Lawn Fertilizer Burn: How to Fix and Prevention Guide (2022)

By Britt Olizarowicz

One of the first things you will learn about appropriate lawn care is that grass needs fertilizer. Fertilizer burn can show up in the grass that has been over-fertilized, but it is not always a reason to panic. In our guide, we will provide:

  • How to assess fertilizer damage
  • What causes fertilizer burn
  • How to properly fix fertilizer burnt grass

What Does Fertilizer Burn Look Like?

Fertilizer burn is easily recognizable as brown patches or yellow patches in your turf. Fertilizer burn can look very much like dead grass, and it could cover the entire area where you fertilized. Some homeowners have a hard time determining if they have fertilizer burn or if something else caused an issue in the turf.

If you have fertilized recently and noticed the coloring of your turf changed after the fertilization, chances are it is fertilizer burn.

How Long Until Lawn Fertilizer Burn Starts to Show?

Fertilizer burn can show as quickly as the next day or two if you are using a quick-release fertilizer. For a slow release fertilizer, expect that it could take a few weeks before the affected areas start to turn brown.

Remember that there are other reasons that lawns can get brown spots, so it’s essential to think about all of the reasons why this could happen.

Common Mistakes That Cause Lawn Fertilizer Burn

Most lawn fertilizer burns can be avoided by following the proper fertilization procedures. Unfortunately, there is a bit more to fertilization than simply running to the store and dumping a granular mixture on your grass.

Not Enough Water

Lawn fertilizer burn can be caused by not using enough water after you have fertilized your lawn. However, you must be careful not to overwater. The perfect amount of water is necessary to keep the turf moist in the morning hours but not flood it out. We wish it were as simple to say water like crazy after fertilization, but it isn’t. Pay close attention to the weather, and look at your turf often to monitor any issues.

Putting Too Much Fertilizer Down

Always make sure to use a spreader that has an adjustable setting. When you apply fertilizer, check carefully what the application rate should be and ensure you don’t put too much fertilizer down. In addition, when you walk back and forth across your yard, don’t overlap your steps. Use a marking system or a fertilizer dye to be able to clearly see where you have fertilized.

Wrong Timing

Cool season and warm season grasses have ideal fertilization windows, typically about a month before the grass starts growing in the spring and a month or so before the first frosts in the fall. If you don’t fertilize at the right time, it could cause burning, and it is also a waste of money. Fertilizer is not cheap; apply it when you will get the most benefit from it.

Wrong Fertilizer

The type of fertilizer you use is critical. Take time to learn the difference between the slow release fertilizer and quick release so you can assess which is best for your turf. A local lawn care professional can help you determine which fertilizer is best.

Choosing Fertilizers

Choosing the proper type of fertilizer for your turf can undoubtedly help prevent burn. In addition to brand names, there are also slow and fast-release fertilizers to choose from. If you don’t feel comfortable selecting a fertilizer, make sure you talk to a professional.

Fertilizers That Can Burn Grass

The most common type of granular fertilizer known to cause fertilizer burn is the quick release fertilizer. The quick release organic fertilizer will hit your turf and quickly apply all of the necessary nutrients.

Quick release fertilizers can help a lawn that needs help with nutrients and minerals, but if not applied correctly and with improper water levels, they can burn grass blades and grassroots quite quickly.

Fertilizers That Do Not Burn Grass

Most homeowners choose to use a slow release fertilizer that will help prevent discoloration and burn. The slow release fertilizers take several weeks to work, and you will be able to water your grass and watch its health as the nutrients are released.

The only thing to be careful of here is to ensure that your slow release fertilizer is applied correctly. If you can’t remember if you hit certain areas with the fertilizer or you didn’t use a high-quality fertilizer, you will have to wait some time before reapplication.

Will Fertilizer Burnt Grass Grow Back if Untreated?

Fertilizer burnt grass can grow back if untreated, but this is not likely the case. Most of the time, you will have to apply some extra water to the turf to ensure the burn goes away. Rain can help, but there is typically a bit of effort required on your part to get the grass back and encourage that new growth to happen.

How to Fix Fertilizer Burnt Grass

If your grass is just fertilizer burnt and it is not dead, it can be fixed. The salt buildup in the turf will need to be washed out so your grass can recover.

DIY

The best way to start treating fertilizer burn is to water your grass. Most homeowners find that about an inch of water each day for a solid week should help the root system clear itself of any over-fertilization issues you have created in your turf.

When you give your turf this extra water, make sure you don’t water the entire lawn. Overwatering a healthy lawn can cause discoloration and fungus.

Try to water your turf in the early part of the day, as this will help prevent issues with lawn pests and fungus. The last thing you want is to expose your lawn to other issues after the fertilizer burn happens.

