A crucial part of maintaining a healthy lawn is knowing how, why, and when to apply organic lawn fertilizer. In order to grow strong, healthy roots and blades, all types of grass benefit from regular feedings of the nutrients they need most.
Organic lawn fertilizer certainly isn’t your only option when it comes time to feed your grass, but it’s the best. When used correctly, it releases nutrients slowly into the soil rather than all at once. There are countless other benefits of using this kind of fertilizer – as long as you know the best time to use it. Let’s dive in!
There are all kinds of organic lawn fertilizers out there you can choose from. They almost always include nutrients beyond the simple nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium-only mix you’ll find in chemical fertilizer blends.
Organic lawn fertilizers also contain other macro and micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and more.
Some popular types of organic lawn fertilizer include:
- Bone meal
- Manure (usually from cows, chickens, or horses)
- Bat guano
- Blood meal
- Seaweed or kelp meal
- Cottonseed meal
When applying any of these types of organic lawn fertilizer, the key is to get the timing right. Because they take a bit longer to be absorbed and utilized, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing the perfect time.
If you can, aerate the lawn before you fertilize. This will allow you to make sure the fertilizer (as well as water and oxygen) can get to all parts of the plant.
You might be tempted to buy synthetic fertilizer and feed your lawn just as your parents did – with good old-fashioned chemicals. Sure, this might be easier – but it’s not always the best for your yard.
These fertilizers need to be applied often – up to three times per year – because they are rapidly absorbed and utilized by the plant. While that can be advantageous if your plants need an instant boost, it means that you’re going to spend more money and time fertilizing your grass than you’d like.
Organic lawn fertilizers like compost can also help improve the soil structure. It elevates the soil’s CEC, or cation exchange capacity, which means it will hold nutrients and water much better than otherwise. Organic fertilizer can help the ground resist compaction and add micronutrients that often aren’t found in chemical fertilizers.
Plus, organic fertilizer encourages the growth of microorganisms that can further help your soil, like earthworms.
When it comes to fertilizing your lawn, timing is everything! The best time to fertilize your lawn with organic fertilizer is in the spring or the fall.
If you’re thinking, “this doesn’t narrow things down very much!” then know that the more specific answer to this question depends on what type of grass you are fertilizing.
Knowing which grass type you have (and which growing zone you live in) will be the most helpful when you’re trying to figure out when and how you should fertilize your lawn.
Warm-season grasses should always be fertilized in the spring and the fall. For the most part, cool-season lawns should always be fertilized in the spring and fall, too. The exception to this is if the spring weather is still very cool. Don’t fertilize in the spring (on a cool-season lawn) if the grass is still dormant.
Instead, wait until it has greened up and is starting to grow. This might mean you don’t end up fertilizing until the heat of summer. That’s okay! Unlike chemical fertilizers that can damage the grass if applied in too-hot temperatures, that isn’t usually the case with organic lawn fertilizers, like compost.
If you’re not sure what kind of grass you have, here’s a quick list of warm-season grasses to help you figure it out:
- Bermuda grass
- St. Augustine grass
- Zoysia grass
- Centipede grass
….and here’s a list of cool-season grasses:
You should fertilize in the spring or fall because this will give your grass roots the best opportunity to make good use of the food you are providing to them. It can also help improve the soil structure. By fertilizing in the spring, a natural organic fertilizer that releases nutrients slowly will be able to provide essential elements and minerals to your lawn throughout the entire summer.
If your grass is still green and the weather isn’t overly dry, you can always fertilize again around the Fourth of July. You can make a third application around Labor Day, encouraging faster greening and growth the following spring.
Note that if the weather is cold, you might not notice instant results when applying lawn fertilizer. That’s because organic fertilizer relies on warmer soil temperatures to really have an effect. That’s ok – you’ll notice a huge difference as soon as it warms up!
For the most part, organic lawn fertilizer is almost always going to be the best solution to feed your lawn. However, it’s important to note that you should always double-check the percentages of nutrients in whatever type of fertilizer you use (organic or synthetic) to make sure you’re giving your plants exactly what they need.
For example, many organic lawn fertilizers contain far too much phosphorus and not enough nitrogen. Just double-check to make sure your fertilizer has precisely what your lawn needs (which is usually quite a bit more nitrogen than any other essential nutrients).
Ultimately, organic lawn fertilizers are excellent choices for lawns, especially when used appropriately. Knowing when to apply organic lawn fertilizer is the most critical part of the equation. Now that you have the information you need, there’s nothing standing between you and the lushest, greenest lawn imaginable!