Beginners Guide to Spraying Your Lawn: What to Know Before You Get Started

Using a sprayer to apply pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other products is an important component of maintaining a healthy and weed-free lawn. For the new homeowner or property manager spraying your lawn can seem daunting at first. From understanding the purpose of spraying, what products to use, when to spray, and what equipment to use, there are plenty of questions that you need to answer. In order to make sure you get off to a good start let’s look at the basics of spraying your lawn.

Why Do People Spray Their Grass? 

People spray their grass for a range of reasons. Most people simply want to have a healthy lawn free of pests and weeds. This motivation leads many to pay for someone to manage this or learn the methods and techniques themselves. Using a sprayer to apply different chemical products is a major aspect of lawn care. People use sprayers to spray a variety of products, from liquids that can kill weeds without harming the grass to fertilizers and other liquids to promote healthy growth and prevent disease. 

What Does Spraying Your Yard Do? 

Spraying your yard can do several different things depending on the product or chemical that you spray. Spraying your yard can kill weeds, prevent diseases, promote healthy growth, and rid your yard of other pests. 

What Should You Spray On Your Yard?

Knowing what to spray on your yard is a key factor in getting good results. Choosing what to spray on your yard depends on your goal. Do you want to eliminate some pests, control weeds, or promote overall growth? 

Pesticides and fertilizers are the primary chemicals sprayed on lawns. A pesticide is a broad term to describe substances or mixtures of chemicals specifically designed to control, repel, or eliminate pests. Pests can include insects, weeds, fungi, bacteria, viruses, rodents, and basically any other unwanted organisms. There are many things to consider and many options when it comes to the different products that you can use.

There are some basic families of different pesticides that can be used to spray the lawn and they all serve a different general purpose. Within each family, there are several different products aimed at eliminating a specific past or providing a specific nutrient to your lawn.

Here are several different types of liquids that you can spray on a lawn and what they do:


A herbicide is a type of pesticide specifically formulated to get rid of weeds (a weed can be any unwanted plant). It is one of the most common types of lawn chemicals used in sprayers. There are many different types of herbicides. They target the plant in different ways to disrupt their growth, and ultimately cause them to die.

The types of herbicides used on lawns are selective and designed to leave the grass alone. The physiology of grass is different than broadleaf plants. The herbicides used on lawns take advantage of these differences allowing them to kill the unwanted plants in the lawn while leaving grass alone. 

Lawn herbicides are also broken down into “pre-emergent” and “post-emergent” herbicides:

Pre-emergent herbicides are sprayed on the lawn before weed seeds germinate and establish themselves in the lawn. Post-emergent herbicides are applied to weeds that are already established in the lawn. They target and kill weeds either by contact or systemic action. 

Contact herbicides kill the parts of the plant they come into direct contact with. Systemic herbicides are absorbed by the weed and move throughout the plant, affecting its entire system. 

RELATED: Can You Spray Roundup on Your Lawn?

This is important because different spray nozzles are used with each type to get better results. In general, you want a small droplet that will provide good even coverage for contact herbicides, while you can use a nozzle with a larger droplet size with systemic herbicides. If you are a beginner, be sure to read this article about sprayer nozzles that will help you determine which one you need.

It’s important to choose the appropriate post-emergent herbicide based on the types of weeds present in your lawn. And of course, always read and follow the label on the herbicide you are spraying. 


An insecticide is a type of pesticide. It is specifically designed to control or eliminate insects that may be harmful to lawns, gardens, or other areas. In lawn care, insecticides are used to manage insect pests that can harm the grass, such as grubs, beetles, ants, and other insects. 

Like herbicides, there are many different types. You select an insecticide that is specifically labeled for the target pests you want to control in your lawn. Different insecticides may have varying effectiveness against specific pests, so it’s important to choose the right product. 

The application method will depend on the type of pesticide. They come in liquid and granular form. Liquid pesticides can be applied with many different sprayer types: backpack sprayers, hand sprayers, boom sprayers, etc. The label will provide instructions on the proper ratio of water to insecticide to mix in your sprayer tank.

Some granular products can be dissolved in water otherwise you can apply them using a spreader. You can learn more about the difference between a sprayer and a spreader in this article which will help you choose which one is right for you. 


A fungicide is, you guessed it, a pesticide that is designed to manage or eliminate fungal disease. There are different fungicides that can be deployed on your lawn depending on what disease is present. Visually symptoms such as brown patches, powdery mildew, and leaf spot will give an indication of what fungal disease is causing the problem, but you should consult your chemical provider, lawn care pro, or even an extension agent for guidance.

