2018 Best Lawn Fertilizer Reviews & Buyers Guide

Your lawn has specific fertilizer requirements, depending on both what soil type you have, and the particular type of turfgrass you are growing. Fertilizers contain essential nutrients that will help your lawn to survive. This buyers guide will discuss different types of fertilizers, what nutrients they contain, how to test your soil, soil pH, and how to read the fertilizer numbers on packages.  Hopefully, once you read our lawn fertilizer reviews, you'll be able to pick out the best product for your grass.

Your soil can supply some of the nutrients that your grass needs, but not all of them. An actively growing lawn requires a good bit of energy. Fertilizers can help your lawn by controlling and reducing weeds, replacing nutrients that have been lost to grass clipping removal and leaching (a loss of plant nutrients washed away from soil by rainwater). It can also promote new root and leaf growth, and help your lawn to recover from any pest damage or foot traffic.

​Top Lawn Fertilizer Picks

Image

Name

Type

Our Rating

Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed

Synthetic

5 out of 5

Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Restore

Organic

5 out of 5

Espoma Organic Weed Preventer

Organic

4.5 out of 5

Diatomaceous Earth Food

Organic

4.5 out of 5

Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer

Synthetic

4 out of 5

SaleBestseller No. 1
Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Restore, Lawn Fertilizer - 25 Pounds
421 Reviews
Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Restore, Lawn Fertilizer - 25 Pounds
  • Plant-based nutrients - no poultry litter or bio-solids
  • No Manures/No Odor
  • Covers up to 5,000 sq.ft.
  • Rapid greening and plant response
SaleBestseller No. 2
Scotts Green Max Lawn Food 5,000 sq. ft.
236 Reviews
Scotts Green Max Lawn Food 5,000 sq. ft.
  • Provides essential nutrients for deeper greening in just three days
  • Dual-action, 2-in-1 formula feeds and supplements with iron
  • Thickens grass to fill in bare spots
  • Builds thick, green lawns
Bestseller No. 3
Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK- Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer- Spring & Summer Concentrated Spray - Any Grass Type- Simple Lawn Solutions,...
253 Reviews
Advanced 16-4-8 Balanced NPK- Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer- Spring & Summer Concentrated Spray - Any Grass Type- Simple Lawn Solutions,...
  • Complete NPK Lawn Food: 16-4-8 is the perfect blend of key macronutrients. This lawn liquid food...
  • Contains High Quality Natural & Organic Feed Grade Ingredients: Nourish your lawn to health with...
  • Easy To Use: Designed to be easily applied. This complete Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash formula...
  • All Grass types: Including Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Buffalo, Centipede, Florida Palmetto,...
Bestseller No. 4
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food, 5,000-sq ft (Lawn Fertilizer)
471 Reviews
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food, 5,000-sq ft (Lawn Fertilizer)
  • Feeds and strengthens to help protect against future problems
  • Builds strong, deep roots
  • Improves lawn's ability to absorb water and nutrients versus an unfed lawn
  • Formulated with Scotts exclusive All-in-One Particle technology for even greening and feeding
SaleBestseller No. 5
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food - Summerguard with Insect Control, 5,000-sq ft. (13.35lb.)  (Lawn Fertilizer plus Insect Control)
127 Reviews
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food - Summerguard with Insect Control, 5,000-sq ft. (13.35lb.) (Lawn Fertilizer plus Insect Control)
  • Feeds and strengthens your lawn against heat and drought
  • Kills and protects against listed bugs
  • Won't burn lawn - guaranteed
  • Your lawn will begin to wilt when water is needed. Take advantage of nature's sprinkler and rely on...
Bestseller No. 6
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food - Starter Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer, 5,000-sq ft (Starter Lawn Fertilizer Plus Crabgrass, Dandelion & Weed...
422 Reviews
Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food - Starter Food for New Grass Plus Weed Preventer, 5,000-sq ft (Starter Lawn Fertilizer Plus Crabgrass, Dandelion & Weed...
  • Great for sod and grass plugs
  • 2-in-1 formula feeds new grass and prevents weeds
  • Prevents crabgrass and dandelions for up to 6 weeks
  • Weeds sprout white and die quickly, won't harm new grass

*Note, your needs may vary depending on grass type, climate, soil conditions and overall grass condition.

Lawn Fertilizer Average Rating: 4.6 Based on 5 Reviews

Different Types of Fertilizer

Fertilizers are divided into two main categories - granular fertilizers and liquid fertilizers.

