The two basic types of organic lawn fertilizer that are used on lawns: natural organics and synthetic organics.
The term synthetic organic is primarily a reference to “urea”, the nitrogen source found in most synthetic organics. Urea can be altered through chemical reactions with other chemicals to produce different varieties of slow release products.
Urea is classified as an organic because it contains carbon in its structure.
Synthetic organic nitrogen can be blended with natural organic fertilizers to give it a variety of nitrogen levels and release responses. These products are referred to as “bridge products”.
Note: Synthetic organics should not be confused with “inorganic” chemical fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate.
The benefit of using organic lawn fertilizer
Organic lawn fertilizers have brought new options to homeowners who desire both a green lawn and a green lifestyle. Environmental issues continue to be a concern in our society, and good citizens everywhere are doing all they can to preserve the health of our beautiful planet. Using organic fertilizers instead of chemical products is an easy way to make a difference, and many would be surprised at the effectiveness of the organic solutions. Listed below are some of the many proven benefits of natural fertilizers and insecticides.
Using organic lawn fertilizer offers your lawn an organic source of nitrogen and other micronutrients. However, the nutrient content can vary greatly depending on the type of organic matter used. You should always read the nutrient analysis to ensure it has the required nutrients to meet your grass’ needs for that time of year. If the nutrient analysis is insufficient for your lawns needs, you can choose another type or you may need to supplement your lawn with an application of an inorganic or synthetic organic fertilizer.
Organic lawn Fertilizer that is high in organic matter, but low in N-P-K, can be applied in much heavier amounts. These varieties are usually labeled as summer fertilizers that typically deliver slow release forms of organic nitrogen. Summer fertilizers are extremely helpful in feeding the immense microbe populations. For most grass types, the lower nutrient content of summer organics makes it difficult to over-fertilize, even at the higher rates.
Organic lawn fertilizer developed for spring applications will often have the lowest organic matter content. A portion of the available nitrogen will be in another form. This is because most soil microbes are still inactive in early spring. Some companies offer early spring fertilizers with a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass and other weeds from germinating.
Organic lawn fertilizer intended for fall use will have a fairly high organic matter content, but often combined with synthetic organic nitrogen sources. These are great for the higher nitrogen needs of late season cool season grasses. These fertilizers can also be used on warm season grasses during summer months.
It is Safer
The most obvious value to using an organic lawn fertilizer is to preserve the safety of your family members and animals. Commercial lawn treatments are a cocktail of dangerous chemicals and poisons that cling to shoes, skin, and hair. Even the most cautious application can result in an accidental poisoning. And if you can protect your family and pets from exposure, it is often impossible to prevent wildlife and other organisms from ingesting these chemicals.
Scientifically engineered chemicals react with our planet in very unnatural ways. Almost every naturally occurring resource on earth has the capacity to break down and return value to the environment. Man-made chemicals on the other hand are much harder to dissipate, and often form more potent by-products in the process. Every commercial brand chemical fertilizer contains compounds that are not only initially toxic, but ultimately breakdown and multiply into more toxins.
A major flaw with chemical lawn fertilizers is their “kill everything” approach to lawn care. These herbicides and pesticides may indeed kill unwanted nuisances like dandelions and ants, but they also destroy thousands of helpful organisms such as bees, earthworms, and beneficial microorganisms. Even if your lawn was comprised of 50% weeds, then you would still poison the soil in the remaining 50% with unnecessary chemicals. With organic lawn fertilizers, there is no concern for toxic runoffs or harmful integration with other organisms.
The limitations of organic lawn fertilizer
The primary limitation of natural organic lawn fertilizer is its low nitrogen content and slow release. As stated before, the nutrients in natural organic fertilizers are released slowly through microbial activity.
Soil microbe activity levels are subject to soil temperatures with the highest activity in mid-summer. Therefore, it stands to reason that the heaviest amounts of organic fertilizer are applied in late spring and summer. As soil temperatures begin to drop in the fall of the year, so does the level of microbe activity. A fact not often explained to homeowners is that you cannot expect the grass to have any reaction from organic lawn fertilizer that depend on microbe activity, when soil microbes are not active.
The limitation of low nitrogen content can affect many grass species that require higher nitrogen levels. Bermudagrass, for example, requires as much as 8lbs of nitrogen per year. If the organic material can’t deliver enough nitrogen to sustain the needs of the grass, then it will suffer. Nitrogen is an essential element needed for chlorophyll and energy production as well as other functions within the plant. The first visible sign of a lack of nitrogen is a condition called chlorosis. This is a yellowing of the grass from a lack of chlorophyll production.
Many cool season grasses require fertilizers with the highest nitrogen content to be applied in the fall. In fact, the highest percent of nitrogen in a single application is applied after the last mowing of the year. The lower nitrogen content of natural organics combined with the lower microbe activity of rapidly cooling soil temperatures could prove to be problematic for nitrogen hungry grasses. It is during these times that bridge products excel. You will get a higher percent of nitrogen using a synthetic organic nitrogen source that is blended with a premium source of organic matter.
Best natural lawn fertilizer?
As far as a great natural fertilizer, Compost and composted cow manure are great. However, most people don’t have access to the volume necessary to effectively cover their lawn surface. If you are one of the lucky ones that do, be sure the manure is thoroughly composted or it too can burn your lawn. But once it has mellowed, it is harmless (except for the weed seeds) and very high in nitrogen and soil building properties.
In conclusion,organic lawn care is not only the best choice in terms of safety for your family, but it is also an effective alternative to chemical fertilizers. The proper application of organic fertilizers and pesticides will keep your lawn green and disease free. And as an added benefit to “going green”, organic formulas can save a substantial amount of money.