Liquid fungicides can be applied using a handheld, backpack sprayer, or small boom sprayer. Follow the product label instructions for dilution rates and application rates. 


Instead of targeting a pest, lawn fertilizers are products that provide essential nutrients to your grass. The main nutrients include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), but elements like iron, manganese, and zinc are also common. Lawn fertilizers are usually mixtures of several of these different nutrients. Different formulations are made for specific types of grass, climates, and other situations. Fertilizers help your lawn to develop strong roots, vibrant color, and promote overall health.

Ultimately, the specific product you use will depend on your personal situation. Climate, the type of grass you have, local rules and regulations on different chemicals, and the season, can all play a factor in determining the best product to use. There may well be more than one option or a combination of products that will cheer for the results you want. It is strongly recommended that she see guidance from an agronomist, horticulturist, or other experienced lawn care professional.

When Should You Spray Your Lawn? 

Timing is very important when it comes to spraying your lawn. The ideal time to spray depends on various factors. For some advice, I decided to reach out to my state extension office. I spoke with Sarah Browning an extension educator for the University of Nebraska.

She stated “As far as weed control, when to apply depends greatly on what type of weed is being controlled – summer annual, winter annual, biennial, or perennial. They all have a specific time of year when they are most susceptible to control.”

She also provided me with documents containing guidance on when to apply fertilizers and herbicides. You can view those documents here:

If you have questions you can find your local Nebraska Extension office here. If you live in another state be sure to locate your local extension office for information relevant to your region.

Also, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that you should of course read and follow the specific instructions on the product labels. This will provide guidance for accurate application rates, safety precautions, and also timing recommendations. Additionally, you can contact your local extension office for insights into the best practices for your specific region. 

How Often Should You Spray Your Lawn?

In an ideal world, you could spray your lawn once each year and get the desired results you want. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Keeping your lawn pest free may require multiple applications throughout the year.

We already know that not all lawns are the same. So there is no one size fits all approach to how often to spray your lawn. There are just too many variables from different grass species, regions, weather, etc. How often you spray will depend on how comfortable you are with spraying multiple times, how effective your first application is, and the level of weeds or pests you will tolerate.

Having said that there are several things to take into consideration that will help you decide when to spray:

Soil Type

For best results, you can have your soil tested in order to have a personalized prescription approach to fertilizing and spraying your lawn. However, if you consult local experts you can get an idea of the common soil types in your area. Then you can use that information to determine the best approach in terms of fertilization and pesticide application on your property. 

For example: if your soil is sandy and drains quickly, then more frequent applications of fertilizer and other lawn care products may be necessary to maintain optimal nutrient levels and pest control.

Grass Species

As mentioned earlier not all grasses are the same. Identify the grass type you have and then research the specific attributes to know best how to fertilize and spray. 

Example: If the lawn consists of cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass or fescue, in general fertilization is recommended in the fall and spring, while warm-season grasses like Bermuda or Zoysia should be fertilized in late spring and summer.

Weather Conditions

Your local climate plays a factor in how much to spray because rain and heat can alter your approach. 

Example: If there has been a prolonged period of wet weather, then fungicide applications may be necessary to prevent the development of diseases like brown patches or dollar spot.

Pest Presence

It would follow that if you have any unwanted insects present you simply apply the appropriate pesticide. The truth is that you need to consider the impact that spraying will have on your property. 

Example: If there is a history of insect infestations, such as grubs or chinch bugs, then insecticide applications should be timed to coincide with the pests’ life cycles to maximize effectiveness.

Weed Prevalence

Spraying your lawn for weeds is one of the most common lawn applications. If you spray once and weeds emerge later in the season it is feasible to respect in order to keep the yard looking its best. However, spraying multiple times does have some drawbacks depending on the type of herbicide.

Ultimately it is your personal preference as to how often you spray assuming you are applying according to local regulations and being mindful of your neighbors’ plants. 

What Type of Sprayer Should I Use to Spray My Lawn?

Choosing the right sprayer for your needs is an important part of caring for your lawn. There are several factors to consider including the size of your lawn, how often you might spray, your physical ability, and your budget.

The main types of lawn sprayers are hand pump sprayers, backpack sprayers, and boom sprayers. They can all effectively apply the common pesticides and fertilizers used on lawns. The key is to make sure you are using the right sprayer nozzle, especially if you use a boom sprayer. 

