Even if you’ve spent a long time getting your soil pH right, choosing the right grass seed, and finding the perfect fertilizer, it might not be enough to give you the lawn of your dreams. When you apply the fertilizer matters, too.
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Do I Have to Fertilize My Lawn?
The only way to know for sure if your lawn needs fertilizer and which is the right kind to use is to do a soil test. This way, you know exactly what your soil is missing and you can be sure to replace nutrients appropriately.
Fertilizer should be a part of your regular lawn care routine if you want to have the healthiest, greenest yard on the block. A lot of homeowners wonder if they should apply fertilizer before or after rain, and there are pros and cons to both.
The Pros of Fertilizing Before Rain
- When you fertilize before it rains, the fertilizer gets watered into the ground effectively. The nutrients get deep down into the soil where the roots can access them quickly and easily.
- Rain covers a wider area than a hose or sprinkler system ever could and delivers water relatively consistently. One part of your lawn isn’t going to get much more or less water than another part, which is nearly impossible to ensure when using a garden hose.
- Rainfall is a natural way to add nitrogen to the soil, particularly when it’s accompanied by thunder and lightning.
The Cons of Fertilizing Before Rain
- This is the worst choice for the environment. When you add fertilizer before the rain, there’s a greater chance that the rainwater will wash it away, carrying into sewers and pulling it into the groundwater. Fertilizer traveling through a municipal sewer system will eventually make it into local waterways, which can have terrible effects on local wildlife, particularly fish and other water creatures and plants.
- You never really know how much of the fertilizer got into the soil, and how much washed away.
- You don’t know how much it’s going to rain. A short, light shower might be perfect for watering in fertilizer, but a long, heavy rain washes most of it away.
The Pros of Fertilizing After Rain
- This is the best choice for the environment. You don’t have to worry about your newly applied fertilizer running out of your lawn and into the sewers.
- You can get a better idea of how much fertilizer is being absorbed into the ground since nothing is washing away.
The Cons Fertilizing After Rain
- It’s not quite as effective because the rain cannot carry the fertilizer deep into the soil if you have yet to apply it.
- Applying fertilizer after rain can be messy, depending on how much rain has fallen.
What Is the Best Time to Fertilizer Your Lawn?
The best choice is the one that’s better for the environment; that is, fertilizing after the rain.
While this might not be the best thing for your lawn, maintaining the health of the nearby waterways and wildlife is much more important.
How to Fertilize Your Lawn Before Rain
Fertilizing your lawn before rain can be very effective, and there are ways to do it so that it has less of an environmental impact.
If your lawn is flat, you don’t have to worry about runoff as much as if you live on uneven land. Again, though, this method should be avoided if it’s not possible to do it in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the environment.
Don’t add any fertilizer to your lawn unless the ground temperature is higher than 55 degrees F (13°C) as most grass is dormant when the temperature is lower than this. Grass doesn’t need fertilizer unless it is actively growing. You may actually damage your lawn if you fertilize it when it’s dormant.
When applying fertilizer before the rain, check the forecast carefully and apply the fertilizer at least a day before it rains. This gives it time to stick and soak into the surface of the soil before the rain carries it deeper, closer to the roots.
How to Fertilize Your Lawn After Rain
When you fertilize after it rains, the chemicals you add to the lawn stay where you put them. It’s not quite as effective as the previous method, but you can make up for that by watering your lawn appropriately.
After it rains, put on some shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and apply the fertilizer to your lawn, ensuring that it is spread evenly. Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait for a torrential downpour. Even a little bit of rain is fine.
Choose Your Fertilizer Wisely
Regardless of what method you’re planning to use, make sure you follow the directions on the packaging carefully. Some fertilizers are made to be watered in while others work more effectively if applied after rain.
Generally, the advice we’ve given here applies to liquid fertilizers. Granular formulas are a bit of a different story. Some formulas have to be watered in right away, so applying them before a rainstorm is the best way to activate them.
All fertilizers should be watered in, but the best method for doing so depends on the product you’re using. The fertilizer must get enough water, but not too much.
If you’re going to apply your fertilizer before it rains, wait for a day when the forecast is calling for about ¼ inch of rainfall. Any more than that and it’s very likely that most of the fertilizer will be carried off into the sewer system.
Even if your lawn is level, you should still avoid applying fertilizer before a heavy downpour. Too much rain can flood the lawn, washing it away so you are never sure how much of it got into the soil.
If you’re using a fertilizer that doubles as a weed killer, you have to rethink the entire application. This type of fertilizer should sit on the grass for a longer period than standard fertilizers to make sure it’s effective against the weeds.
In this case, you should apply the product after the rain or in the morning when there is still dew on the grass as it sticks in place longer than applying to a dry lawn. Fertilizer with weed killer should sit on your lawn for a full 24 hours before being watered in, which means you have to plan the application for a dry spell.
Before or After Rain: The Final Verdict
Ultimately, whether to apply fertilizer before or after rain depends on the product you’re using. That said, if you’ve chosen a liquid chemical fertilizer, the best option is to apply after the rain. While this might not be the best choice for your lawn, it is the best choice for the environment.
Always follow the directions on the packaging of the product you choose as some have very specific application requirements. Granular fertilizers in particular are suitable for application before rain, but they are specially formulated to release the chemicals slowly and don’t have as great an environmental impact.
If you’re using a product with a weed killer, you should apply it during a dry spell as it has to sit on your lawn for a full 24 hours without being watered into the ground.
As you can see, the answer to this question really depends on your lawn and the product you’re using. Make sure to follow directions carefully, and remember to be good to the environment and local waterways whenever possible.