Professional Solutions

If you are having a hard time getting your brown grass to turn into a luscious green lawn, it may be time to bring in the help of professionals. TruGreen is the best professional solution to fix fertilizer burnt grass. With TruGreen having the capability to do everything from aeration to sprinkler settings to planting new grass, the company is well prepared to handle any issues that you may have with your property. The lawn care tips and professional services from TruGreen can change your entire landscape.

Best Overall

  • Large variety of plan options tailored to homeowners wants and needs
  • All services are backed and performed by TruExpert℠ Certified Specialists
  • Services provided in 49 states

Replacement

We highly recommend trying to fix your lawn before simply replacing it. However, if the fertilizer damage was severe, you may have no choice. Turf replacement is expensive, and after a fertilizer burn, you must be careful how you handle this process.

The first thing to do is remove all the turf in the area where too much fertilizer was distributed. Take this soil and turn it over and aerate it. Test the ground to ensure that the fertilizer has worked itself out and will not kill your new grass. A simple soil sample will do the trick.

Treat the soil with any amendments necessary, and then plant grass seed or lay sod to get your new grass started.

How To Tell If Fertilizer Burnt Grass is Dead

Dead grass and dormant grass can often look the same. Many homeowners get ready to replace their turf only to find out it is not entirely dead. There are a few critical differences between dead grass and brown grass.

Most of the time, dead grass is hard, crunchy, and brittle. Brown grass will often still be soft; there could also be new shoots of green grass coming up sometimes between the brown and yellow grass, letting you know that it is trying to recover.

If you really can’t tell, you can dig up a small section and examine the roots. If the roots look strong, there is a chance the grass will still recover. Dead grassroots will be short and shriveled up.

How to Prevent Fertilizer Burn in Lawns

Fertilizer can burn your turf not necessarily because of the potassium, nitrogen, or phosphorus but the mineral salts in the product. Salt will settle into your soil and dry out your grass blades. These salts do exist in all fertilizers, but if you are trying to prevent fertilizer burn in lawns, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure this happens.

  • Make sure to water your grass on a regular schedule after fertilizing
  • Don’t fertilize the grass on the hottest days of the year when the grass is subject to drying out
  • Try to use a slow release fertilizer as it it is not as harsh as fast release
  • Use a spreader that distributes fertilizer at an appropriate pace
  • Mark the areas of the lawn that you have fertilized so that you don’t distribute excess fertilizer
  • Purchase a high-quality fertilizer that is designed for your grass type

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to deal with fertilizer burn and to ensure that your next fertilizer application does not result in brown or dead grass. Don’t let the risk of fertilizer burn keep you from properly treating your turf. If you don’t fertilize, you will have other issues with your turf. Simply know how to fertilize a lawn, and the chance of burn will be considerably lower.

House Method’s Rating Methodology

At House Method, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.

Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.

We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:

  • Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
  • Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
  • Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
  • Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
  • Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
  • Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
  • Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.

More Lawn Care Resources

Lawn

10 Best Lawn Care Accessories (2022 Review)

In our guide, we cover the ten best lawn care accessories you need for a luscious lawn year-round. Check it out.

SONY DSC
Lawn

How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds

Here are the 11 critical steps to restoring a lawn full of weeds! Read on for all the tips and tricks of weed killer, grass growth, and lawn maintenance.

Garden maintenance details - close up view of industrial grass mower
Lawn

How to Find the Right Lawn Treatment

Each lawn is different and requires consideration of location, types of grasses, and timing of treatments.

Gardening tools
Lawn

Basic Lawn Maintenance: Hire a Professional or DIY?

Whether you choose to maintain the lawn yourself or hire a professional, it’s good to know the fundamentals. Read on for the basics of lawn maintenance and our recommended lawn care service provider, TruGreen.

Lawn

Best Commercial Fertilizer Spreaders for Large Lawns

We cover our top five picks for the best commercial fertilizer spreaders, along with the information you may need to know before purchasing.

Lawn

Best Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Lawn Care (2022)

Looking for the best products or safe lawn care that you can apply to your lawn yourself? Read this guide on the best DIY lawn care, costs, products, and more.

Lawn

10 Expensive Lawn Problems to Look Out For On The House Hunt

Inheriting a home’s lawn or landscaping problems can cost you thousands of dollars. We’ll show you 10 expensive lawn problems to look out for on the house hunt.

Lawn

How Much Does Lawn Aeration Cost?

Lawn aeration prices land anywhere between $15-$18 per 1,000 square feet or around $700 for one acre, but costs depend on lawn condition, location, and more.

Mowing lawns, Lawn mower on green grass, mower grass equipment, mowing gardener care work tool, close up view, sunny day
Lawn

Best Lawn Care Service for Weeds (2022)

Looking to get rid of the pesky weeds that clutter your healthy lawn? Read this guide to discover the best lawn care services to exterminate unwanted weeds.