Granular fertilizers are applied dry, from a shake container or with the help of a mechanical spreader, and then watered. There are two main types of granular fertilizer - slow release and quick release. Slow-release fertilizer contains WIN (Water Insoluble Nitrogen) which is available in polymer-coated or sulfur-coated varieties and can last for 8-12 weeks. Quick-release fertilizer contains WSN (Water Soluble Nitrogen), can last 3-4 weeks and will provide nitrogen immediately to your lawn.

Liquid fertilizers need to be applied every 2-3 weeks, are quick-acting, and are absorbed through roots or leaves. Although usually used for container plants, there are also some varieties that can be used on lawns.

What Nutrients Does Your Lawn Need?

Your lawn needs both macronutrients (chemicals that are required in large quantities for plant development and growth) and micronutrients (chemicals that are needed in trace amounts for plant growth and development).

Primary macronutrients are Nitrogen (essential for leaf growth and vivid green color), Phosphorus (essential for root growth), and Potassium (also known as Potash), which is important for resistance to disease and drought, and for root development. Lawns also need carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, magnesium, calcium, and sulfur, but these are usually present in the soil or air.

Micronutrients are only needed in small amounts and include chlorine, boron, copper, cobalt, manganese, iron, molybdenum, zinc, and nickel.

Testing Your Soil

In order to know which nutrients are required by your lawn, a soil test is essential. You can either buy a home test from the garden center (which aren't extremely accurate) or send in a soil sample to the closest cooperative extension office.

We recommend this one on Amazon: ​Covery 3 in 1 Soil Tester Moisture Meter

The results will tell you exactly what chemicals to add to your soil. They will also tell you if your soil is alkaline, acidic, or neutral. The pH of your soil is a measure of soil alkalinity (sweetness) or soil acidity (sourness). A pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A reading below 7 is acidic, and a reading above 7 is alkaline.

Alkaline soils (a pH over 7) are primarily "sweet" clay soils with a high pH level that usually contain an overabundance of calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Alkaline soils can be improved by adding ground rock sulfur to the soil to increase acidity, as well as a fertilizer that's high in phosphorus.

Acidic soil (a pH below 7) could have too much manganese, iron, or aluminum, which might tie up phosphorus and make your soil too acidic for lawn growth. The easiest way to raise an acidic soil level is to add some pulverized limestone to your soil. The chemicals in limestone that can neutralize your acidic soil are calcium and magnesium carbonate. Be careful not to add too much lime, or you might end up with zinc, manganese, and iron deficiencies, or even a nasty overgrowth of bacteria. If you have a neutral soil (a pH of 7), congratulations! You can choose any fertilizer that strikes your fancy.

How to Read and Calculate Fertilizer Labels

The majority of fertilizer bags show 3 bold numbers on their labels, separated by dashes. The first number will be the total percentage of N (Nitrogen) coming from ammonium, nitrate, and/or urea. The second number tells you what quantity of P (Phosphate) is available. The third number, K (Potash) shows you how much soluble potash is contained. So if your number is 20-10-20, that means 20 percent Nitrogen, 10 percent Phosphate, and 20 percent Potash. Your completed soil test, combined with your local lawn care specialist, can determine from these numbers the exact fertilizer product you will need. Also, your lawn care specialist can advise you on the best fertilizer, depending on what type of turfgrass you are growing.

About the author

Mark Kelly

Hi, I'm Mark the owner of Yard Care Gurus. I love to be outside working on my lawn, planning my next project. I created this website to help people like you find the best products for yard care and great advice. Thanks for stopping by!

6comments
Gail - March 2, 2018

I am trying to kill the clover and purple flower weed. It has taken over my yard.

Reply
Cindy - May 7, 2018

I would like your recommendation on what I should use on a football field that shows Nitrogen depleted, Phosphorus sufficient, and Potash adequate/surplus.

Reply
    Mark Kelly - May 8, 2018

    Try Milorganite….or Ringer

    Reply
Paul - May 10, 2018

I do not have a lot of weeds. Last year I popped/pulled most of my weeds. I have thin areas of grass and from a distance my lawn looks great, but up close it is thin. I fertilized and raked everything out last fall. I just did my first grass cut and rake for the spring. What do you recommend for product to use to take care of the thinning problem? The house in on the NH coastal region of the country.
Thank you,
Paul

Reply
    Mark Kelly - May 15, 2018

    Try a few apps of ringer lawn restore and see what happens. If you have quality soil, few weeds and good grass coming up, patience will usually work best :)….and water.

    Reply
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