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Creating a lush, healthy lawn requires attention to key details like mowing, irrigation, and plant nutrition. Mowing is a simple matter of keeping the blade sharp and setting the proper height. Similarly, irrigation is pretty straightforward once you understand the basics of deep, infrequent watering. Plant nutrition, on the other hand, can get a bit complicated. Although the basics of what makes grass grow are common from yard to yard, factors like soil acidity, grass type, and time of year necessitate a more nuanced approach to fertilizers. That’s why there are so many fertilizer options out there.
Choosing the best organic lawn fertilizer requires a bit of understanding of the lawn’s current condition. Is it generally healthy and simply needs regular feeding? Or does it display a nutrient deficiency of some kind? After an application of fertilizer, is the lawn still a pale shade of green? Before buying and applying fertilizer, it’s highly recommended to perform a soil test to determine the soil pH and nutrient content. Use these test results to inform your fertilizer purchase.
With that in mind, continue reading to discover the factors to consider when choosing one of these products and explore reviews of some of the best organic lawn fertilizers for healthy lawns.
- BEST OVERALL: The Andersons 7-1-2 Innova Premium Organic
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:
- BEST FOR P AND K DEFICIENCY: Scotts Natural Lawn Food
- BEST FOR N DEFICIENCY: Urban Farm Fertilizers Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
- BEST WITH NO PHOSPHORUS: Espoma EOLB30 Organic Lawn Booster Fertilizer
- BEST FOR DARK GREEN LAWN: Milorganite 0636 Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Organic Lawn Fertilizer
In addition to nutrient requirements revealed through soil test results, consider several important factors before deciding on the best organic lawn fertilizer for your yard. Read on to learn more about the types of organic fertilizer, the form in which it’s applied, the all-important NPK ratio, and the effect you want the fertilizer to achieve.
Organic fertilizer ingredients fall into three types: animal-based, plant-based, and mineral-based. However, most products contain a combination of these types to deliver the best possible balance of major and minor nutrients. Some products may only offer a single ingredient or a blend of ingredients from a single type.
Animal-based fertilizers include blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, fish emulsion, and various manures. These products slowly break down over time, providing lawns and garden plants with season-long benefits.
Plant-based fertilizer ingredients include alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, kelp meal, soybean meal, and compost. Soil microbes convert these materials into plant food much more quickly than animal products. They provide an immediate impact, often within days or weeks after application.
Mineral-based fertilizer ingredients like sulfur, dolomitic limestone, gypsum, greensand, and rock phosphate are naturally occurring, concentrated forms of plant food elements. They boost trace nutrient levels and eliminate deficiencies in the soil.
Liquid vs. Granular
Organic fertilizers, both liquid and granular, work with the naturally occurring microbes in the soil. When the fertilizer is applied to the soil, bacteria and fungi consume the natural ingredients and release the nutrients at a measured rate and in a form that is readily available to plants.
The difference between liquid and dry organic fertilizers is in the rate at which the soil consumes them. Dry, granular formulations break down slowly, feeding the lawn over the course of months. Liquid organic fertilizers work faster due to the minute particle size and available moisture. Choose liquid fertilizer for a quick boost of nutrients.
Nitrogen (N) promotes green color and leafy growth. Phosphorus (P) stimulates deep root development. Potassium (K) boosts vigor and disease resistance. These three elements are the major nutrients that lawns and plants need for lush, green growth. Nitrogen is quite volatile. The amount not used by the lawn dissipates and must be regularly replenished. Phosphorus and potassium persist in the soil, so they are not required in such large quantities. On average, organic lawn fertilizer offers two to three times or more N compared to the amounts of P and K in the mix.
Locate the NPK ratio on the fertilizer label. It shows the amount of each element present in the product as a percentage of the total weight, always in the order N-P-K. For instance, a product with a ratio of 11-2-2 contains 11 percent N, 2 percent P, and 2 percent K. Other ingredients and any additional nutrients are also present elsewhere on the label.
After a soil test, it’s essential to factor the condition of the lawn into the fertilizer choice. If the grass is robust, with dense foliage and deep green color, choose a fertilizer with a moderate to high amount of N (10 percent or greater) and little to no P and K. In late summer and fall, as the lawn approaches the dormant season, apply fertilizer with a lower N ratio and slightly more K.
Sometimes the lawn may appear yellow even when the three major nutrients are properly supplied. This is a common symptom of iron deficiency. For a deeper green, choose a lawn fertilizer with supplemental iron.
