I quit my chemical lawn treatment service to go organic, and you can too.
After years of paying for chemical lawn treatment, I was tired of monthly bills for the most cursory spray from the chemical lawn service. Over the years, I’ve used national companies like Scott’s and TruGreen as well as a local company and have seen about the same results. Spending hundreds of dollars of year was keeping my St. Augustine grass green and relatively weed-free, but I was continuing to have problems with thatch build-up, a sign of poor overall soil condition.
It was surprisingly easy to take care of this myself. Here’s what you will need:
- Estimate of the size of your lawn
- Easy Organic soil test
- Easy Organic fertilizer
- Spreader for dry fertilizer
- Spray applicator for liquid fertilizer
Estimating the size of your lawn
A few ideas for this. You can pace off the length and width of the lawn or use a tape measure. Or if you have a survey of your lot, that could provide the measurements you need. And if you google “how to measure my lawn”, online tools can find your house and allow you to highlight your lawn to estimate its size.
Easy Organic soil test
Next I ordered my Soil Test from Easy Organic. I took small samples from a few areas of my lawn, combined them and sent in the combined sample for the professional lab analysis. See instructions here: Soil Test Form. I received my test results a couple of days after my sample arrived at Easy Organic.
Here are the results:
My test came back with a couple surprises:
- A very high level of calcium, especially relative to magnesium
- High pH acidity
Easy Organic fertilizer
Based on my test results, Easy Organic recommended Earth Friendly All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer, plus Epsom salt for magnesium and sulfur to balance out the high levels of calcium and to lower the soil pH.
Applications of Liquid #3 2-3-1 Organic Fertilizer during the growing season will provide the micronutrients needed to keep my lawn going strong.
And WeedBan corn gluten meal will suppress weeds for next year.
Since I included the estimated size of my lawn when sending in my soil test, Easy Organic provided accurate estimates of the fertilizer amounts needed and recommended timing for each application.
Earth Friendly All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer
- 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet in spring
- 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet in fall
Liquid #3 2-3-1 Organic Fertilizer
- 1-2 ounces per gallon of water, or 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet
- Several times during growing season
- 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet in late summer
- 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet in late winter
- Epsom Salt – 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet
Spreader for dry fertilizer
After ordering the Earth Friendly All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer for spring application, I did some quick online research on spreaders. There were limited options at my local store, and several of them received terrible reviews after leaving stripes on the lawn, so do some research before you buy. Using organic fertilizer will be less likely to damage your lawn, but I’d still recommend a spreader with more even application. I found one that received decent reviews at a reasonable price and picked it up along with the Epsom salt.
- If you have a smaller area, a hand-held spreader could be a good choice.
- A drop spreader could work if you are very precise in your application
- A broadcast spreader was the best choice for me
Applying the dry fertilizer
Next, I measured the fertilizer separately for the front and back yard. For three reasons
- Wanted to make sure to apply the fertilizer as evenly as possible
- The total fertilizer amount was too much to fit in the spreader at one time
- I wasn’t sure of the right spreader setting for the application rates I needed
To measure the fertilizer, I used a kitchen scale and measured in 3-5 pound increments. A larger scale can be used to measure larger increments. I combined the Earth Friendly All Purpose organic fertilizer and the Epsom salt in the spreader. You can also combine in a separate bucket before adding to the spreader. When combining ingredients, be sure to mix thoroughly.
After measuring and mixing the fertilizer, I was ready for the spreader application.
After all the measuring, the application was the easy part. I spread the fertilizer evenly throughout the yard (separately for front and back).
A few tips for spreader application:
- The spreader settings are different for every brand. While some spreaders provide settings for the most common conventional fertilizer brands, many organic brands are excluded. My goal was an application of a certain number of pounds per 1,000 square feet.
- To measure the application rate of your spreader (also known as calibrating your spreader), you can identify an area that is roughly 100 square feet (10ft x 10ft), and then measure into your spreader 10% of the fertilizer that you would apply to 1,000 square feet. For example, if you are planning to apply 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet, then you would add 1 pound to your spreader for your 100 square foot test area. Then, choose a medium setting on your spreader, and see how many times you need to pass over the area before all the fertilizer has been deposited.
- Do not make my mistake and start with the highest setting. It is easy to add more fertilizer to an area, but if you apply too much there is nothing that can be done. One option you may want to consider is setting your spreader to ½ of your target rate, and then covering each part of the yard in both directions.
- If calibrating your spreader seems too complicated, choose a lower setting than you think you need, load your spreader with the right amount of fertilizer for the area (by weight), and then just keep applying the fertilizer until it is all applied. Using a low setting will make sure you can go over all parts of the yard multiple times to get an even application
- In my case, based on trial and error, I realized the spreader settings roughly corresponded to the number of pounds per 1,000 square feet. So, for my application of 11 pounds per 1,000 square feet (8 pounds Earth Friendly All Purpose and 3 pounds Epsom salt), I would use a setting of 11.
- Be sure to empty and clean your spreader afterwards for storage
Overall, applying the dry fertilizer was complete in a little over an hour for both front and back yards, including time for measurement and mixing.
Liquid Fertilizer – coming soon
I will make the first liquid fertilizer application in a couple of weeks, so check back for updates then.
In the meantime, I can’t wait to see the results for my lawn this summer. My lawn has never been pampered like this and can now enjoy ideal soil conditions for a healthy summer season.