grass some extra food to chow on because it needs that extra energy to keep growing in seasons when it’d rather lay dormant or die off.

Choosing a good lawn fertilizer takes a bit more research than finding out what’s on sale at your local hardware store. In fact, you can easily buy a top-rated lawn fertilizer that’s a good fit for your lawn online – you don’t even have to buy the big brand names. This guide will help you by answering your questions, from what is lawn fertilizer to what are the best lawn fertilizer recommendations?

BEST LAWN FERTILIZER COMPARISON CHART

ModelWeightCoversTypesNPK Ratio

Miracle-Gro All Purpose Lawn Food
20 lbs5,000 sq. ftSynthetic


Not Mentioned



Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food
12.6 lbs.5,000 sq. ft.
Synthetic32-0-4

Safer Brand 9333 Ringer Lawn Fertilizer
25 lbs.5,000 sq. ft.Organic10-0-6

Milorganite 0636 Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer
36 lbs.2,500 sq. ft.OrganicN/A

Espoma ELF20 Organic All Season Lawn Food
20 lbs.5,000 sq. ft.Organic18-0-3

How Does Lawn Fertilizer Work?

Plant food, or fertilizer, is necessary in most regions because not every season or place in the United States is ideal for year-round growth. With the right fertilizer, your lawn can grow up big and strong, and keep growing with the help of nutrients. Consider the lawn as any other living thing – it needs certain nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to sustain itself. If you take a multivitamin, it’s because you know you’re not getting enough of those same elements from the food you eat. Your lawn may need that, too.

Most lawn fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The nitrogen helps your grass grow new blades. Phosphorus helps your lawn’s roots by making them stronger, more resilient. And potassium is needed to help keep your grass healthy and free of disease.

A big part of having success with your lawn is in choosing the right grass. You can follow the basics of a climate zone map. For example, zone 9 is the southern and southeastern region, which requires a hearty grass that can handle a warm, humid area. While arid zones may require a drought-tolerant grass.

The next key to a lush, healthy lawn is in timing when you fertilize your grass. After a soil test to determine how much fertilizer you need and the type of fertilizer that will be best for your lawn, determine whether you need to use it during the spring, summer, or fall. This is typically in the instructions on your fertilizer bag.

Types of Lawn Fertilizer

Strictly speaking, there are two different types of lawn fertilizer: organic and synthetic. You’re likely to see numbers on a bag of fertilizer, too, which represents the amount of each nutrient in the bag. For example, a 10-10-10 has an even ratio of NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (K is its element symbol).

Organic

These are made up of all organic plant food. So, you’re likely to find listed in the ingredients things like alfalfa, kelp, and blood meal. You may find this fertilizer listed as slow release lawn fertilizer because it’ll take longer for it to work, as it isn’t being aided by anything artificial.

Benefits

Better long-term effects
Eco-friendly
Requires fewer applications
Less chance of over-fertilizing

Disadvantages

Expensive
Harder to apply
May attract pets or bugs

Synthetic

A chemical fertilizer makes good use of science to improve your lawn. Some of the best commercial lawn fertilizers are synthetic and many gardeners swear by them. You may see this fertilizer listed as inorganic, artificial, or manufactured.

Benefits

Quick-acting
Exact ratios of nutrients
Inexpensive
Easy to find

Disadvantages

Doesn’t help your soil
Over-fertilization is easy
Could be toxic

Whether you’re in the organic or artificial camp, both have their merits. Aside from buying and testing them yourself, another option is to consider a lawn fertilizer review, like the ones below. Learn from others’ mistakes, and reap the benefits without dropping a dime or two on bags of plant food that don’t work for your grass.

Safety: Consider This First

Naturally, there are some safety concerns with using any fertilizer, whether it’s precautions for your lawn, your pets, you, or the environment. You may be in awe of a lawn fertilizer before and after like this one, but remember that chemical fertilizers typically work on the surface of your plants, and not necessarily at the root. However, if your roots are healthy, and you just want the flora to produce a bit faster, a chemical solution could be right for you.

