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Nothing ruins outdoor fun quite like bare, brown spots in your yard. A verdant lawn is a labor of love, needing hospitable soil for new growth and fertilization throughout its growing season. Maintaining a lush lawn can be quite the commitment for new and veteran homeowners alike.
We’ve spent over a hundred hours researching the top lawn care services for fertilization and the most trusted do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques. So whether you’ll be fertilizing your grass yourself or turning to professionals, here are the best lawn care services and fertilizer tips for a beautiful lawn.
Guide to Lawn Fertilization
It’s important to fertilize your lawn because grass can remove nutrients from the soil as it grows. Over time, this process leads to depleted dirt and decreased grass growth. Fertilizing a lawn can restore the pH and nutrient makeup of the soil in your yard.
Types of Fertilizer
First, you’ll want to select the type of fertilizer you’d prefer for your lawn. Fertilizers are made up of three primary elements: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The amount of each ingredient varies based on fertilizer type. The NPK value of a fertilizer displays the percentage of each element in the mixture. For example, an NPK value of 10-11-12 would contain 10% nitrogen, 11% phosphorus, and 12% potassium.
Common options for fertilizer are as follows:
- Quick-release fertilizer: This synthetic variety of fertilizer releases nitrogen into the soil immediately, showing visible results quickly but lasting only two to four weeks. If your lawn needs a quick boost, you may want to use quick-release fertilizer sparingly. But be cautious; too much can burn your lawn.
- Slow-release fertilizer: As the name implies, this fertilizer type gradually releases nutrients for a longer-lasting effect of up to eight weeks. Slow-release fertilizer is better for grass and the environment, thanks to its lower nitrogen content and the reduced likelihood of leaching nutrients from the soil over time.
- Organic fertilizer: Organic fertilizer is made from natural materials such as compost and kelp. The organic ingredients often take a bit longer to show results but can strengthen the water flow and structure of the soil over time. However, since there is no formalized process for certifying organic fertilizers, you’ll want to read the ingredients list carefully and ensure that any synthetic products used comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
- Liquid fertilizer: Liquid fertilizers are concentrated formulas that may be sprayed on grass, often using a hose sprayer attachment. These are popular for both professional and DIY applications and used in subscription fertilizer boxes, such as from Sunday or Lawnbright. Liquid fertilizers are absorbed by plants faster, leading to faster results, and may be natural or synthetic.
- Granular fertilizer: Granular fertilizers are dry solids applied to the ground and release nutrients as they break down. These are typically more cost-efficient than liquid fertilizers but may take longer to show results.
Time of Year and Frequency
Factors such as where you are located, your grass type, your lawn’s health, and the condition of your soil will determine how frequently you should fertilize. Experts agree that fertilizing two to six times per year is ideal, often around mid-spring, Labor Day, and the end of October. However, a soil analysis is the best way to discover what your yard needs.
You’ll want to fertilize starting in the late spring if you have warm-season grass such as zoysiagrass, St. Augustine grass, or Bermuda grass. Start when the grass is already growing and continue through the summer months. Cold-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, bentgrass, and fescue grass, should be fertilized during the same window you start mowing in the spring. After the first application of fertilizer, you’ll want to pause until after Labor Day. Apply fertilizer through early fall, and then administer the final treatment by the midpoint of the autumn season.
Regardless of grass type, homeowners should stop fertilizing roughly six weeks before the first frost in your region, as fertilizing too close to winter can weaken your grass and soil throughout the cold months.
No matter the type of fertilizer you choose, you’ll want an even spread of nutrients throughout your lawn. Fertilizers can be spread through several mechanisms:
- Rotary spreaders: Also called broadcast spreaders, rotary spreaders are pushed across a lawn to release fertilizer in an overlapping pattern. These are often the best choice for an even, quick fertilizer application for larger lawns.
- Drop spreaders: Powered by crank or hand, drop spreaders are best suited for small lawns. These spreaders drop fertilizer as you walk but may distribute the product unevenly in some cases.
