nhdrummerboy

Organic Lawn Fertilizer Question

nhdrummerboy
September 7, 2019

Hello everyone! Long time stalker, first time poster. I’m up here in south central New Hampshire and I am seriously thinking about switching to organic lawn fertilizer. I have just over seeded and I am wondering which type would give me the best results. I’m trying to fill in some thin spots to try and crowd out future weeds. I’ve got what seems to be your typical northern lawn and after following some of the advice found here, my lawn is doing pretty well this season. Looking forward to hearing from you all!

Comments (13)

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    I guess the question is, "What can you get?"

    We like Milorganite. We like Bay State and Ocean Gro. We like soybean meal. We like a lot of things. What we don't like is anything that breaks your back or your budget.

    Ultimately, the target is to feed the lawn correctly, so the targets are still going to be about four pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet...at first, anyway. For soybean meal, that's fifteen pounds per thousand square feet four times per year. For Milorganite, twenty pounds per K four times a year. For cracked corn, 65 pounds per thousand square feet four times per year.

    That was not a misprint. All organics are not created anywhere near equal. But they do bring other advantages to the table; cracked corn is a decent fungal suppressant applied early in the season. It won't stop fungus issues dead, and it won't work as a curative, but it will work to slightly suppress out minor fungal problems so you don't have to use a chemical suppressant later. So it does have a place in the regimen--at about 10 pounds per thousand square feet, once in May, if you want to use it.

    And that last winterizer application still has to be synthetic (if you do that one, it's optional if you feed well through the year. I do it and simply tack on an extra pound of nitrogen to my already very good feeding rates). It's too cold by that time for organics to work!

  • nhdrummerboy

    I was considering Milorganite. However, I read on a few forums that the smell can be hard to deal with. How does everyone ?

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  • nhdrummerboy

    Sorry! How does everyone on this forum feel about the odor?

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    I notice it and it is a bit annoying, but it fades in a day, tops. Soy smells slightly nutty (quite pleasant, really) and fades in a few hours. Alfalfa smells grassy and fades in hours (but shouldn't be overused for other reasons). Corn effectively has no scent.

  • nhdrummerboy

    Thanks for the info!

  • dchall_san_antonio

    I get an aroma of old milk for a few days after using corn meal or alfalfa. My wife, who has a sensitive nose, does not notice it. It smells like gardening to her.

    If you have not used any organic fertilizer on your soil in years, then any organic will give you surprising results. I've used cornmeal at 10 pounds or less and it changes everything at first. After that you do need more, but I've never applied it at 65 as morph suggests. True it is not a nitrogen dense as corn gluten meal or soybean meal, but the effect is still remarkable. Lesser amounts seem to run out of steam sooner.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    It's basic math :-) Milorganite has an NPK of 6-4-0, so 6% of the product per bag is N. Multiply that by the weight and it will tell you how much N you will deliver per bag:

    .06 x 32# = 1.92# of N

    So you will need slightly more than half a bag to deliver 1 lb of N.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Pounds of N, P, or K per 1,000 square feet is a chemistry concept. With organic fertilizer it is easier to talk about applying protein. Protein is a nitrogen containing compound, which is where the fertilizer effect comes from, but it is a waste of time to go through the extra conversions from protein to pounds of N. It doesn't matter all that much. If you apply 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet of Milorganite, corn meal, soybean meal, or whatever, you're going to be fine for the next several months.

    Corollary to that discussion: one of my peeves with the organic community is any discussion of greens and browns or carbon and nitrogen. The only things that matter in organic gardening is protein and carbohydrates (sugars). That is what microbes need. When coffee grounds are a green and lettuce leaves are a brown, you have to wonder who originated the whole idea.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    " one of my peeves with the organic community is any discussion of greens and browns or carbon and nitrogen. The only things that matter in organic gardening is protein and carbohydrates (sugars). That is what microbes need. When coffee grounds are a green and lettuce leaves are a brown, you have to wonder who originated the whole idea. "


    Well, that's a bit oversimplified. Just as when using a synthetic fertilizer, there are other factors involved besides proteins and sugars. Plants - and that includes turf grasses - require nutrients in addition to simple sugars or proteins. Organic or not, proteins and sugars are NOT the only things that matter! And the browns and greens (and the carbon:nitrogen ratio) apply to composting, not to fertilizers. And for the most part, 'greens' are N-rich additions to the compost pile that are green in color....grass clippings, vegetable waste (including lettuce leaves!!), fresh leaves, seaweed and plant trimmings. And 'browns are carbon rich materials that tend to be brown in color.....dried leaves, wood chips, sawdust, paper products. The proportion of browns and greens determine how efficiently and rapidly the composting process takes place. Nothing at all to do with fertilization!

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Nothing at all to do with fertilization

    Which is why I was writing as a corollary and not completely on topic.

