How to Make Your Own Lawn Fertilizer

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How to Make Your Own Lawn Fertilizer

So you want a nice looking yard, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on a lawn service or pricey fertilizers. Or maybe you want to explore natural fertilizers that are good for your grass and even better for the environment. Well, did you know that you can make your own lawn fertilizer? It’s really very easy, and all you’ll need to get are a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have around the house. Here’s how you can get green, lush grass without spending too much and harming the environment:

  • Whip up a beer and ammonia concoction. All you need is two cups of water and one cup each of beer, ammonia, and Epsom salts. Mix the ingredients together, pour it in a watering can with a spray feature, and distribute evenly over your lawn as if you were watering it. The beer will work to feed the roots of your grass, the ammonia will help the nitrogen in the soil, and the Epsom salts will act as an aerator to the ground allowing your lawn to “breathe.” You should notice a difference in a couple of weeks, but you can reapply the solution if you’re not quite satisfied with the results. This amount will cover about 500 square feet, depending on the water pressure used through the watering can.
  • Use coffee grounds. Did you know that your morning beverage can be used as a fertilizer? Coffee grounds contain nitrogen and potassium, which are two important components of achieving a green yard. Use your spent coffee grounds on the lawn and your yard will get a nutrient boost and should appear greener and healthier in just a couple of weeks. If you’re not a coffee drinker, just head to your local coffee shop and ask them for their used grounds; most will give them to you for free or for a small price.
  • Set up a compost site. Composting is easy – all you really need to do is create an area to store your organic waste, such as melon rinds, banana peels, tea bags, leaves, and other yard waste. While you’re collecting this waste, you’ll need to turn it occasionally, and eventually you’ll have a nutrient-rich, soil-like material from your compost pile. To fertilize, simply load this into a wheelbarrow and distribute evenly throughout your yard using a shovel. You’ll need to use a large broom to sweep the clumps off the grass blades and down to the turf level, and then use a sprinkler or watering can to help the composted soil absorb into the ground.

Beautifying your lawn with the help of homemade fertilizers is easy, and you’ll save lots of money and help the environment too. Use these tips above to help you get started on your way to a greener, healthier lawn.


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23 comments

  1. ZoneIII

    You state the ammonia in the concoction you recomment will “kill any bacteria in the soil”. Why in the world would you want to kill soil bacteria. That bacteria is absolutely necessary for healthy soil. In fact, killing bacteria (and other necessary soil organisms) is a fast way to detroy your soil and, with lawns, contribute to thatch. Now, ammonia is known to have other beneficial properties but killing soil bacteria is not one of them!

  2. ZoneIII

    I should have been more specific about ammonia. Ammonia is high in nitrogen. It’s the nitrogen that makes it so beneficial for lawns, not that it kills bacteria.

    Also, I meant to say “recommend,” not “recomment,” of course. Typo.

  3. Matthew

    Good catch Zone.

  4. You say to use one cup of ammonia, but you do not say what kind. Are you talking industrial strength or house hold cleaner ammonia. If you are talking house hold cleaner, the Nitrogen content is very low, so I assume you are talking Industrial Ammonia. If you are talking Industrial, then by my calculations the price would be prohibitive (it is pretty expensive and most people have lawns larger than 500 sq. ft.) I have two acres and the cost would be huge, therefore it would be better to purchase granules or liquid fertilizer and add the beer and Epsom salt for their benefits. You also do not state what your concoction is equivalent to in Nitrogen concentration. Fertilizers come in anywhere from 46-0-0 to 12-0-0 recommended concentrations for lawns (the 1st no. is the %N concentration in and fertilizer formula). Depending on the grass type you have, the industry states how many lbs of N/1000 sq. ft. is required for a particular type of grass. With that known you can determine how many bags or gallons of a given formula you will need per year. Regardless of that information, I still would like to know what ammonia you are using and where you purchased it and for what price.

  5. Michael,

    Thanks for your comment. The answer to your question is household ammonia (at least that is what the author of this article meant) and as you said it doesn’t contain very much nitrogen. I think nitrogen is somewhere around 6.25% of household ammonia by volume so it will be cost prohibitive (particularly for those with larger lawns).

    The big picture is that you can make your own fertilizer using this recipe, but I actually don’t recommend anyone do that unless they just enjoy making it. I would do what you said and purchase a base fertilizer to add in any other ingredients desired such as Epsom salt. I prefer putting out a poultry-based organic fertilizer such as Nature’s Guide myself, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat 😉

    • What is the best way to use coffee ground to fertilize my st. augustine grass? Do I dilute it with water? and use that water to water my grass or can you apply the water with coffee ground directly to grass. please reply.

