Organic Fertilizer for Clover Lawn

CPTKOctober 2, 2013

I use alfalfa on my pure grass front lawn. My backyard, though, is grass/clover and the recommended fertilizer for that seems to be 0-20-20. Is there an organic equivalent? Bone meal is expensive and I'm not even sure what to do about potassium.

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There is no organic equivalent for that kind of synthetic. What makes that "the recommended" fertilizer? Why do you think you need something like that? What does a good, reliable soil test say about the nutrients in the soil?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Well, I did research online about fertilizing clover lawns. What mostly came up was discussion about clover pastures, and the majority of the farmers seem to be using 0-20-20.

You got me on the soil test. I really should do that. The first reason I haven't done it yet is that I've simply been lazy/forgetful. But the other reason is that it seems to me that in most cases the results of the test wouldn't really change what I'm doing. I'm still going to apply as much OM as possible and use organic products like alfalfa regardless of what the test says. The only data I can think of that would affect my actions would be PH, and I already know we have alkaline soil here. I've been raking limestone out of my clay soil all summer.

This post was edited by CPTK on Thu, Oct 3, 13 at 11:32

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 11:27AM
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Those kind a ratios can only be achieve in a lab. If you decided to go organic, you need to forget about N-P-K numbers that many have been trained to focus on. The idea is to just build up quality, active soil with lots of worms and microbes.
I agree that you that adding the alfalfa is good for the lawn regardless of a soil test, But what if the soil test says your Phosphorous is already Optimal or above? Then there is no need to search for a 0-20-20 fertilizer. You won't have any idea until you have your soil tested what is lacking and what is sufficient. Based on the results, then you can decide what you need to focus on.
3 years ago I had a soil test done and found my potassium was low, pH at 5.9, and OM at 3%. After years of adding compost, compost tea, and other organics I found I now have 11% OM, pH 6.9 and an optimal level of potassium. Ironically, I addressed the potassium issue just by adding tons of banana peels to my compost pile for a year and then spreading on the lawn once complete.
I agree, the OM result isn't actionable, but is nice to have benchmarks to show that your efforts are paying off. However, the results of the macro-nutrients and pH are priceless. How else can you decide what nutrients your lawn needs more of, or if you should add lime or sulfate or sulfur if your pH is too high.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 12:50PM
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A soil test for soil pH and major nutrients is valuable because it tells you what your soils pH is and why and what to do to correct that since plant nutrients may depend on the soils pH to be available to plants for their use. Nutrients need to be in balance since too much (or too little) of one can interfere with the plants ability to use others, for example too much (or too little) Potash in the soil will affect a plants ability to properly use Nitrogen. Plants need Calcium to use Magnesium and vice versa.
There is some research that indicates that plants growing in good healthy soils with adequate levels of organic matter are less attractive to insect pests.
A fertilizer formula of 0-20-20 says that is a synthetic fertilizer since there is no organic fertilizer that could have nutrient levels that high. Due to Phosphorus pollution of lakes and streams many places have greatly restricted applications of P unless a good reliable soil test indicates a need, so there is another reason to get a soil test.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 6:42AM
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Yeah, I ordered one yesterday.

My concern is that I'm wasting alfalfa by putting on it on a clover lawn. The point of the clover lawn is remove the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Hopefully my soil test reveals an abundance of phosphorous and potassium, and in that case I won't have to fertilize at all.

This post was edited by CPTK on Fri, Oct 4, 13 at 12:00

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 10:04AM
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When and how much Nitrogen a clover might provide the soil depends on how long it has been there and whether the right growing conditions to aide in developing the N storing nodules on the roots is there. Clover seeded this year may well develop those nodules but the N in them most likely will not be available to plants until next year.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 8:24AM
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Yeah, that's a good point. In either case I'll probably need to stick to my normal fertilizing routine until it is firmly established.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 6:01PM
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Probably a good idea. Cuz you could get a soil test that says the nutrients are fine, fix pH!
And if that happened you wouldn't have dumped way to many unneeded products into your lawn.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 1:10AM
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