Should You Mow the Lawn Before Fertilizing? 🤔

Maintaining a lush, healthy lawn is a source of pride for many homeowners, and the right fertilization strategy plays a crucial role. But when it comes to the timing of mowing and fertilizing, a common question arises: should you mow before you fertilize, or vice versa? This article delves into the nuances of this debate, exploring the benefits and drawbacks of each approach to help you determine the optimal strategy for your lawn.

The answer, in short, is it depends. The ideal approach ultimately hinges on your specific lawn type, the type of fertilizer you use, and the overall health of your grass. This article will unpack the key considerations for both methods, providing you with the knowledge to make informed decisions for your lawn care routine.

Why Mow Before Fertilizing?

Mowing before fertilizing offers several potential advantages:

Reduced Fertilizer Waste

Mowing before fertilizing helps ensure that the fertilizer granules are evenly distributed across the lawn. When you mow, you essentially clear away any obstructions, like tall blades of grass, that could prevent the fertilizer from reaching the soil. This minimizes the risk of fertilizer clumping or building up in specific areas, leading to more efficient nutrient absorption by the grass.

Enhanced Fertilizer Penetration

When grass blades are shorter, the fertilizer granules have an easier time reaching the soil. Tall grass can act as a barrier, potentially preventing the fertilizer from fully penetrating the soil and reaching the root system where it’s needed. Mowing beforehand removes this barrier, allowing the fertilizer to work its magic more effectively.

Improved Nutrient Distribution

Fertilizer granules can sometimes clump together, particularly if they’re applied to a thick layer of grass. Mowing before fertilizing can help break up these clumps, ensuring a more even distribution of nutrients across the lawn. This reduces the risk of nutrient imbalances and promotes uniform growth.

Potential for More Consistent Results

By ensuring even fertilizer distribution and optimal penetration, mowing before fertilizing can lead to more consistent results in terms of lawn growth and health. The grass is more likely to respond uniformly to the fertilizer, resulting in a lush and vibrant appearance.

Why Fertilize Before Mowing?

While mowing before fertilizing has its merits, some argue that fertilizing before mowing is the better approach. Here’s why:

Reduced Risk of Fertilizer Burn

Fertilizer granules can sometimes burn grass if they come into direct contact with the leaves, particularly in hot and dry conditions. When you fertilize before mowing, the fertilizer has time to settle into the soil before the grass blades are cut, reducing the risk of direct contact and potential burning.

Easier Fertilizer Application

Some argue that applying fertilizer to a freshly cut lawn is easier and more efficient. Mowing beforehand removes the obstructions of tall grass, allowing for a more precise and even application. This can be particularly helpful when using granular fertilizers.

Less Pressure on Grass Roots

The act of mowing can stress the grass roots. Fertilizing before mowing allows the grass to absorb nutrients and build strength before undergoing the stress of being cut. This can potentially aid in the recovery process and promote healthy root growth.

Which Approach Is Right For You?

Ultimately, the best approach to this question depends on a variety of factors:

1. Type of Fertilizer:

  • Granular fertilizers: Mowing before fertilizing may be the better option for granular fertilizers to ensure even distribution and optimal penetration.
  • Liquid fertilizers: Liquid fertilizers are more easily absorbed by the grass, so mowing before or after application may be less critical.

2. Type of Lawn:

  • Thick, dense lawns: Mowing before fertilizing is generally recommended for thick lawns to ensure that the fertilizer can reach the soil.
  • Thin, sparse lawns: Fertilizing before mowing may be a better option for thin lawns to provide nutrients to the roots before they are subjected to the stress of being cut.

3. Time of Year:

  • Spring and fall: Mowing before fertilizing is often recommended during these seasons to ensure optimal nutrient uptake and promote healthy growth.
  • Summer: Fertilizing before mowing may be a better option in the summer to minimize the risk of fertilizer burn.

