Nitrogen plays a significant role in keeping your lawn green and healthy.
Nitrogen is essential for a plant to produce chlorophyll, and it is also required for the cells in the plant to divide appropriately.
Without cell division, a plant will not grow.
Signs of a nitrogen deficiency in your lawn include:
- Yellow or brown grass
- Thinner grass blades
- Slow and stunted growth
- Bare spots where the grass has died
If you suspect your lawn is not getting enough nitrogen, purchase a soil testing kit to be sure.
Raising the nitrogen levels in your soil will make your grass green and lush, but too much will cause the root structure to weaken over time.
Store-bought fertilizers are formulated with the right amount of essential nutrients for your grass, but they may leave too much salt in the soil, which will harm your plant life.
Depending on the weather conditions and the type of grass you are growing, you may need to add nitrogen to your lawn several times during the growing season.
Commercial fertilizers may cause a salt buildup in the soil very quickly due to repeated use.
Fortunately, several natural alternatives add nitrogen to your lawn without dealing with a salt buildup.
In this list, we provide you with seven easy and inexpensive ways to add nitrogen to your lawn naturally without the use of chemical fertilizers.
Seed Your Lawn With A Clover Mix
Seeding your lawn with a clover seed mix is a great way to naturally add nitrogen to the soil.
Nitrogen collects in clover roots as it grows.
When the clover dies back during fall or mowed, the dead roots enrich the soil by releasing the stored nitrogen.
Many people consider clover to be a weed.
But if you allow clover to thrive along with your grass, your lawn will maintain a natural nitrogen balance without the need for another fertilizer.
Spring is the best time to add clover to your lawn, and it grows quickly.
The recommended amount of clover to seed your lawn with is 2-3 pounds per 1,000′ square feet.
Spread the clover seed by hand for small areas and use a broadcast spreader for larger areas.
Mix the clover seed with sand or compost to make it easier to spread.
There are several clover varieties, but the most often used for seeding lawns is Dutch White Clover.
Once you have seeded your lawn, you will need to water it every day for the first week.
If the weather is particularly hot, you will have to water more.
After 7-10 days, the clover will begin to sprout and establish roots.
Clover works exceptionally well with shorter types of grasses.
Animal manures are very high in nitrogen, but you will need to compost them for at least six months before applying them to your lawn.
If you don’t compost the animal waste first, it will burn your grass because of the high nitrogen content.
Chicken manure is very popular among gardeners, but it tends to be the hottest and will need extra time to compost to a safe level for your grass.
Cow manure is not as hot as chicken manure, so using it will reduce the risk of burning your plants.
Goat and rabbit droppings are also excellent sources of nitrogen after composting.
Avoid using horse manure because it does not contain very high levels of nitrogen.
Composted manure has to be mixed into the soil for your lawn to benefit from the nitrogen.
If you spread the compost on top of your lawn, sunlight will make the uric acid evaporate.
Uric acid is the main provider of nitrogen in composted manure.
The composted manure may take a long time to break down completely into the soil, so it is not a quick fix for a dying lawn.
Using composted manure works well as a long-term solution because its nutrients stay in the soil longer than other natural fertilizers.
The only drawback to using composted manure is its strong smell, especially in warm weather.
The scent of composted manure may be too potent to use on a spacious lawn, but it works well for smaller areas.
Do not use uncomposted manure because it does not provide nitrogen and carries harmful E. coli bacteria.
The heat generated from composting the manure destroys the dangerous bacteria.
Spread Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are the most economical way to add nitrogen to your lawn naturally.
The best part is they regenerate every time you mow your lawn, so there is no extra cost for you.
Let the grass clippings naturally spread as you mow.
Or, bag the clippings up and spread them by hand to ensure equal distribution across the lawn.
Make sure the grass clippings do not become clumped up after a rainstorm.
Wet grass clippings will become matted and harm the grass underneath them by blocking out essential sunlight.
Without enough sunlight, grass will become yellow and fail to grow healthy.
Maintaining your lawn by only cutting one-third of the grass blade length simultaneously prevents too many clippings from accumulating and becoming matted together.
For the best results, grow your grass to the recommended height for its type.
Warm-season grasses tend to be shorter than cool-season grasses.
The nitrogen in the grass is what makes it green.
It takes around 3-4 weeks for the grass clippings to completely break down and release their nitrogen back into the soil.
Mulched and Shredded Leaves And Food Waste
Leaves are an excellent source of nitrogen, especially when they are mulched and shredded, and they are also found in abundance during the autumn season.
Instead of raking your yard before mowing, simply run your lawnmower over the fallen leaves to shred them.
Use a rake or leaf blower to spread the leaves evenly across your lawn.
The leaves will decompose after 1-2 months and release their nitrogen into the soil.
This will give your grass a boost of nitrogen at the start of the growing season in the spring.
The leaves will also provide your grass with some measure of protection from frost in the winter.
We have a post on protecting grass from frost if you want to learn more about that.
Fallen leaves may also be composted with banana peels, eggshells, and other nitrogen-rich plant food waste.
This mixed compost will not only provide nitrogen for your grass but other essential nutrients such as calcium and potassium as well.
Blood Meal Or Alfalfa Meal
Blood meal is a powdered form of blood, and it is obtained from slaughtered animals.
It is very high in nitrogen and easy to use on your lawn.
Use blood meal as a fertilizer by sprinkling it on your lawn and immediately watering it.
Alternatively, the blood meal may be directly mixed with water to create a liquid fertilizer to spray your grass.
Take caution with blood meal, as using too much of it will cause burns to your grass.
If you are uncomfortable handling an animal’s dry blood, an alfalfa meal may be used as a substitute.
Alfalfa meal does not contain as much nitrogen, but it is an excellent alternative to blood meal.
The alfalfa meal is distributed the same way as the blood meal, either by sprinkling it on the grass or mixing it with water to use as a spray.
Corn gluten meal is also a good alternative to blood meal, but you must avoid using it on new grass.
Corn gluten is used mainly for its pre-emergence weed control, so it may stunt new grass growth.
Composted Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are a great way to boost nitrogen levels in your soil naturally.
However, due to the acidity of whole coffee grounds, they will need to be composted with leaves before you put them on your lawn.
Use a compost mix of coffee grounds and eggshells to add extra calcium to your soil.
The excess acid in coffee grounds will prevent your grass from absorbing nitrogen and other vital nutrients.
Composting the coffee grounds reduces the acid and makes them safe to use as a fertilizer.
The coarse nature of coffee grounds also helps to aerate your soil and improves groundwater drainage.
Speaking of aerating, check out our full guide for how to aerate your lawn.
Composted coffee grounds take a long time to completely decompose and release nitrogen into the soil, so they should be used as a long-term solution to a nitrogen deficiency.
Fish emulsion is an organic fertilizer made from whole fish or fish parts.
It is high in nitrogen and is an excellent fertilizer for grass.
To use the concentrated fish emulsion, you will mix it with water according to the directions on the container and spray it on your lawn.
Be careful not to apply too much fish emulsion to your lawn, or you risk causing burns to the grass.
In addition to nitrogen, fish emulsion also contains beneficial nutrients such as:
If you have a fish tank, you have another excellent, all-natural, free source of nitrogen right under your nose.
Fish waste will build up in your fish tank water, and it is very high in nitrogen.
Save the water you siphon from your fish tank after a water change and spray it onto your lawn.
It is very unlikely to have a large enough fish tank to siphon enough water for your entire lawn, but this method will work for a small area or flower garden.