- Spray spreaders: Many products come with an attachment for your garden hose to dispense liquid fertilizer. These attachments allow you to walk and spray fertilizer either directly onto your lawn or into the soil.
Top Lawn Fertilizer Services of 2022
Whether you’re looking for a custom-built DIY lawn plan or a comprehensive service to fertilize your lawn professionally, here are our thoroughly researched top picks for subscription boxes and service providers:
- Frequency of Service: Every four to six weeks
- State Availability: 48 (all but Alaska and Hawaii)
- Get a Quick Quote: Visit TruGreen site
Benefits and Drawbacks: TruGreen offers service across most areas of the continental United States, offering a high-quality portfolio of services. The company’s convenient mobile app, wide variety of plans and á la carte services, and more than 40 years of experience impressed us as we researched available lawn care companies. However, the company’s services can be more expensive than applying fertilizer yourself, and customer service phone lines are only available for limited hours over the weekend.
Plans and Pricing
TruGreen offers four standard plans, all of which include fertilization programs for your yard. If you are looking for a naturally-based fertilizer, the company offers that option in its TruNatural plan. In secret shopping for TruGreen prices, we found that TruGreen customers can expect to pay between $690 and $1,700 per year for a TruGreen plan.
Keep in mind that the size of your lawn and the services you select will play a part in the price you are quoted. For example, if you are looking to aerate your soil before fertilizer treatments to increase efficiency, TruGreen’s aeration services average between $141 and $300.
Read More: TruGreen Review
- Frequency of Service: Two to three DIY applications shipped every six to eight weeks
- State Availability: 48 (all but Alaska and Hawaii)
- Get a Quick Quote: Visit Lawnbright site
Benefits and Drawbacks: Specializing in subscription lawn care, Lawnbright ships boxes of treatments designed with low nitrogen emissions and pet-friendly ingredients. Lawnbright’s liquid products can be administered through a spray attachment on your garden hose and make an eco-conscious option for DIY-minded homeowners. However, the downsides of Lawnbright include a limited array of products and no specialized options for garden, tree, or shrub care.
Plans and Pricing
Lawnbright offers a subscription plan based on the needs you highlight during your quote process. Your lawn care plan may be catered to issues such as brown spots, weed control, or soil amendment, all accompanied by a fertilizer. Based on your region and your lawn’s needs, you may also receive personalized recommendations for soil conditioners or products to promote deep rooting. Lawnbright’s first box comes with a soil test for lawn analysis.
In secret shopping for Lawnbright plans around the country, we found that the plans ranged from $199 to $337 for three shipments of lawn treatments per year. The size of your lawn and the state of your grass will affect the price of your Lawnbright subscription. Beyond recurring shipments, Lawnbright also offers weed control, pest control, and pet spot repair products.
- Frequency of Service: Four shipments of DIY treatments per year
- State Availability: 50
- Get a Quick Quote: Visit Sunday site
Benefits and Drawbacks: Offering choices for lawn, pest, and gardening, Sunday is another DIY subscription lawn care program that ships straight to your doorstep. This provider also offers fertilizers for lawns, opting for naturally-based products wherever possible. In addition, it tailors its fertilizer shipments based on your region’s growing season. Unfortunately, Sunday’s plans are unsuitable for lawns larger than 14,000 square feet and can cost more than similar services.
Plans and Pricing
Sunday offers three tiers of lawn care: Basic Care, Keep & Protect, and Grow & Renew. All three offer Sunday’s nutrient pouches for fertilized grass, while Keep & Protect adds weed products, and Grow & Protect adds even more protection with bags of grass seed, such as fescue. Keep & Protect and Grow & Renew both include a soil analysis test kit.
We secret-shopped Sunday’s plans around the nation and found that prices ranged from $228 to $330 for an annual subscription. Your lawn size is the primary determinant of your plan’s price. Sunday also offers a wide variety of products for pet, pest, garden, and weed control, along with live trees and shrubs for sale.
