Can I Use Starter Fertilizer on an Established Lawn?

A beautiful, thick expanse of turf grass makes for an impressive first impression as folks pass by your home.

Key Points:

  • Starter fertilizers are not recommended for established lawns due to their high nitrogen content and lack of essential nutrients needed for healthy growth.
  • Using starter fertilizer on an established lawn can lead to excessive top growth and a weaker root system, requiring more frequent mowing.
  • There are some situations where using starter fertilizer on an established lawn can be helpful, such as newly renovated lawns, thin or patchy areas, or low-nutrient soil, but it’s important to understand its limitations.

So, when your grass starts to suffer, so does your home’s curb appeal. While the remedy varies based on the problem, fertilizer is a standard solution to many lawn deficiencies.

But can you use a starter fertilizer on an established lawn? Is it actually different than a regular fertilizer? Ideally, you should avoid using starter fertilizers on established lawns, as their nutrient contents aren’t best suited to the needs of an established lawn. However, there are a few exceptions when starter fertilizer is a suitable pick.

It all depends on the situation! We’re here to explain why starter fertilizers aren’t the best option for established lawns, so continue reading to learn more!

Why It’s Not Recommended

If you’re considering using a starter fertilizer on your established lawn, you might want to reconsider. While starter fertilizers can be an excellent tool in promoting healthy lawn growth in new lawns, they’re not always ideal for established lawns.

The primary reason behind this falls to their nutrient percentages. Starter fertilizers often contain a high percentage of nitrogen, which is an essential building block for new seedlings.

However, while it’s highly beneficial for new lawns, high amounts of nitrogen aren’t ideal for an established lawn. Too much nitrogen in an established lawn can lead to excessive top growth, leading to a weaker root system and a yard requiring more frequent mowing.

On top of that, starter fertilizers often lack some of the essential nutrients an established lawn needs. For example, established lawns usually enjoy a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as various micronutrients like iron, magnesium, and sulfur.

Starter fertilizers aren’t designed for established lawns, as they’re supposed to provide a quick boost of nitrogen to support healthy root growth for new grass seedlings. However, while they contain plenty of nitrogen (and then some), these fertilizers don’t have the other nutrients that established lawns need to remain healthy and flourish.

Since they’re not intended for use on established lawns, starter fertilizers can be a waste of money in these applications. They’re intended for new lawns, so they’re usually more expensive than other types of fertilizers. So, if you’re looking to support healthy growth on an established lawn, you’re better off using a fertilizer that is specifically designed for that purpose.

When It’s Okay to Use Starter Fertilizer on an Established Lawn

Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass, 15 lb. - Lawn Fertilizer for Newly Planted Grass, Also Great for Sod and Grass Plugs - Covers 5,000 sq. ft.

While starter fertilizer isn’t the most ideal pick for established lawns, there are some situations where it can be a solid solution. Here are a few situations where using it might be your best option:

  • Newly renovated lawn: If you recently renovated your property via overseeding or laying new sod, starter fertilizer can give the new grass a leg up. It offers essential nutrients the grass needs to establish itself, so it can be a valuable addition.
  • Thin or patchy areas: If your lawn is thin or patchy in certain areas, a starter fertilizer applied to those particular areas can be helpful. It can supply nutrients that new grass growth needs to thrive, aiding in filling those areas with lush, healthy grass.
  • Low-nutrient soil: If your soil is low in nutrients, starter fertilizers can provide a much-needed nutritional boost your lawn needs to thrive. Of course, it isn’t a catch-all, so it’s essential to understand what nutrients your soil is lacking. A soil test can help evaluate your soil’s contents and give you the necessary information to choose appropriate additives.

While starter fertilizer can be an appropriate pick in these situations, it’s essential to note that a starter fertilizer doesn’t have all the nutrition an established lawn needs. If you want to give your lawn a well-rounded boost of nutrients, you might want to look into alternative options, like fertilizers designed for established lawns.

