Growing new grass requires a different fertilizer than the type you use on established lawns.
Because seedlings need to develop a strong root system, it’s essential they get access to a large amount of phosphorus in the soil.
And fertilizers for established turfgrass usually have very little phosphorus or even none at all.
Seedlings also need nitrogen for them to grow. So getting a fertilizer with the right balance of nutrients is important.
Our recommendation: the best fertilizer for new grass is Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food. It has a high level of phosphorus and quick release nitrogen. And an excellent reputation with customers for delivering results.
Our top choices at a glance:
- Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass – Best Overall
- Espoma Organic Lawn Starter – Best organic fertilizer for new grass
- Lesco Professional Starter Fertilizer – Best for potassium deficient soil
- The Andersons Starter Turf Fertilizer
- Fertilome New Lawn Starter Fertilizer
- Greenview Starter Fertilizer
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The Best Fertilizer For New Grass
Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass
Scotts is a well-established brand with a great reputation for making fertilizers for grass.
This product is specifically designed for new grass and has a 24-25-4 (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) ratio. It’s high in phosphorus because of the essential role it plays in root development. And it has a large amount of nitrogen for rapid growth and greening. These are the 2 most important nutrients for new grass.
You can use it on any grass type. And it can be applied either before you plant your grass seed, at the same time, or after. You can also use it when grass seedlings are already growing to accelerate and strengthen their development.
Customers report excellent results whether they are reseeding their lawn, starting a new one, or installing grass plugs or sod.
Just be careful to follow the instructions because it can burn your grass if it’s over-applied.
The product comes in a 15 lbs bag that contains enough fertilizer to treat a 5,000 sq. ft. area. You can also get it in 2 other sizes that cover 1,000 and 14,000 sq. ft.
Espoma Organic Lawn Starter Seed & Sod Lawn Food
This natural and organic starter fertilizer comes in a 3-6-3 NPK formula.
It contains a lower percentage of the primary macronutrients than synthetic fertilizers do. And you can often see faster growth with synthetics.
But don’t let that put you off. Because it’s organic it has other advantages.
The organic material it adds to the soil is broken down slowly by microorganisms. Providing long-lasting fertilization as seedlings grow into mature grass.
Organic fertilizers actually encourage the growth of microbes and worms in the soil, improving the soil’s long-term health. But this product also contains beneficial microbes to quickly increase soil quality.
Another advantage it has over synthetic fertilizers is the wide range of secondary macronutrients and micronutrients released into the soil.
And unlike many synthetics, you don’t have to worry about it burning and damaging your grass.
The end result is many happy customers who report visible results within days. With seedlings getting off to a great start. Before developing into thick, dark green grass with strong roots.
The product comes in a 36 lbs bag of granules that are easy to spread. And will cover 3,000 sq. ft. when applied as per the instructions.
Lesco Professional Starter Fertilizer
This starter fertilizer for grass has an 18-24-12 NPK ratio. With a high level of phosphorus that’s ideal for new grass as it establishes its roots.
It also contains 30% poly-coated sulfur coated urea (PCSCU). This releases nitrogen into the soil slowly, fertilizing for up to 12 weeks at a time.
And it has a high percentage of potassium compared to most fertilizers. Which makes the new seedlings more disease and drought tolerant.
Its a good choice whether you’re seeding a new lawn, sodding, or sprigging.
But you still need to be careful when using it. Make sure you spread it evenly and water the area well after you lay it down, because it can burn your lawn.
You can use the 50 lbs bag to fertilize 12,000 sq. ft. of grass.
The Andersons Starter Turf Fertilizer
The Andersons are well known as one of the leading brands in the turf industry.
This starter fertilizer has an 18-24-12 NPK formula that encourages strong roots and rapid seedling development.
Containing both slow release and quick release nitrogen, it provides up to 8 weeks of fertilization at a time for your new lawn.
As it comes in granules it’s best applied using a broadcast spreader so that you get even coverage. And don’t forget to water it well afterwards. Because, like most high nitrogen synthetic fertilizers, it can burn the grass.
Each bag weighs 50 lbs and covers 12,500 sq. ft.
