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My Lawn Fertilizing Routine

As great as lawns are, they actually aren't that great for the ecosystem. They take a ton of water and nutrients to maintain that uniform green color. They take a lot of effort to mow (not to mention non-renewable energy and carbon emissions if you use a gas mower). They need to be weeded and edged. And lawns are one giant monoculture planting in a natural world that likes diversity, not uniformity.

But sometimes, nothing beats a lawn. Whether it is playing sports or games, laying out in the sun, walking barefoot, giving your pets an area, or just having a nice, manicured yard look, a lawn can serve a purpose. 

Before deciding to maintain a lawn, I'd at first recommend ensuring that you have the time and energy to truly maintain it. This is a weekly chore to do right. There is nothing worse than seeing a neighbor let a lawn go neglected. Weeds can takeover, especially invasive ones like bindweed, and it creates an unsightly mess. 

If you don't have the ability to commit to a proper lawn, I'd recommend you investigate maybe going with a no maintenance meadow look instead. They can take more effort to establish, but once they do, they are truly no maintenance. Plus they create the diversity and balance that nature prefers. For tips on the meadow movement, check out the book Lawns Into Meadows by Owen Wormser.

If you do decide that you can commit to growing a lawn, then be sure to feed it right. Don't succumb to the Scotts Miracle Gro marketing of how easy it is to add artificial nutrients and weed killers. Commit to growing a truly natural lawn.

I am lucky here in Denver that there is a great natural fertilizer producer, The Richlawn Company. They make their products from dehydrated poultry waste, so basically chicken crap, but boy is it great stuff. Their products are also pretty affordable too.

For my lawn, I use two of their products - the Pro-Rich Turf Food and Pro-Rich Winterizer. Here is the schedule I follow (dates are approximate):
  • April 15 (Tax Day) - round 1 of Turf Food
  • June 1 - round 2 of Turf Food
  • July 15 - round 3 of Turf Food (or Iron Rich - see below)
  • September 1 - round 4 of Turf Food
  • October 15 - Winterizer
Each date is 45 days apart which is just the right spacing to work in more nutrients. Richlawn also recommends using another one of their products Iron Rich in the July-Aug timeframe. I haven't tried that yet but may next year. I noticed since this summer was so dry in Denver, I was getting dead dry spots, so maybe Iron Rich can help better control an even looking lawn even when weather doesn't cooperate.

I grabbed a fertlizer spreader from my local Ace Hardware, the one with the wheels, hopper, and handle. I set the spreader to 50% open which is recommended by Richlawn. Then I do one even spread across the entire lawn. Each bag covers 5,600 square feet which is enough to feed my 4,800 square feet of total lawn space (front and back) plus extra to use in my plant beds. And I can do fertilize in 10 minutes or less. It goes so fast with the spreader. 

Also if you happen to get some fertilizer on concrete walkways or driveway, be sure to sweep any particles back onto the grass before watering. Otherwise you'll wind up with brown rust spots on your concrete that can't come out.

I do the fertilizing in the late afternoon/early evening. I make sure the dogs are in for the evening, then I run the sprinklers that night to dissolve the fertilizer into the lawn. Because the fertilizer is natural, the lawn is safe to be used again the next morning. No need to put out the flags warning neighbors about unsafe chemicals.

If Richlawn products aren't available in your area, try to find a local, natural alternative. Avoid all synthetic fertilizers at all cost, particularly if they are premixed with weed suppressants. You're better off going with a meadow instead of a lawn. Nature will thank you for it.