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Starter Grass Fertilizer

By Janet Veverka
It is recommended to apply a starter fertilizer before seeding a lawn.
hose on lawn image by Coralie Palmeri from Fotolia.com

Establishing a new lawn or simply patching up certain areas can be accomplished by applying new grass seed or sod. It is beneficial to lay a starter fertilizer before either seeding or laying sod to help the growth of the root systems to establish. Starter fertilizer is different than other lawn fertilizers because newly planted grass requires different components to succeed in growing.

Starter Fertilizer Analysis

Starter fertilizer contains a different ratio of components than fertilizer for an established yard. New lawn seedlings require an adequate amount of potassium and phosphorus, which help them to develop strong roots. Nitrogen (the other of the three big components in most fertilizer) is primarily for the growth of leaves or foliage. A newly planted lawn will not require a lot of nitrogen until the seedlings have established a solid root system. Most fertilizers designate their ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) using a three-number sequence on the label (i.e. 20-10-20). A starter fertilizer will typically hold a ratio of 5-20-20.


The application of starter fertilizer is administered based on the size of the area being seeded, as well as the type of grass being used. The proper amount can be determined by following the instructions on the package. To fertilize small areas, sprinkling a hand full of fertilizer over the area will work fine. For larger areas, a hand-held seeder or fertilizer spreader will evenly distribute the material over the area. Once the fertilizer is laid, the soil should be raked lightly to mix the two. Grass seed should always be laid after fertilizer.

Organic Fertilizer

Using compost in the soil of a newly seeded lawn will supply the same nutrients and benefits as a store-bought fertilizer; however, the nutrients will be supplied to the seedlings more slowly and over a longer period of time. You can expect to see slow growth.


New grass seed and starter fertilizer can be used at any time of the growing season (outside of winter months); however, spring and fall are considered the best times of the year.


Although fertilizers are helpful in producing lush green lawns quickly, too much fertilizer can damage the soil. If more starter fertilizer is applied than is necessary, excessive growth, weakened grass or fungus growth may occur.


About the Author


Based in Vancouver, Janet Veverka is a freelance writer and artist for Pink Olive Designs. She also blogs under the tag IMAGINATIONmama for MommysKnowBest.com. Veverka received her Bachelor of Arts degree in arts management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1999 before working in Europe for 5 years and then returning to North America.