7 Best Lawn Fertilizer Types: A Buying Guide

If you really want that lush, green lawn, you’ll need to find the best lawn fertilizer for your situation. Unfortunately, there are dozens of types of fertilizers on the market. Which do you choose?

That’s where we come in. Today we’ll break down the best lawn fertilizer types and how they work. Whether you’re looking for organic nitrogen fertilizer or synthetic fertilizer, we have recommendations that will suit your needs. 

Just think, with a little know-how you’ll have the best lawn on the block and be the envy of your neighbors! So let’s talk about fertilizers and how to pick the one for you.

Product Features
Milorganite 62036-MW Organic Milorganite FertilizerWidely PopularMilorganite 62036-MW Organic Milorganite FertilizerWidely Popular
  • Organic
  • Granular
  • 6-4-0 NPK
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Safer Brand Ringer Lawn RestorePlant-BasedSafer Brand Ringer Lawn RestorePlant-Based
  • Organic
  • Granular
  • 10-0-6 NPK
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Espoma EOLF28 Organic All Season Lawn FoodAnimal-BasedEspoma EOLF28 Organic All Season Lawn FoodAnimal-Based
  • Organic
  • Granular
  • 18-0-3 NPK
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Scotts Turf Builder Lawn FoodAll-Seasons UseScotts Turf Builder Lawn FoodAll-Seasons Use
  • Synthetic
  • Granular
  • 32-0-4 NPK
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Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn FoodMade For HeatScotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn FoodMade For Heat
  • Synthetic
  • Granular
  • 32-0-10 NPK
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Miracle-Gro 1001834 Water Soluble Lawn FoodEasy ApplicationMiracle-Gro 1001834 Water Soluble Lawn FoodEasy Application
  • Synthetic
  • Water-Soluble
  • 36-0-6 NPK
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LawnStar 16-4-8 NPK FertilizerReady To UseLawnStar 16-4-8 NPK FertilizerReady To Use
  • Synthetic
  • Water-Soluble
  • 16-4-8 NPK
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Best Lawn Fertilizer Reviews

1. Organic Milorganite Fertilizer

Milorganite is an organic nitrogen fertilizer. It contains 4% chelated iron, helping your lawn to reach that rich green color quickly.

One of the oldest fertilizers on the market, Milorganite is composed of heat-dried microbes that have digested the organic matter in wastewater. Once they’ve done their job, they die off, leaving behind a caked layer. This caked material is dried, heated to kill off any pathogens, then broken into granules that make a fantastic organic fertilizer. 

Milorganite is non-burning, so it won’t burn your lawn or grass when you use it. Its 6-4-0 NPK means it’s low-impact and unlikely to cause fertilizer runoff damage to the environment. Also, you don’t need to water it in, which saves you time and effort. 

Milorganite is eco-friendly, safe, and has decades of reliability. For many, it’s the best lawn fertilizer, and I can see why!

Pros:

  • It shows quick results
  • Doesn’t cause fertilizer burn
  • Part of an eco-friendly cycle that reclaims valuable nutrients from waste
  • Does not need to be watered in

Cons:

  • It can have a strong odor for the first few days after application
  • Due to its popularity, it can be hard to get sometimes

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2. Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Restore Fertilizer

Safer Brand Ringer Lawn Restore, Lawn Fertilizer - 25 Pounds
  • Plant-based nutrients - no poultry litter or...
  • No Manures/No Odor
  • Covers up to 5,000 sq.ft.

The Ringer Lawn Restore fertilizer only uses plant-based ingredients. There’s no poultry litter, manure, or any kind of biosolids. It improves root development, resulting in thicker and greener grass. The fertilizer lasts long, is non-burning, and produces results in 3 to 5 days.

Because it doesn’t contain manure, you don’t have to worry about your lawn smelling bad every time you use it. It does have a slight aroma of the sea due to some of the seaweed products used in it. It’s also pet-friendly, so your pets don’t have to avoid the fertilized area after application. Just don’t let your dogs snack on the bag!

