As you nourish and maintain the living monocultural carpet that is your lawn, the choice and application method of organic fertilizer can be daunting. With the number of products available and the saturation of ill-informed garden “hacks” on the market today, sometimes it can be just too much to sift through when assessing your course of action.
Check out some of the best organic lawn fertilizers available today, along with regenerative and organic methods so you can narrow down your selection of organic fertilizer, timing, and system of application.
These nutrients are taken up into the roots immediately and bypass the natural process and cooperation between plants and microbes, this is not the way they naturally function, and I do not recommend using these products. These types of fertilizers speed up the exchange between electrons in the soil, expending the energy in the soil even faster causing it to oxidize. This is the most widely common and available type of fertilizer, unfortunately.
Naturally sourced solid fertilizer which has a slower release and is slowly broken down by the soil. These are a good choice to mix with liquid biofertilizers as they will speed up and enliven the process of nutrient breakdown and facilitation while cultivating beneficial microbes at the same time.
The microbes that are surrounding the root zone are attracted to this area because they release sugars, proteins, and carbohydrates to the organisms through the roots. Not only are the plants taking up the nutrients being broken down around them by the microorganisms, but the microbes themselves get consumed directly by the root tips, mined of nutrients, then cycled back out of the roots. This process is what’s called the rhizophagy cycle and was recently discovered to be the primary way all plants prefer to get their nutrition, and how they’ve adapted for at least three-quarters of a billion years!
Even if you have organically certified fertilizer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the safest and healthiest option to use for your lawn. Many common fertilizers, including organic ones, have the nutrients already solubilized in a plant-available form, initially, this sounds desirable and convenient. It can help when you’re in a pinch, but upon further investigation, the reality tells a different story, this method of fertilization negatively impacts the living biology inside and outside of plants which are so critical to keeping your lawn healthy, green, and drought-resistant.
With a conventional lawn and the extreme lack of biodiversity that comes with it, something that is rare in the wild, the application of chemical-based fertilizers, whether organic or non-organic, can come with a price. Amongst these are wasting water, nutrient leaching, toxicity buildup, and lack of nutrient cycling.
Overall, the safest organic fertilizers to use are generally sourced naturally, which means they are not nutrients solubilized and already in a plant-available form like conventional chemical fertilizers, this is usually liquid but can come in a granular form as well. The easiest way to tell if this is the case is if there’s a list of natural ingredients or a list of microorganisms (understand different solid amendments have different ratios of nutrients they release so try to have something balanced in macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.)
If it is chemical based it should have a list of chemicals/nutrients with the percentage ratios of the nutrients, this is not recommended as it is not sustainable and can be damaging.
“Nitrogen-fixing endophytic bacteria have the edge over rhizosphere counterparts because, being sheltered inside plant tissues, they face less competition and can make available the fixed nitrogen directly to plants… [and] contribute up to 47% of nitrogen derived from air, which in turn enhance plant growth.” — Garima Gupta, Jitendra Panwar, Mohd Sayeed Akhtar, and Prabhat N. Jha. Endophytic Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria as Biofertilizer, 2012.
Often organic non-synthetic fertilizers can be one of the best choices to use as not only are you cooperating with plants but tapping into the symptomatic cultivation of the local microbes which have evolved and cooperated with the indigenous plants to promote their growth and protection for seven hundred million years.
As lawn health increases gaining continuity, the soil microbe populations and humic compounds will only increase.
This is what Japanese farmer and author Masanobu Fukuoka described, as you learn from nature, a system is created that is self-supporting, self-maintaining, self-balancing, and self-nurturing.
EM is a massive profile of microbes that comes in a liquid form, having been around since the dawn of time they work symbiotically with plants to establish optimal health. The Endophytes contained in this formula promote plant growth and contain lactic acid bacteria (LAB), purple non-sulfur bacteria (PNSB), yeast,
actinomycetes, as well as a plethora of others. This is a mix of what’s called facultative microbes, they are generally beneficial and can straddle large temperature changes, they also encourage health in the soil and water. It can decompose organic matter with fermentation to keep nutrients bioavailable while protecting it against pathogens. I could go on and on about how amazing EM is but I will leave it that for now, and clue you in on a way to activate and extend your EM for even more potency at the end of the article.
Compost tea is compost that has been aerated in a bag with fine holes, this is placed in a reservoir or bucket for at least twenty-four hours to brew, usually with a fungal and microbe booster powder. You then broadcast the beneficial microorganisms in this liquid medium for powerful and easy inoculation onto the lawn.
This only has a shelf life of about 6 hours, so I don’t recommend ordering online or purchasing from a store so if you make it, don’t let it sit for too long.
Bran inoculated with EM mixed w/ molasses, this incredible combination of ingredients will keep your plants healthy and greener than ever. A lot of the same benefits of EM but more. You can even decompose kitchen scraps, bone, meat, and dairy in a small bucket in your kitchen to turn to a rich amendment within a month.
“Unamended sandy loam soil has a water holding capacity of 16%, while pure biochar can hold over 270% times its mass of water” — Ok-Youn Yu, Brian Raichle, and Sam Sink. Impact of biochar on the water holding capacity of loamy sand soil, 2013
These tiny pieces of charcoal are inoculated with biology and house incredible amounts of organisms, way more than you would usually find in the soil as well as retaining an extreme amount of water. Make sure to inoculate your biochar first if you are putting it on raw. You can bring it up to moisture with compost tea and/or EM, cover it, and let sit for a week, occasionally checking on it and bringing it back up to moisture with the same mix. Then it is ready to use. Applying non-inoculated charcoal that’s advertised as biochar can suck up the nutrients from your soil and lock them in so make sure you know what you’re getting.
These nitrogen-rich crops can be cut in place and left to fertilize the ground, in a compost pile, or to feed any animals that you would like to graze the lawn, which in turn will fertilize and re-mineralize the lawn through the manure. Just make sure to rake it out and water it if it looks too concentrated so you don’t burn your grass.
The home of purple non-sulfured bacteria (PNSB), the main ingredient in EM, these little worms may be the best thing that happened to your lawn if you happen to have any locals present. They’ll do a lot of work for you not only processing and releasing nutrients but aerating the soil as they travel through the ground.
Make sure not to introduce a different species of worms to your area as they can become invasive and displace the indigenous worms. This is an issue in North America with the introduction of the European worm into the native soils. Keep any non-indigenous worms in a separated raised bed to maintain balance.
The home of purple non-sulfured bacteria (PNSB), the main ingredient in EM, these little worms may be the best thing that happened to your lawn if you happen to have any locals present. They’ll do a lot of work for you not only processing and releasing nutrients but aerating the soil as they travel through the ground. Make sure not to introduce a different species of worms to your area as they can become invasive and displace the indigenous worms.
This is an issue in North America with the introduction of the European worm into the native soils. Keep any non-indigenous worms in a separated raised bed to maintain balance.
This will build Soil Organic Matter (SOM) and robust biology. Only applying compost as a fertilizer is a general nutrient enhancing approach, robust compost alone can enliven dead dirt rapidly and efficiently.
The best time to apply your organic lawn fertilizer is at the beginning of spring if you live in a cold temperate climate, or any time after you plant if you live in other climates.
EM Extension Recipe – To make an even larger amount of EM from a smaller amount