Wear Gloves


When you’re applying fertilizer, make sure you protect yourself. If your skin comes in contact with nitrogen, you could experience a chemical burn.

Store Safely


Whether you’re working with organic or chemical fertilizer, it’s important to keep it away from children and pets. A good place to store it is in a garden shed or your garage. It should be kept in a cool, dry place, so if you live in a region that gets extra hot during the summer, you may want to move the fertilizer to an indoor area.

Carefully Apply


You certainly don’t want to burn your grass, so follow the instructions on the bag to the letter. Over-fertilization can happen easily, especially with chemical fertilizers. Also, keep in mind of the runoff. Once you fertilize your lawn, the chemicals are sitting on top of your lawn. So, keep pets and children off it until you’ve watered or it has rained, so the majority of those nutrients have settled into the soil or runoff in the groundwater.

Lawn Fertilizer: The Reviews

Miracle-Gro All Purpose Lawn Food

Quick Info

        • Weight: 5 lbs.
        • Covers: 4000 sqft
        • Type: Synthetic

Remington wheeled trimmer with 22 inch cutting diameter

Many benefits come with choosing a Miracle-Gro product because it’s specially formulated to provide just the right amount of nutrients to help promote growth in a plant’s roots, stems, and leaves. The 5 lb container covers up to 4000 sqft of lawn so this product goes a long way. It’s long-lasting, and you only need to feed your lawn every four to six weeks.
One of the issues with using a synthetic fertilizer is that you could easily over-apply, and then burn your lawn. As long as you follow the directions, though, it shouldn’t cause any damage. It’s an effective fertilizer for flower gardens, vegetables, and lawns.

Pros

Inexpensive
Easy to apply
Water-soluble formula makes for good coverage

Cons

May not be safe around pets
Could burn your lawn

When you want quick results, Miracle-Gro is a good bet, whether it’s for your garden or lawn – just be sure to follow the directions carefully to reduce risk of burning.

Learn More

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

Quick Info

      • Weight: 12.6 lbs.
      • Covers: 5,000 sq. ft.
      • Type: Synthetic
      • NPK Ratio: 32-0-4

This lawn food is meant to help revive your lawn and build stronger roots than before, which can reduce the need to water your lawn often. It’s good for cool- or warm-weather grasses, but you need to make sure you feed your lawn this fertilizer at the right time for your region. Because it has such a high level of nitrogen, you can expect a lot of top growth, and you should see results quickly. However, there’s also a risk of burn if you apply too often.

With no phosphorus, the water runoff won’t be contaminated, but it also means that this isn’t the right fertilizer for a newly planted lawn as it doesn’t help establish root growth. It’s an inexpensive solution for a struggling lawn – you can cover 5,000 square feet with only one bag. You will need a spreader, though, to apply this granular fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Pros

Inexpensive
No phosphorus
Requires fewer feedings

Cons

Requires spreader
Could burn your lawn

If your lawn has been lackluster, you may just need a fertilizer that’s mostly nitrogen with a small hit of potassium to promote stronger roots, and this synthetic one from Scotts could work for you.

Learn More

Safer Brand 9333 Ringer Lawn Fertilizer

Quick Info

      • Weight25 lbs.
      • Covers: 5,000 sq. ft.
      • Type: Organic
      • NPK Ratio: 10-0-6

After all the research you’ve done on fertilizer, you might be wondering why any manufacturer would sell a product with no phosphorus. This is meant for lawns that have an already established root system. Many people prefer a fertilizer with no phosphorus because it can harm water quality – some states even restrict residents from using phosphorus-filled fertilizer on their lawns. Well, Safer Brand’s lawn fertilizer contains none of it, and yet, it still helps the roots grow strong.