Ringer Lawn Restore fertilizer can be used on both cold and warm weather grasses. Its NPK is 10-0-6, and it’s unlikely to cause fertilizer burn to your grass.

Pros:

  • Minimal odor because it doesn’t have any manure
  • The effects last a long time
  • Feeds the soil, which helps the lawn to thrive

Cons:

  • Takes a couple of weeks to get up to speed
  • Must be reapplied every 2 months to maintain lawn health
  • Has a slight sea-like aroma when applied

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3. Espoma Organic All Seasons Lawn Food

With this Espoma lawn food, you can feed your lawn during any season of the year. This fertilizer works quickly, giving you greener glass soon after applying the product. It includes beneficial microbes to help your lawn take nutrients up from the soil more readily.

Espoma Lawn Food is organic and derived from feather meal and pasteurized poultry manure. As a result, the product is safe to use around pets and children. High in nitrogen, this product’s NPK rating is 18-0-3. 

While Espoma has seasonal lawn food options as well, the all-season is a good anytime product. If your lawn needs a pick-me-up, this will deliver!

Pros:

  • It yields greener and thicker grass
  • Pet-safe and kid-safe formula
  • Adds beneficial soil microbes to promote grass health

Cons:

  • Granules don’t dissolve quickly, even with additional watering or rain
  • It has an earthy odor after application

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4. Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food, 12.5 lb. - Lawn Fertilizer Feeds and Strengthens Grass to Protect...
  • Lawn fertilizer formulated to feed and strengthen...
  • Formulated with Scotts exclusive All-in-One...
  • Builds strong, deep roots, and improves your...

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food promotes the growth of strong roots, making your lawn more resilient and lush. An NPK ratio of 32-0-4 ensures there’s plenty of nitrogen to make a green lawn.

A synthetic fertilizer like this Scotts offering feeds the grass rather than the soil. While some of the fertilizer may linger, Turf Builder Lawn Food is meant to be reapplied throughout the year. They have a variety of seasonal products available, but we’ve chosen this all-season variety as a good anytime choice.

Scotts uses an all-in-one particle technology to not only supply nutrients, but to help your lawn absorb water. It can be extremely good in drought-prone locations. In addition, this all-season variety is good on virtually all grass types, regardless of regional climate.

Pros:

  • It makes lawns green in a short time period
  • It’s easy to apply
  • It helps improve moisture absorption and nutrient uptake

Cons:

  • The NPK ratio is very high at 32-0-4 and may cause nitrogen burns if overused
  • An inorganic formula feeds only the grass, not the soil

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5. Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food

Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food, 5,000 sq. ft.
  • Specially formulated for Southern lawns and...
  • Feeds to protect against heat and drought
  • Improves lawn’s ability to absorb water and...

Scotts Turf Builder Southern Lawn Food is designed specifically for grass in southern United States climates, where it’s typically much warmer than other regions. Its NPK ratio is 32-0-10, with plenty of nitrogen to create a lush green lawn.

Its formula is optimized towards lawns in hot climates, with the nitrogen fueling fast growth even in the most blistering conditions. The particle technology which Scotts uses for its Turf Builder lawn food line holds onto some moisture, which helps to keep the grass vibrant. Any grass that performs well in hot climates will enjoy this lawn food!

Like all Scotts products, this is not an organic option. However, Scotts lawn products are a recognized and respected inorganic solution for lawn fertilization.

Pros:

  • Does an excellent job at making the grass greener
  • Optimized for hot climates where grass yellows quickly
  • Available at an affordable price

Cons:

  • A high nitrogen level means it can burn the grass if overapplied
  • Inorganic fertilizers feed only the grass, not the soil

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6. Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Lawn Food

Sale
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Lawn Food, 5 lb.
  • Instantly feeds all grass types
  • Encourages a soft green carpet of grass that will...
  • Feeds up to 7,200 sq. ft.

