New sod lawns grow best when fed with fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, moderately high in nitrogen, and low in potassium. The best fertilizers for new sod are:
- Favorite lawn starter: Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Starter
- Top granular fertilizer: The Andersons Premium New Lawn Starter
- Best liquid sod fertilizer: GreenePOP Liquid Starter Fertilizer
- Budget sod fertilizer: Simple Lawn Solutions Growth Booster
- Top organic sod fertilizer: Espoma Organic Bio-Tone Starter
Below, we’ll explain exactly what makes each of these fertilizers good choices. In addition, we’ll explain what goes into a good new sod fertilizer, as well as why balanced fertilizers are a poor choice for your sod lawn.
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What Nutrients Does New Sod Need From Fertilizer?
New sod lawns require phosphorus more than any other nutrient. Phosphorus is responsible for root growth. By feeding your sod with a fertilizer high in phosphorus, you will encourage your sod to take root quickly. This will prevent your new grass from drying out and dying. Plus, it will establish your lawn, keep the sod securely in place, and quickly reduce the need for frequent watering.
- High phosphorus levels are essential to help sod establish roots.
- Moderate nitrogen levels encourage sod to develop green blades and stems.
- Sod requires very low potassium levels
- Below, we’ll cover how to select a fertilizer that meets all these criteria.
Your new sod lawn needs nitrogen in slightly lower concentrations than phosphorus. Nitrogen encourages grass blade and stem growth that contributes to a healthy, green lawn. It also helps erase the seams between sod pieces. Finally, your sod needs little-to-no potassium. This is because turf grasses need only a very small amount of potassium to help them resist disease. Higher potassium content is most necessary for flowering and fruiting plants. In this article, we’ll cover how to identify a good fertilizer for new sod as well as our top fertilizer choices.
How Do You Know if a Fertilizer is Good for New Sod?
To find a good lawn starter fertilizer, look closely at the packaging to find three numbers separated by dashes (such as 22-23-4). These numbers indicate, in order, the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium contained in the fertilizer. The first number, signifying nitrogen, should be slightly lower than the second number, which indicates the amount of phosphorus the fertilizer has. Finally, the third number on the label should be the lowest by far. This third number shows how much potassium is in the fertilizer.
- Look at the fertilizer label for a series of 3 numbers separated by dashes, such as 22-24-2.
- These numbers show the percentage of essential nutrients in the fertilizer.
- The first number in the sequence is the nitrogen percentage. It should be the second-highest number in the sequence.
- The second number in the sequence is the phosphorus percentage in the fertilizer—this should be the highest number.
- The third number on the fertilizer label is the potassium percentage. It should be much lower than the other two numbers.
Examples of good nutrient balances for sod fertilizers include 22-23-4 and 20-27-5. Both of these fertilizers have moderately high nitrogen content for blade growth. However, the second number (the phosphorus content) is higher than the nitrogen content. This is essential for new sod since it needs plenty of phosphorus to firmly take root. Finally, the potassium content is very low, since grass needs very little potassium.
5 Best New Sod Fertilizers
Instead of hunting through a vast selection of new lawn fertilizers, browse our list of excellent fertilizers for new sod. These are the best choices, with nutrient balances designed to help your new sod take root and become self-sufficient quickly.
Editor’s Choice: Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Starter
With a nutrient balance of 22-23-4, Pennington has crafted an excellent new sod fertilizer that boosts the performance of both warm-season and cool-season grass. One bag is enough to fertilize most neighborhood lawns. The relatively high phosphorus and nitrogen content will help your sod grow roots and blades quickly. Use it along with our tips to prepare the soil for new sod.
- This lawn starter fertilizer from Pennington is our number-one choice for new sod.
- The high phosphorus and nitrogen promote fast root and blade growth in sod.
- Trace potassium in Pennington UltraGreen helps sod resist disease and drought.
- Additional iron in this fertilizer makes grass greener.
What I love most about Pennington UltraGreen is that it contains 5% iron. This micronutrient isn’t listed in the three-number sequence on the label. However, iron is an excellent grass supplement that is proven to create a greener lawn. This means you’ll get healthy sod that easily outshines your neighbors’ lawns.
- Great starter fertilizer for new seed or sod.
- You can also use Pennington UltraGreen for overseeding or on an existing lawn.
- 5% Iron promotes a deep, thick, lush lawn.
Best Granular Fertilizer: The Andersons Premium New Lawn Starter
If you want your sod to grow roots quickly so it won’t dry out in hot weather, The Andersons Premium lawn starter is an amazing choice. It contains 27% phosphorus, which is guaranteed to help sod take root faster. 20% nitrogen content is also right in the sweet spot for abundant blade and stem growth in new sod.
- To ensure your sod grows roots quickly, we recommend this granular lawn fertilizer from The Andersons.
- High phosphorus content means your sod will form a solid yard very fast.
- Only use lawn starter fertilizer on new lawns.
- Once your sod has established roots, use a fertilizer with much lower phosphorus content.
It’s essential to remember that new sod fertilizers should be used only during your sod’s initial adjustment period. Once your sod has put down roots, your healthy lawn will get the most benefit from a high-nitrogen fertilizer with much less phosphorus. So, the fertilizers on this list are best used for new sod and grass seed only.
