Fertilizer is the most important aspect of natural lawn care. Grass density, color and disease resistance relies heavily on proper fertilization procedure. Some fertilizers contain chemicals that may turn off certain growers, but there are a variety of natural lawn fertilization techniques available to the savvy gardener.
One of the best fertilizers for your lawn is grass itself. Return grass clippings to the lawn, says the University of Missouri Extension, and mow regularly to promote extensive root growth. Ohio State University says grass clippings break down quickly in the lawn, since grass is mainly composed of water. Grass clippings provides up to 30 percent of a lawn's nitrogen needs when mowed properly, and does not contribute to lawn thatch, the layer of dead material that sits at the top of the lawn.
Returning grass clippings to the lawn for decomposition requires proper mowing technique. The University of Missouri Extension recommends mowing grass so that only 1/3 of the blade is removed at a time. This promotes grass density and makes grass clippings smaller, helping the decomposition process. A mulching lawn mower makes grass clipping smaller than a regular mower, so if possible choose the latter.
Composting garden waste creates a natural fertilizer. Leaves that have fallen on the lawn may be mowed directly into the lawn turf using a mulching mower, running over the leaves using several passes to make finely chopped pieces. A compost pile made out of grass clippings, soil, leaves, kitchen and garden waste makes a fine, humus substance that provides nutrients when spread over the lawn as a top cover. Compost provides nitrogen to the lawn, and mulches at the same time. Mulching retains water and keep soil temperature warm.
Natural fertilizer products are available from many garden centers. The University of Missouri suggests performing a pH test of the lawn's soil every three years for proper fertilization. Fertilizer applied according to the pH test results will improve grass quality, color and density. Without a pH test, fertilizer ratio requires careful choosing. Use a 1:1:1 to 2:1:1 or 3:1:2 ratio, suggests the University of Missouri.
A fertilizer broadcaster is the best application method. The general rule of thumb for fertilizer application, says the Ohio State University Extension, is 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Fertilizer, once calculated, is spread using a broadcaster, half of the amount in a north to south orientation, and the other half east to west. Passes on the lawn should slightly overlap for the best coverage, using the wheel marks from the previous pass as a guideline.