Growing a beautiful garden and a luscious lawn is within reach of every home gardener. While it might be easiest to reach for conventional fertilizers and pesticides to maintain your urban oasis, for the sake of your health, the health of your children, and your drinking water supply, it makes sense to take a look at different methods of maintenance.
It’s Easy Being Green
The beautiful, lush, green look of lawns comes from a correct balance of nutrients. Depending upon the type of grass in your yard, you will need to apply fertilizer at different times of the year. The coveted green look comes from correct applications of nitrogen. Many types of grasses are nitrogen guzzlers. Cool-season grass like bluegrass and winter rye grass love nitrogen when the weather is nice and cool, but burn easily if over-fertilized during the summer. All grasses benefit from slow-release varieties of fertilizer so that they do not get burned.
Salting Your Grass
Did you know that when you apply synthetic fertilizer, you are essentially salting your grass? Man-made fertilizers are composed partially of salts. Just as people benefit from a low-sodium diet, so does your yard! A great alternative to synthetic fertilizer are natural fertilizers made from biological components. There are several ways to achieve a natural fertilization of your yard. Cutting your grass with a mulching mower and leaving the grass clippings returns about two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each year. You will still need supplemental fertilizer, but mulching mowers make a big dent in nitrogen needs. Natural fertilizers are a great option to supplement grass clippings.
Types of Natural Fertilizers
Natural fertilizers are made from materials that occur in nature. Fish emulsion, seaweed, plant hormones and other compounds compose natural fertilizers. As with any concentrated product, it is important to read the label and apply correctly, but overall, natural fertilizers are much safer than their synthetic counterparts. Natural fertilizers decompose more quickly than synthetic fertilizers, meaning that they do not persist in the environment and cause harm. Some natural fertilizers use formulas high in micronutrients, which are nutrients that regulate physiological function in plants, and are sometimes not available in high enough quantities in the soil. Other natural fertilizers use plant hormones to encourage plant growth in ways favorable to fruit production and nutrient concentration.
What makes Natural Fertilizers Safe?
Natural fertilizers are, on the whole, safer than synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers are concentrated chemicals that persist within fatty tissue when absorbed or ingested. You cannot put down a broadcast, slow release fertilizer and then play tunnel-tag or touch football in the yard. Natural fertilizers are made from plant and animal products that do not persist in tissue and are broken down by soil organisms and absorbed quickly by plants. You could fertilize your yard with a natural fertilizer made from seaweed and enjoy a tranquil yoga session shortly thereafter.
Less Work in the Long Run
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect to using natural fertilizers on your lawn and in you garden is that you will continue to build good soil structure. By using natural fertilizer, you will not overwhelm soil organisms that make nutrients available through their metabolic processes. You will add organic matter to the soil which improves drainage and root penetration. The healthier your soil is, the healthier your plants will be. By not using synthetic fertilizers and chemicals that are toxic to beneficial insects, you will maintain ecological balance in your yard. Over a growing season, and several growing seasons, your yard’s natural system will become more and more balanced, meaning less work for you and better results. You can’t beat that!