Top Liquid Fertilizer: GreenePOP Liquid Starter Fertilizer
If you don’t have a lawn spreader to cast fertilizer granules, you may want to invest in a liquid fertilizer for your new sod instead. Liquid fertilizers can be spread using a hose attachment or a pump sprayer, which can save you from purchasing a lawn spreader you won’t use often. The 16-21-2 nutrient balance in GreenePOP is great for sod, so we recommend it highly.
- The best nutrient balance I’ve found in liquid sod fertilizers is in this fertilizer from GreenePOP.
- Liquid fertilizers are a great choice if you don’t have the tools to spread a granular fertilizer.
- Granular fertilizer is most effective when you spread it before you install sod.
- If your sod has already been installed, liquid fertilizer is more effective than granular fertilizer.
You can apply your new sod fertilizer before or after you lay sod. However, I’ve gotten the best results from granular lawn starters if I spread them on the bare soil before I lay sod. Liquid fertilizers are more forgiving, and they are more effective when fertilizing sod that has already been installed. So, if your sod’s already in place, you may want to opt for a liquid fertilizer.
Best Budget Lawn Starter Fertilizer: Simple Lawn Solutions Growth Booster
The Growth Booster liquid fertilizer from Simple Lawn Solutions is an excellent choice if you’re new to sod or lawn care in general. It has a low price point. Plus, you don’t need any special tools to apply it to your lawn—the bottle attaches to the end of your hose. Within minutes, you attach the sprayer bottle and fertilize all your new sod.
- Try this liquid fertilizer from Simple Lawn Solutions if you want to fertilize sod inexpensively.
- The bottle attaches directly to a garden hose, so you don’t need to invest in any special tools when fertilizing.
- The low cost and ease of use combine for a beginner-friendly fertilizer that’s easy on your wallet.
The 6-18-0 nutrient balance in this fertilizer is not perfect for new sod, but the phosphorus and nitrogen will give new sod an instant boost. Since it has budget pricing and is so easy to use, it’s absolutely worth giving this type of fertilizer a try.
Best Eco-Friendly Choice: Espoma Organic Bio-Tone Starter
If growing a fully organic lawn from sod is your priority, Espoma’s organic starter fertilizer will do the job. The 4-3-3 nutrient balance is a little light on nutrients, so you’ll have to spread more of it to boost your lawn, but at higher concentrations, it will provide enough phosphorus and nitrogen for sod to take root and establish healthy growth.
- You can avoid using synthetic fertilizer by choosing this organic starter fertilizer from Espoma.
- Organic fertilizer typically has lower nutrient concentrations, so you may need to increase the amount of fertilizer you use.
- Be patient when using organic sod fertilizer, since the nutrient balance is not as ideal as synthetic fertilizer.
You may notice that the nitrogen content in Espoma Organic fertilizer is a little higher than the phosphorus levels. This isn’t perfect for new sod, but you can still get good results from organic fertilizer. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, it’s somewhat difficult to find an organic option with the right amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. So, you’ll have to be a bit more patient with your new sod. It will take longer for sod to develop roots when you use organic fertilizer.
Is 12-12-12 a Good Starter Fertilizer for New Sod?
Any fertilizer where all three numbers on the bag are the same (such as 12-12-12, 10-10-10, or 16-16-16) is a poor choice for new sod. The relatively low phosphorus levels will inhibit your sod’s ability to develop roots, while the nitrogen levels aren’t high enough to build a thriving lawn quickly. Finally, the potassium levels in balanced fertilizers are far higher than what grass needs. Overloading your lawn with potassium can actually prevent your sod from pulling in other nutrients. This leads to struggling sod.
- 12-12-12 and other “balanced” fertilizers are bad for sod.
- The low phosphorus levels won’t encourage strong root growth.
- High potassium levels in 12-12-12 can prevent sod from properly absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus.
- It is also bad to use 12-12-12 on established grass.
- 12-12-12 and similar fertilizers should only be used to feed garden plants.
As a rule, never use 12-12-12 fertilizer or any other balanced fertilizer on your lawn. It is a bad choice for new sod, grass seed, and established grass. We even cover the details on why you shouldn’t use 15-15-15 fertilizer on your lawn. Instead, this type of fertilizer is best used for garden plants.
Do You Need Starter Fertilizer for New Sod?
It is essential to use starter fertilizer on newly installed sod. Here’s why:
- The correct starter fertilizer helps sod take root quickly.
- Without starter fertilizer, sod is at a high risk of drying out and dying.
- If you don’t provide the right fertilizer, sod will struggle and grow very slowly.
- Choose a starter fertilizer with high phosphorus content to help sod develop roots quickly.
- The nitrogen content in new sod fertilizer should be slightly lower than the phosphorus content.
- New sod grows best when fed with fertilizer containing very little potassium.
- Avoid “balanced” fertilizers such as 12-12-12—they don’t have the nutrients sod needs.
By choosing a specialized starter fertilizer, you’ll drastically increase your sod’s survival rate and grow a resilient, green lawn quickly. Within a few months, the seams between your sod pieces will disappear. Then, you can begin using a fertilizer designed for established grass.