    Greens are NOT always green. Lettuce leaves really are not "N-rich." Most vegetable waste is N-poor. Legumes, which most people believe are N-rich, nave N values much less than 1%. Lettuce has never been considered to be a great source of dietary protein (N). Grasses and fresh leaves fall into this category. Their N content is much less than 1%. Here are some NPK values to chew on... If you want to use something organic as a "green" or as a fertilizer, pick something with a large first number. If you want something "brown" pick something with a first number less than 1.


    Alfalfa hay 2.45 0.5 2.1

    Apple fruit 0.05 0.02 0.1

    Apple leaves 1 0.15 0.35

    Apple pomace 0.2 0.02 0.15

    Apple skin (ash) 0.0 3.08 11.74

    Banana skin (ash) 0.0 3.25 41.76

    Banana stalk (ash) 0.0 2.34 49.4

    Barley (grain) 1.75 0.75 0.5

    Bat guano 6 9 0.0

    Bean and pod 0.25 0.08 0.3

    Beet waste 0.4 0.4 3

    Beet waste (root) 0.25 0.1 0.5

    Blood meal 15 1.3 0.7

    Bone meal 4 21 0.2

    Bone (ground and burned) 0.0 34.7 0.0

    Brewer's grains (wet) 0.9 0.5 0.05

    Brigham tea (ash) 0.0 0.0 5.94

    Cantaloupe rind (ash) 0.0 9.77 12.21

    Castor bean pomace 5.5 2.25 1.13

    Cattail reed & water lilly 2.02 0.81 3.43

    Cattail seed 0.98 0.39 1.71

    Chicken manure 1.63 1.54 0.85

    Coal ash (anthracite) 0.0 0.125 0.125

    Coal ash (bituminous) 0.0 0.45 0.45

    Cocoa shell dust 1.04 1.49 2.71

    Coffee grounds 2.08 0.32 0.28

    Coffee grounds (dried) 1.99 0.36 0.67

    Corn (grain) 1.65 0.65 0.4

    Corn (green forage) 0.3 0.13 0.33

    Corncob (ground, charred) 0.0 0.0 2.01

    Corncob (ash) 0.0 0.0 50

    Cotton seed 3.15 1.25 1.15

    Cottonseed meal 7 2.5 1.5

    Cottonseed-hull (ash) 0.0 8.7 23.93

    Cotton waste 1.32 0.45 0.36

    Cow manure (fresh) 0.29 0.17 0.1

    Cowpea, green forage 0.45 0.12 0.45

    Cowpes, seed 3.1 1 1.2

    Crab (common) 1.95 3.6 0.2

    Crab (king, dried and ground) 10 0.25 0.06

    Crab (king, fresh) 2.3 0.0 0.0

    Crabgrass 0.66 0.19 0.71

    Cucumber skin (ash) 0.0 11.28 27.2

    Dog manure (fresh) 1.97 9.95 0.3

    Duck manure (fresh) 1.12 1.44 0.49

    Egg 2.25 0.4 0.15

    Eggshell (burned) 0.0 0.43 0.29

    Eggshell 1.19 0.38 0.14

    Feather 15.3 0.0 0.0

    Felt hat factory waste 3.8 0.0 0.98

    Field bean (seed) 4 1.2 1.3

    Field bean (shell) 1.7 0.3 1.3

    Fish scrap (red snapper) 7.76 13 0.38

    Fish scrap (fresh) 6.5 3.75 0.0

    Greasewood (ash) 0.0 0.0 12.61

    Gluten feed 4.5 0.0 0.0

    Greensand 0.0 1.5 5

    Grape leaves 0.45 0.1 0.35

    Grapes (fruit) 0.15 0.07 0.3

    Grapefruit skin (ash) 0.0 3.58 30.6

    Hair 14 0.0 0.0

    Hare and rabbit waste 7 2.4 0.6

    Hoof meal and horn dust 12.5 1.75 0.0

    Horse manure (fresh) 0.44 0.17 0.35

    Incinerator ash 0.24 5.15 2.33

    Jellyfish (dried) 4.6 0.0 0.0

    Leather (acidulated) 7.5 0.0 0.0

    Leather (ground) 11 0.0 0.0

    Leather (ash) 0.0 2.16 0.35

    Lemon cull 0.15 0.06 0.26

    Lemon skin 0.0 6.3 31

    Lobster (refuse) 4.5 3.5 0.0

    Lobster (shell) 4.6 3.52 0.0

    Milk 0.5 0.3 0.18

    Mud (fresh water) 1.37 0.26 0.22

    Mud (harbour) 0.99 0.77 0.05

    Mussel 0.9 0.12 0.13

    Mussel mud (dried) 0.72 0.35 0.0

    Molasses residue (brewing) 0.7 0.0 5.32

    Moss 0.6 0.1 0.55

    Oak leaf 0.8 0.35 0.15

    Oats grain 2 0.8 0.6

    Olive pomace 1.15 0.78 1.26

    Olive refuse 1.22 0.18 0.32

    Orange cull 0.2 0.13 0.21

    Orange skin (ash) 0.0 2.9 27

    Oyster shell 0.36 10.38 0.09

    Paint processing waste 0.02 39.5 0.0

    Pea pod (ash) 0.0 1.79 9

    Peach leaf 0.9 0.15 0.6

    Peanut (seed & kernel) 3.6 0.7 4.5

    Peanut shell 0.8 0.15 0.5

    Peanut shell (ash) 0.0 1.23 6.45

    Pigeon manure (fresh) 4.19 2.24 1.41

    Pig manue (fresh) 0.6 0.41 0.13

    Pigweed (rough) 0.6 0.16 0.0

    Pine needle 0.46 0.12 0.03

    Potato (tuber) 0.35 0.15 0.5