In addition, remember to follow the fertilizer package instructions carefully and not over-fertilize your lawn. Too much fertilizer can harm your lawn, having the opposite effect you’re hoping for. It can lead to excessive growth, opening the door to excessive thatch buildup and disease.

How to Apply Starter Fertilizer on an Established Lawn

fertilizer spreader

If a starter fertilizer makes sense for your established lawn, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure the application goes smoothly.

First, ensure you choose the right type of starter fertilizer for your lawn. Look for an option that contains a balance of various essential nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, plus other nutrients, like iron and sulfur. You can find these fertilizers at most garden centers and home improvement stores, as well as larger grocery stores with garden sections.

Second, you need to calculate the correct amount of fertilizer to use on your lawn. It’s important to apply enough so it can do its job but not so much that it overwhelms the lawn. To determine the correct amount, follow the instructions on the package carefully, as there should be application amounts based on square footage.

Once you calculate the correct amount and are ready to apply the product, choose an application method that will ensure an even coating. Spreaders are an excellent choice for granular fertilizer products, as they’ll distribute them evenly over your lawn. If you have a larger yard, you might want to consider renting a fertilizer spreader to simplify the job.

As you apply the product, overlap each pass slightly to ensure you don’t miss any spots. Once you’re done, water your lawn thoroughly to help the nutrients soak deep into the soil and reach the roots. Ensure you water the lawn deeply, but don’t overwater it, as this could wash away the fertilizer before it has time to work.

Alternative Fertilizers for Established Lawn

Starter fertilizer isn’t the best fit for most established lawns, so if your situation doesn’t fall into a category where starter fertilizer works, you might want to consider an alternative option. There is a whole passel of options out there, each designed and tailored for varying tasks.

Here are a few alternative fertilizer options that work great for keeping established lawns healthy and thick:

  • All-purpose fertilizer: This versatile option provides a balanced mix of nutrients that can benefit various plants, including established lawns. Fertilizers with a 10-10-10 N-P-K ratio can be an excellent option, as they provide a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Slow-release fertilizer: These fertilizers are designed to release their nutrients slowly over an extended period, hence the name. The design helps reduce the chances of over-fertilization as the nutrients gradually become available to the plants. When considering slow-release fertilizers, look for an option with a higher percentage of nitrogen, as this nutrient is an essential building block for a flourishing lawn.
  • Organic fertilizer: Organic fertilizer might be your best bet if you prefer to go a natural route. These fertilizers come in varying types, each with different intentions. They’re often made with natural materials like compost, bone meal, and blood meal, so they can be very helpful in improving soil health and providing nutrients to your lawn.
Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Lawn Fertilizer for All Grass Types, Feeds and Waters Lawn at Same Time, 32 fl. oz.
Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Lawn Fertilizer for All Grass Types, Feeds and Waters Lawn at Same Time, 32 fl. oz.
This 2-in-1 liquid fertilizer makes it easy to feed and water your grass at the same time; Apply this grass fertilizer to actively growing turf
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On SaleBestsellers
Scotts Green Max Lawn Food, Lawn Fertilizer Plus Iron Supplement for Greener Grass, 5,000 sq. ft., 16.67 lbs.
Scotts Green Max Lawn Food, Lawn Fertilizer Plus Iron Supplement for Greener Grass, 5,000 sq. ft., 16.67 lbs.
One 16.67 lb. bag of Scotts Green Max Lawn Food covers 5,000 sq. ft.; OK to re-enter lawn immediately after product is applied
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As you search for a suitable fertilizer for your established lawn, it’s essential to consider the specific needs of your lawn and the climate in your area. If you’re unsure what your soil needs to improve the grass quality, we recommend obtaining a soil test, as these can offer insight into what your soil is lacking.

In addition, remember to read the label on your chosen fertilizer carefully and follow the instructions for application to avoid over-fertilization and other common issues.

Last update on 2024-07-16 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API

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