Are you fed up spending money on lawn-care products?
Not sure what’s in the stuff you’re buying?
Have you been putting too much useful stuff in the trash?
Perhaps it’s time you looked into doing a spot of DIY?!
I’m talking about making your own fertilizer.
It’s a fairly straightforward process – providing you have all the ingredients – many of which you will probably have in your cupboards already.
Or, you might need to create something from scratch – particularly if you’re going organic.
Let’s take a look at all the various DIY lawn fertilizers you can put together at home, and you can save money, and help your garden thrive at the same time!
- Homemade Lawn Fertilizers – At a Glance
- What Are Fertilizers?
- Benefits of Homemade Fertilizers
- Home Composting
- Inorganic Fertilizers – The Most Popular Recipe
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you shop through the links on YardThyme, we may earn an affiliate's commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information, read full disclosure here.
Homemade Lawn Fertilizers – At a Glance
Like commercially available fertilizers, homemade equivalents can be divided into organic or synthetic (inorganic) depending on the ingredients you’re using.
Organic fertilizers can be made from kitchen waste, such as food scraps, coffee grounds, and grass clippings.
Inorganic fertilizers can be made with things like Epsom salts, household ammonia, mouthwash, and baby shampoo.
Read on for some popular recipes, and how to distribute them on your lawn.
What Are Fertilizers?
Understanding fertilizers and what they do might be straightforward for some, but for new gardeners, it’s worth a little by way of explanation.
Fertilizers can be synthetic – which means they’re made by chemical synthesis, in this case, to imitate an organic product.
Or, they can be organic – made from all-natural ingredients.
It’s the latter of the two that we’re most interested in, today.
Fertilizers are used to stimulate the soil and provide plants with macro and micronutrients in order to help them grow.
The plant uses these nutrients, in part, for photosynthesis – the process in which they use carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to make their own food.
As such, “lawn food” isn’t food at all, but rather a fertilizer that helps grass make its own sustenance. This article on lawn food vs fertilizer will tell you more.
In synthetic fertilizers, chemical byproducts (typically from the petroleum industry) can be used to create varying percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Known as “the big three,” they are the most essential nutrients for plant growth.
In short (the most basic explanation), nitrogen helps the plant grow, phosphorus develops the roots, and potassium promotes overall health.
However, they can’t do everything, and this is where micronutrients come in.
They include boron (B), chlorine (Cl), copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Nickel, (N), and Zinc (Zn). While they are present naturally, like the “big three” macronutrients, plants can sometimes do with a helping hand.
And that’s where organic fertilizers come in. Think of them as a multivitamin for plants!
For more information, this article on the different types of lawn fertilizer will tell you all you need to know.
Benefits of Homemade Fertilizers
If you’re not convinced, and you need a gentle push in the DIY direction, here are some of the main benefits to making your own fert.
- It’s cheap! Especially if you have the products you need to hand.
- Or, it’s free! If you’re composting to achieve your fertilizer – then you’re turning muck into money!
- You can customize the ingredients depending on what your lawn needs.
- Slow-release formulas will boost the health of your lawn over time – especially if it’s an organic mix packed with micronutrients.
- They’re super easy to make, and you don’t need a degree in chemical engineering to produce a batch.
Composting is one of the most important aspects of homemade lawn fertilizers. You can’t call yourself a gardener until you’re making the black gold!
If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend picking up a good compost tumbler for your yard – and you can follow that link for a full review of the best on the market.
This article on the best kitchen compost bins will put that right. And here’s a top tip from personal experience – get the largest one you have room for. Those things fill up fast!
But how do you turn waste into compost? Can you just throw everything in a bin and let time do the rest?
Unfortunately not. Proper composting does take a bit of effort, and you have to nurture the right conditions in order to be successful.
You need to get the right balance of “green” waste, such as table scraps, paper towels, grass clippings, tea bags, etc. With “brown” waste – eggshells, cardboard, fall leaves, sawdust, etc.
And how big is your yard?
If you’re maintaining anything over a medium-sized property, your compost tumbler is going to fill up faster than you might think.
I decided to set up a dedicated compost heap next to my tumbler, and it has become an essential stage in the process – particularly when disposing of excessive yard waste each year.
Check out the video below for a full guide to making your own compost, which will help with creating a topdressing fertilizer for your lawn, as well as providing a health boost to your flower beds and vegetable patches.
And it’s essential for making an amazing, cheap, super-charged, DIY fertilizer – compost tea.
So, you have your compost bin in the kitchen, and you have the tumbler in the yard, and you’re well on the way to making the black gold.
But about an organic liquid fertilizer? How do you make that at home?
Brewing some “compost tea” is the answer.