I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Miracle-Gro products. They tend to be excessive in their NPK ratio on virtually all products, and they don’t feed the soil in addition to the lawn.

But having said that, they do work surprisingly well if they’re used as directed. They recommend using their hose-end sprayer to ensure proper dilution, and they are very specific on how much of the product to add to the sprayer jar. If you follow their instructions, Miracle-Gro’s water-soluble lawn food can really be easy to apply and will create a lush green carpet of grass.

At 36-0-6, this is the highest NPK option we’re listing today. But remember, that will be diluted with water. Once it’s gone through the hose sprayer, you’re applying a lot lower dosage overall. Just be careful not to overdo it, as too much will cause burning. In addition, it’s recommended to fertilize early in the morning so the grass has time to dry during the day.

Pros:

  • Greens up the grass quickly
  • Easy to apply when using their proprietary hose sprayer

Cons:

  • Can cause fertilizer burn if overapplied
  • Synthetic fertilizer does not feed the soil, only the grass

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7. LawnStar Liquid Lawn Food

Balanced 16-4-8 Nutrient Liquid Fertilizer (32oz Ready to Spray) - Premium Lawn Food, NPK with Added...
  • BALANCED LIQUID LAWN FOOD FOR ALL GRASS TYPES:...
  • SUPERIOR, PREMIUM INGREDIENTS: Including a premium...
  • MAKES YOUR LAWN GROW GREENER AND FASTER: While...

LawnStar’s liquid fertilizer comes in a ready-to-use hose-end sprayer bottle. Simply attach your garden hose, and it will be pre-mixed to the perfect level for your lawn.

With an NPK of 16-4-8, it offers plenty of the primary nutrients you need for a healthy lawn. The high nitrogen level will keep your lawn green and verdant, no matter which grass type you have. In addition, seaweed extract has been added to provide some nutrition to your soil as well.

One-third of the nitrogen in this fertilizer is in a slow-release format. Not only will it feed your grass immediately, but it will continue to feed the lawn for a while afterward.

Pros:

  • Yields greener grass in a short period of time
  • Application on lawns is easy
  • Contains both slow-release and immediate nitrogen

Cons:

  • Ready-to-use liquid fertilizers provide less fertilizer for your money
  • The proprietary sprayer cannot be refilled and must be replaced when empty

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Understanding What Fertilizer Is

Best lawn fertilizer
Picking the best lawn fertilizer can be a challenge. We’ll help! Source: Mini D

There are many things that act as fertilizers out there. Whether synthetic or organic, a fertilizer is essentially a substance that provides nutrition to your plants. When your plants have the fertility they need in their soil, they will be healthier as a result. Healthy plants grow more quickly, produce flowers or fruit of higher quality, and are less susceptible to pests and diseases.

The basic nutrients your plants require are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three resources give your plant almost everything it will need to survive:

  • Nitrogen aids in photosynthesis, and also spurs quick growth.
  • Phosphorus helps with healthy root development and also aids in flowering and fruiting.
  • Potassium strengthens stems and also aids in good root development.

For lawns, we’re less concerned with supplying a large amount of phosphorus, as lawns don’t produce flowers or fruit. Our primary interest is nitrogen to keep it vigorously growing and healthy. 

While those primary nutrients are essential to plant development, there are many others that are also consumed. For turfgrass, iron in the form of chelated iron can create a much deeper green color than the lawn might otherwise produce. And for those of us on the quest for a perfect lawn, that’s important!

What Type of Grass Do You Have?

Knowing what grass you have is important. If you don’t know your grass type, you can’t select products optimized for its type. In addition, some weed and feed varieties target some grasses as weeds. It’s not a good thing for your fescue lawn if its fertilizer will kill it off!

