Natural fertilizer is not the same as traditional fertilizer. A fertilizer is a substance containing one or more recognized plant nutrients, that is used primarily to promote plant growth. According to NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association), natural organic fertilizers don’t require fossil fuels such as oil to make them. Organic fertilizers will add organic matter as they break down. They improve soil structure, soil nutrient retention, as well as improvement in water and oxygen holding capacity in the soil.
Organic fertilizers don’t contain salts. All of these things are important because when we use chemicals like, chemical fertilizers (petroleum-based fertilizers), chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, it will compromise the soil biology. In an organic lawn, or in an organic farm, the soil biology is healthy. The soil is alive. The soil is rich in organic matter. The microbiology in the soil is decomposing the organic fertilizer, leaves, hay, and in return those microbes provide nutrients to the plants. Healthy soil means we have healthy plants. Those plants (grass, trees, vegetables…) are able to fight diseases, in part because they are surrounded of beneficial organisms, and also they have an ideal environment for them to grow healthy.
When I grow grass, or vegetables, my main focus is to make sure I have healthy soil. Fertilizer, lime, “weed and feed” is the least of my concerns. If I don’t have good soil to grow plants, any products I use on the lawn and garden, will be a waste of time and money. If anyone tries to sell you products to maintain your property without even looking at the soil texture, then you will be most likely paying for products, materials, time and money that you don’t really need.
For an organic fertilizer to work, you must have microbes in the soil to decompose that fertilizer. Remember, the microbes are the ones providing the nutrients to our plants. But when you use chemical fertilizers, you bypass the whole system. Chemical fertilizers are made so they can feed the plant directly, without the need of microbes, or good soil to grow those plants. That’s why when you apply organic fertilizer after you have been using chemicals to treat your lawn, you will not see any improvement. In fact, everything will look worse, since there is no microbes to decompose the fertilizer. Your grass will not be able to use the fertilizer, and weeds will be able to grow well.
A good analogy is thinking about eating processed foods, or eating cereal for breakfast, precooked meals for lunch, and pizza for dinner. And then you decide to eat healthy and buy kale, brussels sprouts, and avocado, and then you have the worst experience of your life because you can’t cook, and everything tastes raw, cold and you are hungry.
If you want to use organic fertilizer, you should improve the soil. Bring compost, apply your own compost tea. Feed those microbes. Grow a healthy yard for you to enjoy. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see changes while the lawn is in transition from chemical to organic. Remember, organic fertilizer you feed the soil. Chemical fertilizer you feed the plant. If you are not sure what type of fertilizer to use, you can always ask me a question.