Organic just may be the buzz word of the 21st century. You can buy practically anything organic: hand soap, blue jeans, 500-thread-count sheets. But when it comes to caring for your lawn, using organic methods is about as old school as you can get: It’s what people did before they could buy chemical fertilizers, and there are plenty of good reasons to go the old-fashioned natural route.

Personally, I like to keep my lawn free of anything that might harm my 9-year-old lab-shepherd mix, Jake. You might worry about your toddler, who will put anything in his or her mouth; or perhaps, you don’t like the idea of chemical runoff, which ends up in the groundwater.

Nitrogen … naturally

So how does one add nitrogen, the most essential ingredient in fertilizers, to your soil naturally? Some people, who are lucky enough to have easy—and sometimes even free—access to bales of hay, break up old hay and sprinkle it over their lawns before mowing.  This accomplishes two things. One is the release of nitrogen every time it rains. (Hint: If your lawn is overrun with clover, it’s nitrogen-starved.) The second is that it helps hold in moisture, meaning that your lawn will require less watering. Not bad for an ordinary bale of hay.

Hay bale, image courtesy of Wikipedia

Hay bale, image courtesy of Wikipedia

However, let’s say you live in a more urban area, where bales of hay are hard to come by. Don’t fear. The organic revolution has made it easy to find wonderful, chemical-free options available at just about any place that sells lawn and garden goods—even grocery stores. Your local farmer’s market is another great source for the kinds of natural fertilizers you might try to make yourself, if you had the time, such as compost tea.