Phosphorus is already sufficiently present in the soil in many areas, and it may be highly regulated to prevent pollution.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, an organic lawn fertilizer should be made of quality ingredients and provide the proper nutrients to grow healthy grass. The following products are suitable for a broad range of applications and have a proven track record for maintaining robust lawns.
Innova Premium Organic Fertilizer packs a 7-1-2 NPK ratio and amino acids in a slow-release formula for regular lawn maintenance. It contains no biosolids, manure, composted waste products, or animal parts. The low amount of dust granules make for easy application without coughing and sneezing. The non-burning formula prevents damage from over-application, and it’s safe to use adjacent to sensitive waterways. This is an excellent all-around lawn food for all types of grass. The 40-pound bag feeds up to 5,600 square feet.
Jonathan Green & Sons Organic Lawn Food is a granular fertilizer made with a complex of plant and animal proteins, including feather meal, soybean meal, molasses, and wheat middlings. The 10-0-1 NPK formula delivers a boost of nitrogen plus iron to keep the grass growing with a dark green color for up to 10 weeks. Child and pet traffic are safe immediately after application. The 18-pound bag feeds up to 5,000 square feet.
New and struggling lawns sometimes require a bit more phosphorus and potassium to boost deep root development and drought tolerance. Scotts Natural Lawn Food offers both, plus a healthy serving of nitrogen, with its 11-2-2 NPK content. It is also excellent for regular lawn maintenance. The manufacturer recommends feeding up to four times through the growing season at 6- to 8-week intervals. The 29.1-pound bag feeds 4,000 square feet.
This super-concentrated liquid fertilizer from Urban Farm Fertilizers boasts 13 percent nitrogen plus iron to help the grass get growing and turn deep green at the beginning of spring, or instantly treat nutrient-deficient lawns with an overall 13-1-2 NPK content. The ingredients in this combination organic fertilizer include bat guano, sea kelp, earthworm castings, humic acid, hydroponic-grade minerals, and more. For the easiest application, apply with a hose-end sprayer (sold separately). This 1 gallon of concentrate creates 256 gallons of fertilizer, treating 5,000 square feet up to eight times at three-week intervals.
A well-planned organic fertilizer program balances deep greening and healthy growth with limited nutrient application. Espoma’s Organic Lawn Booster does just that with a moderate dose of slow-release nitrogen and a boost of calcium for improved health. The 8-0-0 NPK analysis is supplemented with 3 percent calcium and 1 percent sulfur. This 30-pound bag feeds 5,000 square feet of lawn.
Milorganite granular fertilizer is an elder among branded organic fertilizers, used by professionals and home gardeners for nearly a century. This organic nitrogen fertilizer is made from nutrient-rich, heat-dried microbes that have digested the organic matter in wastewater. With the creation of a fertilizer program in the early 1900s, the City of Milwaukee was the first municipality to reclaim waste on a massive scale and market it for profit. This is a proven, effective product with a great story about innovation and commitment to a clean environment. The fertilizer’s analysis is 6-4-0, plus a 2.5-percent iron content for deep greening. This 36-pound bag feeds 2,500 square feet.
Tips for Using Organic Lawn Fertilizer
There’s more to an effective organic lawn fertility program than simply applying fertilizer on a timed schedule. Don’t waste your time and money by blindly applying fertilizer. First, test the soil, either with an over-the-counter testing kit from your local garden center or by sending a sample to your state’s Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Then, use the results to map out a plan of action.
The first step should be to adjust the pH of the soil as indicated by test results. Establish the proper soil pH, between 5.8 and 7.2 depending on the grass species, to ensure that the grass can efficiently pull nutrients out of the soil. Lime raises the pH, while sulfur and aluminum sulfate lower it. Once the acidity is ideal, proceed with the necessary fertilizer application—and remember to mulch grass clippings.
- Use soil test results to determine fertility needs.
- Apply lime as necessary to maintain the proper soil pH and maximize fertilizer efficiency.
- Mulch grass clippings and leave them on the lawn to reduce fertilizer requirements by as much as 30 percent.
FAQs About Organic Lawn Fertilizers
The best organic fertilizer will keep lawns vigorous and healthy. For more information on using fertilizers, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.
Q. How do I know what fertilizer to use on my lawn?
Before purchasing a fertilizer, buy an over-the-counter soil test kit, or send a soil sample to your county’s Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Use the soil test results to guide fertilizer applications.
Q. When should I apply fertilizer to my lawn?
Grass will take up fertilizer throughout the growing season. The best times to apply it are when active growth begins in spring and again in mid-summer.
Q. How much organic lawn fertilizer can I use?
While organics are typically labeled as “non-burning,” excess fertilizer is a source of pollution. Follow soil test results and the instructions on the label of the specific product you are using.