Read More: Sunday Review
Professional Lawn Care Services vs. DIY
Many homeowners wonder about the pros and cons of professional lawn care services versus DIY efforts. Here are the primary differentiating factors:
- Soil analysis: One potential benefit of a professional company is personalized nutrients and care for your lawn’s needs. The lawn care companies on this list all offer a soil analysis option that allows professionals to customize your lawn’s treatment. Soil analysis kits are also available for at-home testing for $15 to $75, but the results may be more difficult to interpret.
- Cost: With five to seven fertilizer treatments per year, the price of purchasing and applying fertilizer yourself and the cost of subscription boxes like Lawnbright or Sunday are comparable, especially if you prefer natural or organic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers can run between $25 and $60 per application for a 10,000 square foot lawn. While hiring a professional lawn company like TruGreen for professional lawn fertilizer services may be slightly more expensive, many homeowners feel that comprehensive lawn services save time, not money.
- Expert knowledge: A lawn care company can walk you through the process of maintaining a healthy lawn—from offering guidance on mowing to identifying problems with under- or over-fertilizing. However, at-home experts who have kept their lawn for years may not benefit from this professional perk.
- Additional services: If your lawn needs weed control or heavy-duty services like core aeration, bundling these in a professional lawn plan can save significant time and effort. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a few fertilizer applications, a subscription service or trip to the home improvement store may serve you better.
If you elect to fertilize your lawn, remember to spread your fertilizer evenly, apply a treatment at least five times per year, and cater your lawn care schedule to your region and grass type. With a bit of planning and some time set aside, your grass will be thriving in no time.
If you’re repairing a brown, spotty yard or would rather have expert advice, we recommend TruGreen for fertilization and any accompanying aeration or seeding. The company’s technicians can also give tips on mowing and lawn maintenance for your healthiest yard between visits. For DIY, subscription lawn care, we recommend Sunday for convenient and user-friendly products.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a lawn fertilizer treatment?
To apply lawn fertilizer treatment, you will apply liquid or granular fertilizer into the desired area to provide essential nutrients to growing grass or plants. Grass fertilizer treatment typically consists of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but different types of plants or grass may require different formulas.
What is the best time to fertilize a lawn?
The best time to fertilize a lawn is in the spring. You may fertilize in March or April, depending on your region, while the soil is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to fertilize three to four days after watering your lawn or a recent rainfall.
What are the benefits of fertilizing a lawn with a professional?
Some homeowners choose to fertilize their own yard, while others hire a lawn care service for a green lawn. The benefits of fertilizing a lawn with a professional include these:Fewer weeds: Fertilizers can assist in weed reduction through thickening grass and deepening roots. A professional service can also apply preemergent and weed treatments as needed.Healthy grass: Grass that has been fertilized properly can be less prone to disease, leaving your yard with fewer spotty or brown patches. Professional services can combine fertilizer treatment with lawn aeration for yards with tightly compacted soil to create a more hospitable environment for grass.Increased growth: Often, nutrients are unevenly dispersed throughout a lawn, leaving some areas healthy while others struggle to grow. Fertilizers can ensure that your grass is lush throughout by distributing nutrients into the entire yard. A lawn treatment professional can also provide overseeding for thicker, more luxurious grass.Safer soil: Thin grass can leave soil exposed to the elements, contributing to soil erosion, runoff, and depleted nutrients. Fertilized, thick grass with a deep root system will protect your soil’s nutrients and placement, leaving it healthier for years to come.Insect control: Thicker, fertilized lawns are more resilient in the face of outdoor pests, such as grubs. Professional lawn services can also offer pest control services for your lawn needs.
How We Chose the Top Lawn Care Services
We researched and analyzed widely available lawn care services, spoke with customer service representatives, and analyzed customer experiences based on hundreds of consumer reviews and call listening sessions to find common pain points and lawn care service requests.
We also secret-shopped for quotes from six providers to simulate the customer experience with each process and compare pricing for similar services. Although lawn care offerings can vary based on seasonality and location, we reviewed and compared each provider‘s service programs, frequency of service, customer support, pest and weed control options, contact options, industry reputation, ingredients, and state availability.