Some grass types are best in a particular climate. As an example, many of the thicker-bladed grasses can tolerate more heat than the slender-bladed types. This makes them a great choice for southern climates. The fine-bladed types may grow more readily in cooler climates and can return quickly after frost or ice.

As a general rule, a product that is just a fertilizer without any form of weed control can be used on most lawn types. You will still need to have an idea of your lawn’s ideal needs for best growth, but it’s less likely to cause damage.

Types of Lawn Fertilizer

Large lawn
All lawns, whether large or small, need fertilizer to thrive. Source: Like New

There are three basic variables that we discuss when we’re talking about lawn fertilizer. 

Organic Vs Synthetic

Organic fertilizers are developed from naturally-occurring sources. These can include other plant products such as alfalfa meal, waste products like chicken manure, or dead material like Milorganite’s microbial matter. Many organics are pet and child-safe, and they will feed the soil as well as the grass growing there.

Synthetic fertilizers are chemical blends derived in a lab setting. While these contain the same basic nutrients in terms of NPK, they’re a lab-derived form rather than coming from organic sources. They are often purer than their organic counterparts and can cause fertilizer burn if overused. Synthetics often target just the growing material in a lawn and do not improve the soil quality in any way.

Granular vs Liquid

Granular fertilizers are pebble-like or pelletized fertilizers that are easy to spread when dry. These do not fertilize until after they’ve been wet down, at which point they break down to release nutrients into the soil. You can broadcast these by hand or use a spreader device to disperse them. They can be applied at any time of the day.

Liquid fertilizers include both water-soluble and pure liquid forms. These are applied using a hose-end sprayer which dilutes and spreads the fertilizer across the lawn. It’s best to apply these in the morning to allow excess moisture to evaporate off during the day.

Quick-Release vs Slow Release 

Slow-release fertilizers gradually release nutrition across your lawn over time. They continue to feed for much longer because they break down slowly into the soil as it’s watered.

By contrast, a quick-release fertilizer gives a quick shot of plant nutrition that will last for a few days to a few weeks at most. After that time, they tend to be flushed out of the soil by regular watering.

When to Fertilize Your Lawn

Depending on the type of fertilizer you use, you may need to fertilize more or less often. It’s best to read the manufacturer’s directions and apply as they suggest.

As a general rule, an all-season fertilizer can be applied at any time of year. There are seasonal blends available that are optimized to a particular time of year and the needs of your lawn during that time.

How Much Lawn Fertilizer to Use

With this, as with when to fertilize, it really depends on what you’re using. Follow your manufacturer’s directions for quantity to use.

Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn. Too much fertilizer can cause the blades of grass to become scorched, and the fertilizer can damage the grass root system as well. Fertilizer burn creates yellow, unappealing patches that can take a while to grow back. So fertilize your lawn as it suggests on the label of your product.

Using Lawn Fertilizer Safely

While most lawn fertilizer is generally recognized to be safe, there are still a few safety precautions we recommend when using or storing it.

  • Wear protective gloves when working with lawn fertilizer. Whether it’s a liquid fertilizer or a granular one, you don’t really need large amounts of it on your skin.
  • Store lawn fertilizer out of the reach of pets and kids. My dogs are absolutely fascinated with organic fertilizers, and while it won’t necessarily hurt them to eat it, they might get sick if they ate a lot of it. Kids just put anything in their mouth, and the blue color of a product like Miracle-Gro is appealing — and really unsafe to eat!
  • Use it as per the manufacturer’s directions. While you might think using a lot of fertilizer is better than just a little, that’s not usually the case. Too much fertilizer can cause your lawn to get fertilizer burn, which can damage the roots and cause the blades to turn yellow. Fertilize your lawn per manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Make sure it’s in an airtight container. Liquid fertilizer tends to spoil if not kept fully sealed. Granular types tend to clump when they’re exposed to moist air. To ensure your lawn fertilizer is ready to spread over your type of grass, an airtight container is best.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener

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Last update on 2020-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API