This organic high nitrogen lawn fertilizer will make your green grass greener and the potassium helps promote strong root systems, if they’re already there, so there’s no need for phosphorus. The ratings for this lawn fertilizer are high because it works – it takes time, but it works. Compared to synthetic fertilizers, Safer Brand’s takes a bit longer, but compared to other organic plant food, this one’s quick – you should see results in days.

Pros

No odor
Fast-acting for organic
All plant-based (no animal waste)
Safe around pets

Cons

Expensive
No phosphorus

 

Safer Brand’s lawn fertilizer may be a good choice for you if you’re looking for a product that is organic, but not smelly manure, and works to strengthen an established root system, while promoting greener, lusher grass.

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Milorganite 0636 Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer

Quick Info

      • Weight: 36 lbs.
      • Covers: 2,500 sq. ft.
      • Type: Organic
      • NPK Ratio: N/A

Milorganite’s Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer is specifically made to help you grow a lush, thick, and very green lawn. As long as you already have a strong root system in your lawn, this fertilizer can help you achieve a better-looking lawn. It’s mostly nitrogen, so it’s meant to promote top growth. It also has about 4% iron added to make your green grass a deeper green color. As an organic fertilizer, it’s safe to use around pets and children.
Once you open the bag, you’ll know what it’s made of. The smell can be a bit overpowering after you first use it, but after watering, the scent dies down a bit. If you don’t mind your lawn smelling a little like manure for a while, you’ll reap the benefits of it. As a bonus, this fertilizer also doubles as a repellant – sprinkle the granular mix on your flowers, and around your garden, as well, to keep bunnies at bay and deter deer.

Pros

Includes iron for greener grass
Safe around pets
Can be applied anytime

Cons

Expensive
Doesn’t include root-growing elements

In a comparison with other organic plant food, Milorganite is a bit pricier, but it’s heavy on the nitrogen, so if you’re looking just to grow longer blades with a deeper green color, this could be your best bet.

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Espoma ELF20 Organic All Season Lawn Food

Quick Info

        • Weight: 20 lbs.
        • Covers: 5,000 sq. ft.
        • Type: Organic
        • NPK Ratio: 18-0-3

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Most organic products don’t give you instant gratification – you have to wait a few weeks to see results. Such is the case with this lawn food from Espoma. The blue pellets rest on top of your lawn and slowly make their way into the soil as you water it. Once it gets in there, though, it goes to work making your roots grow strong and deep. And on top the blades of grass grow long, thick and green.

It’s an organic product, so you won’t have to worry about burning your lawn or about poisoning the water runoff (plus it contains no phosphorus). Your children and pets will be safe playing on your lawn, too. It’s not the right fertilizer for helping your lawn grow new roots, though, so make sure you get this only if you have an established lawn.

Pros

Safe for pets
Long-lasting results
Can be used in any season

Cons

Expensive
Won’t help grow new roots

As long as you don’t mind a pricier option, this is a good choice for organic plant food that will help your lawn dig its roots down deep and shoot up thick, lush green grass.

Learn More

The Best Choice

It’s difficult to say which lawn fertilizer is the best for your yard because it really depends on whether it’s important to you to keep things organic and safe for your pets or children, or whether cost is a factor. An overall good choice to try to revive your lawn, keep things safe for those you love, and not break the bank is the Milorganite 0636 Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer. Yes, it’s a bit smelly, but that goes away after a few days when it absorbs into the soil. You can expect a deeper green grass, thanks to the iron, and the high nitrogen levels will make your grass grow tall and thick.

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You might also enjoy reading: Liquid Lawn Fertilizer vs Granular

About The Author

Candace Osmond

Award Winning Designer, Candace Osmond has been in the industry for over a decade. She studied Interior Decorating & Design and is also an accomplished writer and multi-published author. When she's not typing away from the comforts of her desk, Candace can be found travelling to warm destinations, tending to her garden, or enjoying the outdoor haven that is her backyard. Candace currently resides in the breathtaking Maritimes of Eastern Canada with her husband, two beautiful kids and one slobbery bulldog.

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