While many organic gardeners put all their time and energy into safely and healthily growing crops — like fruits, vegetables, and flowers — those same gardeners tend to neglect one of the most impressive aspects of their yards: the lawn.
Your grassy areas are much more than negative space. Typically, the lawn is where the action happens in your outdoor areas; it’s where kids play and where adults lounge, and it’s the first feature most guests see when venturing outside. Your lawn deserves as much positive treatment as the other plants in your yard, which means you must be diligent about organic fertilization.
Fertilizer is a complicated component of any plant’s maintenance, and with grass, fertilization is especially confusing. If you have neglected fertilizing your lawn out of negligence or fear, this guide should set you straight.
Why Should You Fertilize?
In school, you learned that plants eat sunshine and produce oxygen. While this is true, it isn’t the whole story. Just as people can’t survive on corn alone, plants need more than light to survive. Because (most) plants don’t have mouths, they must absorb their nutrients through the soil. Unfortunately, modern soil in civilized areas isn’t as chock-full of nutrients as plants need; you likely clear your yard of debris, like animal droppings, dead plant matter, and insects, to keep it looking inviting and attractive. Thus, to feed your plants fully, you must fertilize.
Grass needs to be fertilized regularly, just like any other plant. Effective fertilization encourages roots to grow deeper and stronger, blades to become softer and greener, and the entire lawn to be more resistant to disease and pests. How you fertilize is about as important as that you fertilize, and that’s what the rest of this post will teach you.
What Is Fertilizer?
Fertilizers tend to be a mixture of plant nutrients, the most important of which are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Nitrogen is in every amino acid.
- Phosphorus is in the energy source for cells (ATP) as well as cells’ membranes.
- Potassium is essential to cellular metabolism.
In effect, you won’t be able to keep your lawn alive without an abundance of these nutrients.
Organic gardeners can rest assured that there are organic fertilizing options that don’t require maintaining a smelly compost heap. Many bargain fertilizers are composed of synthetic chemicals that are quickly and easily soaked up by plants’ roots. These chemicals often leave behind destructive salts that scare away earthworms and do long-term damage to soil. Organic fertilizers rely on natural sources for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which keeps your lawn and the greater ecosystem healthy.
Which Fertilizer Is Right?
If you take a trip to your local lawncare store, you’ll find that bags of fertilizer tend to have a label containing a string of three numbers, like 32-0-4. These represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (respectively) in that fertilizer mixture. The concentrations you need will depend on the time of year:
- Spring: 20-5-10
- Summer: 32-0-4
- Early Fall: 20-8-8
- Late Fall: 13-25-12
Additionally, not all nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the same. You almost always want a slow-release fertilizer, which will keep your lawn looking healthy without causing it to grow annoyingly quickly. You might like the look of a lush, green lawn — until you have to mow it every other day.
When Do You Fertilize?
The good news is this:
- You only have to fertilize your lawn five times per year.
If you apply the right fertilizer, your soil should have enough nutrients to sustain your grass for long periods of time. Feedings are most important when grass wakes up from hibernation and when it is about to go to sleep.
Thus, a typical fertilization schedule looks like this:
- Mid-April — or when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees and the grass first starts growing in spring.
- Early September
- Late October — or just before the first frost
How Do You Fertilize?
Lawn care professionals use liquid fertilizer because it seeps into the soil faster and is absorbed with more ease. Lawn experts know how to apply liquid fertilizer appropriately, preventing big puddles and managing with wind. Because you lack this experience and skill, you should either hire a professional lawn care service or stick to granular fertilizer. Though you might not get a completely even spread of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, you will likely cover your entire lawn in nutrients without overfeeding or underfeeding certain areas.
Take care of your lawn the natural organic way and follow the about information — you surely will be proud of your lawn and know that you have not added toxic chemicals to pollute our planet and your family.