Using the Correct Sprayer Nozzle

Spray nozzles are a subject that definitely requires more explanation. That is why I wrote a few different articles to cover the basic information you need:

Choosing the Right Sprayer Size

Small hand pump sprayers are best suited for scenarios where you just need to treat small isolated areas: fence lines, around buildings, small gardens, or just a troubled spot in your lawn. If your lawn is about 2000 square feet or less you can probably cover it with a couple of tankfuls. 

A backpack sprayer will allow you to cover more area on one tankful as well as work more efficiently. I actually did a test where I compared how much faster I could spray an area with a backpack sprayer versus a hand sprayer. I found that although you save a little time, a backpack sprayer is only really worth it if you have a large lawn 2500 sq ft or more). You can see the complete results here.

Finally, a boom sprayer is going to allow you to cover the area the quickest. The things you need to consider: how will you pull it and do you have enough room? If you have a lawn tractor you should be able to use a small boom sprayer quite easily, but if you have a zero-turn mower it might be more difficult. These mowers are not intended to pull much. If you want to find out more information on using a zero-turn mower with a sprayer be sure to read this article

Another consideration, a pull-type boom sprayer needs room to turn around. Yards with fences and lots of trees or other obstacles might result in a boom sprayer actually being less efficient than using a backpack sprayer.

Tips for Using Your Lawn Sprayer

  • Read and follow the instructions on product labels carefully to ensure proper application and safety.
  • Wear protective clothing, including gloves, and goggles, when handling and spraying chemicals.
  • Calibrate your sprayer to achieve accurate application rates and uniform coverage. If you are new to the process of calibrating your sprayer, be sure to take a look at this article on calibrating a backpack sprayer and this one on calibrating a boom sprayer.
  • Avoid spraying on windy days to prevent drift and ensure that the product reaches its intended target. Use drift-reducing spray nozzles when applicable.
  • Clean and maintain your sprayer regularly. This includes flushing the sprayer with fresh water after each use and properly winterizing your sprayer

Spraying Techniques

Different spraying applications require specific techniques for optimal results. There are two main types of spray applications when using lawn sprayers: spot spraying and broadcast spraying. 

Beginners should look over this article on spot spraying versus broadcast spraying, but in short spot spraying is when you are selectively spraying certain plants or areas (“spots”). Broadcast spraying is spraying your entire lawn with a consistent amount of liquid. 

Backpack sprayers and hand pump sprayers are perfect for spot spraying, but they can also be used to broadcast spray your entire yard. This requires you can walk at a consistent speed and maintain a similar spray pattern with your spray wand. You can see more specifics on using a hand or backpack sprayer for broadcast spraying in this article.

A boom sprayer is designed for broadcast applications, but many boom sprayers have a spray wand in addition to the boom so you can use it for spot spraying as well. 

Commonly Asked Questions About Spraying Your Lawn 

  • How long before you can walk on sprayed grass? It depends on the product that you spray but generally, it is recommended to wait until the herbicide has dried completely before allowing people or pets to walk on the treated area. This can take anywhere from a few hours to 24 hours, depending on the weather conditions and the product. Always read and follow the label instructions for the specific herbicide you are using to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  • Do weeds disappear after spraying? Not right away. Some herbicides work faster than others but in general, it can take days up to weeks before you see the full effect of herbicide on a mature weed. Typically weeds will slowly turn brown and then wither until they are not visible any longer.
  • Do I pull weeds after spraying? There is no need to pull weeds if you have sprayed a herbicide that is intended to kill that type of plant. The weeds in your lawn will be present as the herbicide starts to take effect. Only after allowing the herbicide adequate time to work should you pull the surviving weeds if desired.
  • Is it too late to spray my yard? Generally, speaking it is never too late to spray your yard, but it may be harder to kill established weeds. The ideal application time is before weeds or pests are established.
  • What do you spray in a yard sprayer? You can use a yard sprayer to apply herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers, as well as other liquids. Check out a full list of lawn sprayer uses here.
  • Can spray guns be used for yard applications? A spray gun is typically used for spot spraying, but you can use it to cover your entire yard. You will want to try and maintain a consistent walking speed and move the wand in a steady motion to apply your chemical as evenly as possible. 


I have more than a decade of experience using, building, studying, and testing sprayers in several applications. With the knowledge I have gained I want to provide straight forward and detailed answers for DIY homeowners, farmers, and commercial turf and tree care pros.

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