Packed with a good kind of bacteria, it’s a cheap and easy way to help achieve the lawn of your dreams. And another way is to read our full month-by-month lawn care guide!
To make compost tea, all you need to do is fill a bucket with water and let it sit overnight to remove the chlorine.
The next day, dump a heap of your compost into the water and let it steep for 24 hours – stirring occasionally.
It’s very similar to brewing a real cup of tea – with added decomposed filth!
Once your compost tea has had a chance to steep, it will be a strong concoction packed with nutrients, and ready to be dispensed where required.
Simply add it to a watering can, or use a backpack or tow-behind sprayer if you’re covering larger areas – such as your lawn.
It’s also amazing for organic gardening, and you can follow that link for more tips on how to keep things au naturel in your yard.
For a full demonstration into how you make compost tea, click on the video, below.
I also recommend checking out this article on the differences between granular and liquid fertilizers – so you can find out which is right for you.
Inorganic Fertilizers – The Most Popular Recipe
There are some other useful homemade grass fertilizers that are considered inorganic formulas, but are still made without harsh chemicals, and can be done easily with a little know-how.
Here’s the full ingredient list and the recipe for one of the most popular versions.
For application, you’ll need a good-quality hose-end sprayer.
Homemade Liquid Lawn Fertilizer
- 1 x can of beer.
- 1 cup of regular soda.
- 1/2 cup of unscented Epsom salts.
- 1 cup of household ammonia.
- 1 cup of baby shampoo.
It’s an odd collection of ingredients, wouldn’t you agree?!
So, why choose this particular formula?
Beer is full of nutrients that benefit the grass and the helpful bacteria in the soil. The soda is full of sugar, which stimulates grassroots in the hunt for nitrogen, which will help them crowd out weeds.
And since ammonia contains hydrogen and nitrogen, your homemade fert is providing a healthy dose of ‘N’ with this recipe.
Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulfur – two more micronutrients that are essential to plant life, and the baby shampoo acts as a surfactant – breaking the surface tension of the liquid and allowing it to be easily absorbed.
Simply combine all the ingredients in your sprayer, give it a good swirl around, and you’ve created your first batch of homemade fertilizer for your lawn!
There are other versions out there, and you can adjust the recipe how you see fit, based on what you have, and/or what you need for your lawn.
One such homemade fertilizer even includes mouthwash – which won’t harm your grass, but can be used as an effective pesticide.
Another alternative method is to switch out the Epsom salts for instant tea. You can follow this version by watching the video, below:
How to Dispense Homemade Lawn Fertilizer
Once you have your batch of DIY fertilizer, you’re ready to give it a try on your lawn.
But one of the most confusing aspects of dispensing any product in our yards and gardens – is how, how much, and how often?!
Try this general article that explains when you need to fertilize your garden for some expert tips and advice on the frequency of fertilizing.
Granular, or dry fertilizers – like a compost mixture – can be applied either by hand or by using a broadcast spreader. For large lawns, check out this article on the best tow-behind spreaders on the market.
Top tip – If you’re in any doubt about the formula, try it on a small, inconspicuous area first and wait for it to take effect. You can also use this system to add or remove ingredients depending on the results.
It’s also a great idea to aerate your lawn before applying fertilizer, as it will help decompact the soil, so the good stuff can get to where it needs to go.
Check out our complete guide to lawn aeration for more info.
Is rice water good for plants?
Yes, it is! Rice water contains minerals and nutrients that help create healthy bacteria, which can stimulate plant growth.
The problem is, you’ll need to eat a lot of rice if you’re thinking about treating your lawn with a batch of it!
It goes bad after about five days, so unless you’re cooking a vat of rice, you might only be able to use it for spot-treating plants.
This also brings up an interesting point – does fertilizer go bad? Does it have a shelf life? Can you use a product that has been sitting in the shed for five years? Follow that link to find out!
Are banana skins good for plants?
Banana skins are AMAZING for plants. They contain traces of macro and micronutrients that are essential for plant growth.
If you’re composting, you definitely want to include them as part of a balanced formula!
How can I make my grass green without a fertilizer?
It’s a great question, as not everyone wants to purchase fertilizers, or has the time and means to make their own.
And you can follow those links for expert advice on each discipline. They’re almost like Olympic events!
However, fertilizers make a BIG difference, so do consider using an organic formula at the very least.
As lawn care costs can easily mount up, creating your own DIY lawn fertilizers is a budget-friendly, practical solution.
Plus, you can tailor-make each batch to your own requirements, depending on what your lawn needs.
Let us know your best lawn fertilizer recipes in the comments, or if you’ve had any luck with any of the examples listed here.
Stay safe out there, and happy gardening!