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How to Choose a Lawn Seed and Fertilizer Schedule

Updated February 15, 2021

Valerie A.

By Valerie A.

Having a healthy lawn requires a knowledge of when to fertilize lawn areas. A good lawn fertilizer schedule is based on what kind of grass you're growing. Let us guide you through seeding and lawn fertilization across the seasons.

Warm-Season and Cool-Season Grass Characteristics

Map of cool-season grasses, transitional grasses and warm-season grasses.

Warm-Season Grasses

While warm-season grasses are suited for the southern part of the country, the transition zone in the middle of the country sometimes requires a mix of warm and cool varieties. Warm-season grasses grow during spring and summer, but turn brown and go dormant during fall and winter. These varieties tolerate dry conditions. They have wide, coarse blades. Most warm-season grasses are creeping varieties, spreading by runners.

Cool-Season Grasses

In addition to performing well in the northern part of the US, many cool-season grasses are well suited to the transition zone in the middle of the country. They grow during the spring and fall, but turn brown and go dormant during dry, hot periods. Most cool-season grasses are bunching varieties, meaning they grow outward from the crown of the grass plant. These grasses have a finer texture than warm-season varieties.

 

Tip

To find out what types of grass are suited to your area, see what varieties are available in our online Garden Center.

How to Test Your Soil

Whether you’re embarking on spring or fall lawn care, perform a soil test before you plant new grass. Testing your soil will alert you to any soil quality concerns so you can address them before they affect the health of your grass. You can purchase a home test kit or send a soil sample to a local Cooperative Extension office for testing. The results will tell you what to add to the soil to make it ideal for the grass you plan to grow. Adding the necessary amendments, such as spring lawn fertilizer, based on the soil test is important to create and maintain a successful lawn. For more information on soil tests, see Test and Improve Your Soil.

Caution

Observe any state or local regulations on the use of fertilizer in your area.

Seeding and Fertilizing

Whether starting a lawn from bare ground, overseeding an existing lawn or maintaining what you have, you have to know when to seed and how often to fertilize lawn areas. You may have multiple grass types that require care at different times. If you buy a mixture or have a lawn with several grass varieties, know the types of grass that make up the blend. To learn about the characteristics of different grass types, see Choose the Right Grass for Your Lawn.

The times listed are general and may vary by location and altitude. If you have questions about the specific timing for planting or the best time to fertilize lawn areas, contact a local Cooperative Extension office.

Warm-Season Grasses

Bahia

  • Seed in spring or early summer (fall planting is possible in southern locations that don't face cold temperatures).
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer and fall.
  • Bahia has woody stems that look ragged if cut. Set your mower high enough to cut the grass blades rather than the stems.

Common Bermuda

  • Seed in the spring or summer.
  • Fertilize in late spring or early summer and late summer or early fall.
  • Overseeding with ryegrass in the fall can keep a common Bermuda lawn looking good over the winter.
  • For more information on this popular species of grass, check out our buying guide on Bermuda grass.

Hybrid Bermuda

  • Seed in the spring or summer.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Mow often in the summer to encourage new stems to develop. The stems weave together and will help your lawn resist weeds.

Centipede

  • Seed in midspring to midsummer.
  • Fertilize in spring and summer.
  • Centipede is a relatively low-maintenance grass. You won't need to mow or fertilize it as often as other types of grass.

Zoysia

  • Plant in mid to late spring or early summer.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • A reel mower will give the stiff blades of Zoysia grass a clean, even cut. If you use a power mower, keep the blade sharp.

Cool-Season Grasses

Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Seed in early spring or early fall.
  • Fertilize in early spring (after a mild winter) or late spring (after a cold winter), late summer and fall.
  • Add small amounts of a shade-tolerant grass (such as fine fescue) or a wear-resistant grass (such as perennial ryegrass) to enhance a bluegrass lawn.

Fine Fescue

  • Seed in early spring, late summer or fall (spring plantings are at risk from hot and dry conditions over the summer).
  • Fertilize in early spring (after a mild winter), late spring or early summer (after a cold winter), late summer and fall.
  • Fine fescue can improve shady lawn areas or lawns that face very cold winters.

Tall Fescue

  • Seed in early spring or early fall (spring plantings are at risk from hot and dry conditions over the summer).
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Tall fescue tolerates hot, dry conditions better than other cool-season grasses.

Perennial Ryegrass

  • Seed in spring, late summer or early fall.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Perennial ryegrass seed provides quick green, germination in as little as five days.

Want to learn more about caring for a lawn? Watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Use a Lawn Spreader?

Caution

When using lawn treatments or lawn care products, always follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.

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