    Potato (leaf and stalk) 0.6 0.15 0.45

    Potato skin (ash) 0.0 5.18 27.5

    Poudrette 1.46 3.68 0.48

    Powderworks waste 2.5 0.0 17

    Prune refuse 0.18 0.7 0.31

    Pumpkin (fresh) 0.16 0.07 0.26

    Pumpkin seed 0.87 0.5 0.45

    Rabbit brush (ash) 0.0 0.0 13.04

    Ragweed 0.76 0.26 0.0

    Redtop hay 1.2 0.35 1

    Rhubarb stem 0.1 0.04 0.35

    Rockweed 1.9 0.25 3.68

    Rose (flower) 0.3 0.1 0.4

    Salt-marsh hay 1.1 0.25 0.75

    Salt mud 0.4 0.0 0.0

    Sardine scrap 7.97 7.11 0.0

    Seawood 1.68 0.75 4.93

    Sheep manure (fresh) 0.55 0.31 0.15

    Shoddy and felt 8 0.0 0.0

    Shrimp head (dried) 7.82 4.2 0.0

    Shrimp waste 2.87 9.95 0.0

    Silt waste 9.5 0.0 0.0

    Silk mill waste 8.37 1.14 0.12

    Silk worm cocoon 9.42 1.82 1.08

    Sludge 2 1.9 0.3

    Sludge (activated) 5 3.25 0.6

    Sludge from sewer beds 0.74 0.33 0.24

    Soot from chimney fllue 5.25 1.05 0.35

    Starfish 1.8 0.2 0.25

    Sunflower seed 2.25 1.25 0.79

    Sugar (raw, residue) 1.14 8.33 0.0

    Sweet potato skins (ash) 0.0 3.29 13.89

    Sweet potato 0.25 0.1 0.5

    Tanbark (ash) 0.0 0.34 3.8

    Tanbark ash (spent) 0.0 1.75 2

    Tankage 6 5 0.0

    Tea grounds 4.15 0.62 0.4

    Tea leaves (ash) 0.0 1.6 0.44

    Timothy hay 1.25 0.55 1

    Tobacco leaves 4 0.5 6

    Tobacco stalk 3.7 0.65 4.5

    Tobacco stem 2.5 0.9 7

    Tomato fruit 0.2 0.07 0.35

    Tomato leaves 0.35 0.1 0.4

    Tomato stalk 0.35 0.1 0.5

    Wheat, bran 2.65 2.9 1.6

    Wheat grain 2 0.85 0.5

    Wheat straw 0.5 0.15 0.6

    White clover (green) 0.5 0.2 0.3

    White sage (ash) 0.0 0.0 13.77

    Wood ash (leached) 0.0 1.25 2

    Wood ash (unleached) 0.0 1.5 7

    Wool waste 5.5 3 2

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    "Most vegetable waste is N-poor."

    As compared to what else is normally included in a home compost? It is not the degree of "richness" that adds benefit to a compost but what that ingredient is comprised of. And any vegetable waste is going to be a lot more N rich than a wood or paper product that actually consumes N to decompose. This is composting, NOT fertilizing.....and there is a significant difference!

    Personally, I know of no home composters who bother to check NPK's of what they are adding to their pile. That is not the point.....compost is not a fertilizer. Rather, it is the proportional relationship of a nitrogen based ingredient (the greens - regardless of color) to the carbon based ingredients (the browns - regardless of color) that makes for a fast and efficient composting process.

    Let's not confuse apples with oranges :-)

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Okay, but look at apples and oranges on the list...

    Nah, just pullin your leg. I think we've beat this into the ground. Nice chat. I always learn something from you.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    I do find the references to nitrogen levels quite helpful--at least initially, and even in an ongoing manner in terms of amounts to apply for a healthy lawn. Some testing does show that shorting the lawn below recommended amounts of N calculated by figuring N derived from protein does cause problems.

    That just takes longer to show in terms of organics; there's a bit more resilience in the system and one actually has to isolate the area tested even more as the resources seem to travel. I won't bore you with my hypothesis on that one.

    So no, dropping 15 pounds of corn meal a couple times a year isn't going to result in a healthy, green lawn. Not like dropping 15 pounds of soy four times a year on a northern lawn will.

    But, conversely, overload is almost impossible. If I couldn't manage it at 1,350 pounds per thousand square feet per year (and close to 35 pounds of N per K), I don't think it can be done without literally smothering the soil.

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