Fertilizing a lawn doesn't have to require chemicals. There are alternatives to chemical-laden commercial fertilizers that are both better for the environment and are sometimes less expensive. Using more natural components to feed your lawn also ensures it is safe for your children and pets to play on, with no worries of chemicals getting on the skin. When choosing fertilizer alternatives, keep in mind that you still must give the lawn the substances it requires to thrive, such as nitrogen.
Allow the grass to stay on the lawn after mowing, do not collect it or bag it. The grass clippings provide 30 percent of the nitrogen needed by the lawn as they break down, according to the Ohio State University Extension offices. Clippings do not lead to thatch problems because they break down quickly. Mow only one-third of the lawn's height at any given time so the clippings are less obtrusive when sitting on the lawn.
Blood meal is dried cattle blood in a powder form. It contains 10 percent nitrogen, making it one of the most nitrogen-rich of the nonchemical fertilizers. It is spread over the lawn in the same manner as a chemical fertilizer would be.
Alfalfa is formed into pellets for easy lawn application. Rich in nitrogen, alfalfa pellets also contain other trace minerals beneficial to lawns, such as phosphorus and potassium. They are readily available at most garden centers.
There are several organic fertilizers on the market that combine animal manure and plant products to provide a more complete fertilizer. While readily available, some brands still have small amounts of chemical fertilizer in their formula. Choose organic fertilizers that are certified organic to avoid this.
Compost includes both vegetative and animal waste compost. Vegetative compost is inexpensive and easy to make using leaf and grass clippings in a backyard composter. Animal compost must be composted at high heat to prevent it from burning the lawn once applied. Use compost on the lawn after soil aeration has been performed so it doesn't lead to thatch problems.
Bone meal is made from steamed then powdered cattle bones. Rich in phosphorus, it is easily applied to the lawn similar to blood meal. Bone meal and blood meal blends are available that provide a more complete feeding than using just one of these alternatives on their own.