Growing a grass lawn that is a neighborhood showpiece requires some thought and planning. A primary question is what type of fertilizer will be used. A do-it-yourselfer has several options to choose from.
Organic and synthetic fertilizers are readily available and inexpensive, and both have their benefits. Surprisingly, some of the best lawn fertilizer is absolutely free, and the homeowner does not even need to leave the yard to find it.
Farm and feed stores usually carry bulk forms of organic matter, such as alfalfa, soy, ground corn and cottonseed, along with feather or blood meals. Used coffee grounds are often available free at local coffee shops or even at the office. These are all heavily nitrogen-based forms of organic material and provide significant benefits to the soil with trace elements.
These can be broadcast onto the lawn with about 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. They disappear from the top of the lawn within days and after about three weeks the nitrogen boost becomes apparent.
Using a mulching mower and leaving the finely shredded grass clippings on the lawn is equivalent to putting on a layer of nitrogen fertilizer. This is particularly true during the spring when the grass is waking up from dormancy and absorbing a large amount of nutrients from the soil. Grass clippings alone can account for up to 25 percent of the necessary fertilizer for the lawn.
The clipping are reabsorbed into the soil within days, and they do not contribute to the problem of thatch.
Shredding leaves and leaving them behind on the lawn also provides long-term nutritional benefit to the grass. Although low in immediately available nitrogen, the leaves provide trace minerals brought up deep within the earth from the tree roots. They add much needed organic matter to the soil, which helps sustain thriving microorganism colonies. These, in turn, convert the leaves and other organic material into stable, natural chemical compounds that feed the grass roots over long periods.
Also known as chemical fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers are fast acting and easy to use. The mandatory information on the bag gives the homeowner the specific knowledge of what percentage and amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium he is putting on the lawn.
The downsides to synthetic fertilizer is that they often do not provide necessary trace minerals or adequate substance for microorganisms to grow. Often times the need for additional applications increases as the organic material in the soil diminishes. If not used in the proper way, they can also harm the grass by providing too much salt to the roots.
The old saying, "If a little bit is good, a lot is better" does not apply to lawn fertilizer. Overuse can contribute to the pollution of the water table, which leads to the overgrowth of algae and fish kills in nearby streams and lakes. It is also expensive to filter fertilizer out of drinking water. To ensure the proper amount of fertilizer for the lawn, contact your county extension board for directions on testing a soil sample for nutritional deficiencies, and then only use as much fertilizer as recommended.