4. Overall Health of the Lawn:

  • Healthy lawns: Both methods may be suitable for healthy lawns, but mowing before fertilizing is generally considered the safer approach.
  • Stressed lawns: Fertilizing before mowing can be beneficial for stressed lawns to provide the roots with nutrients before they are cut.

Experiment and Observe

The best way to determine the optimal approach for your lawn is to experiment and observe. Try both methods at different times of the year and see how your lawn responds. Keep track of the results and adjust your strategy based on what works best.

Other Considerations:

  • Weather: Avoid fertilizing on windy days to prevent the fertilizer from blowing away.
  • Watering: Water your lawn thoroughly after applying fertilizer to help it absorb the nutrients.
  • Type of mower: Use a sharp mower blade to ensure a clean cut and minimize stress on the grass.


The question of whether to mow before or after fertilizing is not a simple one-size-fits-all answer. The optimal approach depends on several factors, including the type of fertilizer, the type of lawn, the time of year, and the overall health of the grass. By understanding the pros and cons of each method and considering these factors, you can make informed decisions to achieve a lush, vibrant lawn. Remember, experimentation and observation are key to finding what works best for your specific lawn.


Why should I mow before fertilizing?

Mowing your lawn before fertilizing has several benefits. Firstly, it helps ensure the fertilizer granules come into direct contact with the soil. When the grass is tall, the fertilizer can land on the blades and not reach the roots effectively. Secondly, mowing helps remove excess thatch, which is a layer of dead grass and other organic matter. Thatch can prevent nutrients from reaching the soil, so removing it allows the fertilizer to penetrate more easily.

Finally, mowing helps distribute the fertilizer more evenly. If you fertilize a tall lawn, the fertilizer might end up concentrated in certain areas. Mowing before fertilization allows you to distribute the fertilizer more evenly and efficiently.

When is the best time to mow before fertilizing?

The ideal time to mow before fertilizing is a couple of days beforehand. This allows the cut grass to dry and decompose slightly, making it easier for the fertilizer to reach the soil. Also, avoid mowing too short, as this can stress the lawn and make it more vulnerable to disease. A good rule of thumb is to mow to a height of about 2 inches.

What happens if I fertilize before mowing?

If you fertilize before mowing, the fertilizer granules might not reach the soil effectively. The grass blades will act as a barrier, preventing the nutrients from reaching the roots. You could also end up with uneven distribution, as the fertilizer might accumulate on the taller blades of grass. Additionally, it can be difficult to mow evenly when the grass is covered in fertilizer granules.

It’s also important to note that some fertilizers are specifically designed for application after mowing. Check the label of your fertilizer to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Does it matter what type of fertilizer I use?

Yes, the type of fertilizer you use can affect whether or not you should mow before applying. Some fertilizers, such as granular fertilizers, are best applied before mowing, as they need to be worked into the soil. Others, such as liquid fertilizers, can be applied after mowing. Always read the instructions on the fertilizer label to determine the best application method.

Can I skip mowing before fertilizing?

While it’s generally recommended to mow before fertilizing, it’s not always strictly necessary. If your lawn is already relatively short and there’s minimal thatch build-up, you can likely apply fertilizer without mowing first. However, it’s still generally a good practice to mow before fertilizing for optimal results.

What if I have a new lawn?

If you have a new lawn, it’s best to wait until it’s established before fertilizing. Once the lawn has had a chance to take root, you can start fertilizing it. If you fertilize too soon, the nutrients may not be absorbed effectively and could even damage the delicate new grass.

New lawns often need a boost in nutrients, so it’s important to choose the right fertilizer for your specific needs. Consult with a local nursery or landscaping expert to determine the best type of fertilizer for your new lawn.

What are some other things to keep in mind?

Besides mowing before fertilizing, there are other important factors to consider. Ensure you apply the fertilizer evenly, and don’t over-apply. Also, be mindful of weather conditions, as rain can wash away fertilizer before it has a chance to be absorbed by the roots. Finally, always read the instructions on the fertilizer label carefully to understand the proper application rate and timing.

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