Fertilome New Lawn Fertilizer
Fertilome is specially designed to help new grass, sod, and sprigs become well established. With strong root systems and mature stems developing before vigorous growth starts.
It has a 9-13-7 formula that’s lower in the all-important phosphorus than the products listed above, and has less nitrogen. But many customers report very good growth after using it. With struggling lawn seed sometimes showing an overnight improvement.
You can apply it using a spreader along with your grass seed. Or apply a thin layer immediately after sowing.
The bag weighs 4 lbs and you can use it to cover a 1,000 sq. ft. area.
Greenview Starter Fertilizer
This starter fertilizer from Greenview has a 10-18-10 NPK ratio. Like the options above, it’s high in phosphorus. Making it a good choice for new lawns, reseeding, and installing sod.
It contains both slow release and fast release nitrogen. Providing for quick growth and continuing to fertilize for up to 8 weeks.
It’s formulated for use in the winter, spring, or fall. And it’s good for most grass types including St. Augustine grass and bermuda grass.
There’s enough fertilizer in the bag to cover 15,000 sq. ft.
Choosing The Right Fertilizer
When choosing a fertilizer there are a couple of important things to consider:
When choosing the best starter fertilizer for new lawns take a look at the NPK ratio that’s listed on the front of the bag. This number tells you how much Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) is in the bag as a percentage of the total product.
So, a fertilizer with NPK values of 10-18-10 contains 10% nitrogen, 18% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. This means that in a bag weighing 30 lbs you get 3 lbs of nitrogen, 5.4 lbs of phosphorus, and 3 lbs of potassium.
These elements are popular in fertilizers as they are the primary nutrients that plants need. They are required in the biggest quantities for healthy growth. So, although you can usually find them in your soil, adding extra can accelerate growth and compensate for any deficiencies.
Here are some of the benefits that these elements have for your grass:
- Important for healthy growth.
- Needed for your grass to develop its green color.
- Essential for root development
- Phosphorus deficiency results in slow growth.
- Strengthens the plant. Making it more resistant to drought, extremes of temperature, and disease.
- Helps grass to make full use of nitrogen and grow properly.
Seedlings have different nutrient requirements than established grass.
The best fertilizer for new grass seed will have a high amount of phosphorus. Why?
Because it’s essential for the development of strong roots.
Quick release nitrogen is also very useful because of its role in growth.
Once grass is well-established phosphorus is no longer as important. Which is why you see so many fertilizers for grass with NPK values like 27-0-4, or 24-0-0.
There is another reason as well:
Phosphorus is a pollutant in waterways, streams, rivers, lakes, etc. And run-off from areas sprayed with fertilizer can cause algae and weeds to build up. Harming the ecological balance.
For this reason, many states have laws that allow you to only use fertilizers with phosphorus when you are trying to establish a new lawn. If you live near water, then be careful to use your fertilizer responsibly.
Synthetic Or Organic Fertilizer?
Most available starter fertilizers are synthetic. But you can get organic fertilizers as well. They both have some advantages.
Synthetic fertilizers usually have a higher percentage of primary nutrients, NPK, providing fast growth. And because they’re water-soluble they’re quickly available to grass seedlings. Which means they’re faster-acting than organic lawn fertilizers.
But natural fertilizer has benefits of its own.
Unlike chemical fertilizer, the organic material that’s added to the soil encourages the growth of microorganisms and worms. Leading to healthier soil in the longterm. With good structure, composition, and aeration.
The slow nutrient release results in slower but more steady lawn growth. And they won’t burn your grass. Even if you accidentally use excess starter fertilizer.
Related: The Best Fertilizers For Your Lawn
Getting the right fertilizer is important when you’re growing new grass in your garden.
Most commercially available fertilizers are designed for established lawns. And often don’t contain much phosphorus, the essential element needed for healthy root growth.
So our recommendation?
The best fertilizer for new grass is Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food. It has a high phosphorus and high nitrogen formula that results in strong root development and rapid growth.
If you want to go organic, then the best starter fertilizer is Espoma Organic Lawn Starter. It provides a good level of phosphorus, and adds organic matter, a wide range of micronutrients, and beneficial microbes to your soil.