      • I don’t think it matters so much how you put it down, but I would at least water it in afterwords. I personally put my coffee grounds into the compost pile to be spread out later. Good luck Ellen 🙂

  6. Clarification. If the formula calls for house hold ammonia, that would be great because household ammonia is cheap. If it called for a cup of Industrial stength ammonia that would not be cheap, one cup is very expensive. I checked my MSDS sheet for household ammonia and it says less than 3%. I dont know if household ammonia is standard in the industry, I would think it would be. If you are getting 6.25% Then I would like to know the brand you are using. Could you tell me who the author of the article is and how to contact him/her by email for further information? Thanks.

  7. Michael,

    Household ammonia is a solution of NH3 in water (i.e., ammonium hydroxide) and ranges in concentration from 5 to 10% ammonia (and 90 to 95% water). Ammonia is about 82% nitrogen. Ammonium hydroxide is a little less (some estimate about 70% nitrogen). 10 oz of household ammonia will yield about .5 to 1 oz ammonia hydroxide. So you’re looking at approximately .35 to .7 oz or 3.5% to 7% nitrogen. That means if you buy a 64 oz. bottle of Ace Ammonia (10%), you will yield about 4.48 oz of nitrogen per bottle. You probably want at least 1 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft so that will take four 64 oz. jugs to achieve. I hope that helps.

    P.S. sorry I don’t have ghost writer’s contact information.

  8. My understanding is that ammonia is a gas at room temp, so you have to put it in liquid form by adding water. Is that correct, or is there a gram wt. mixed with water?

    Anyway its nice to know that Ace has a 10% ammonia concentration. I was looking at the MSDS for Parson household ammonia cleaner(i.e. ammonium hydroxide)which said less that 3%.

    To When you say that Ammonium hydroxide is a little less, about 70% nitrogen are you still talking household?

    The reason I asked, is because I was looking at industrial strength ammonium hydroxide on the internet and they were saying 28%. Tell me what you think the 28% is referring to, is it referring to 28% ammonia and then you have to calculate %Nitrogen in it? website: http://store.hvchemical.com/browse.cfm/4,28.html
    Can you show how you calculate %N?

    You stated that I need 1 lb per 1000 sq. ft. That is what I think I read also. So you are saying it would take 4 1/2 gallon jugs per 1000 sq. ft. and therefore about 173 640z. jugs of ACE brand or 86 gallons per acre? Again, if this is so any homemade lawn formula using ammonium hydroxide(household brand) would be cost prohibitive, even if you are doing 500 sq. ft. of lawn. A concentrate 20-0-0 , 32oz bottle does 5000 sq. ft. @ $7 on sale.

    Please check my calculations. I dont understand why all these websites are telling you ways to make your own home fertilizer if it costs more than store fertilizers. Who would pay more just to make their own, whats the incentive.

    Please help me find a way to make an equvilant home ferilizer to diliver that 1lb on N per 1000 sq. ft. at a lower price than the store. Industrial strength ammonium hydroxide would be the only way or what else, potassiun mitrate, urea, ammonium nitrate? Or are all these too dangerous and expensive to use also? Thanks, MR

    • I’m not a chemist, but I think what you said is correct.

      70% is for Ammonium hydroxide (it just means ammonia mixed with water) which is what’s in household ammonia.

      I’m not for sure, but I imagine they were talking about 28% in relation to the 10% in Ace.

      I calculated %N by first finding out how much ammonia is in the solution. In the case of Ace, it was 10%. Then I multiplied that figure which was 1 oz for every 10 oz of fluid by the % nitrogen that is in ammonium hydroxide (70% nitrogen for household ammonia – pure ammonia is 82%). That comes out to 0.7 oz per 10 oz of fluid or 7% nitrogen.

      My opinion is that it’s cost prohibitive to use this recipe if you’re trying to achieve the recommended dosage of nitrogen per year. However, that is just a recommendation for nitrogen. Your lawn will still benefit from less nitrogen. In fact, I would rather end up with less nitrogen than too much (i.e. fertilizer burn, grass that grows too fast etc.).

      Websites are explaining ways to make home fertilizer because people are searching for it on Google 😉 The incentive could be that you have a really small lawn or you just want to use it on a few of your plants. Maybe you just really like doing things yourself and it’s a lot of fun to make something at home. I think it’s safe to assume that you don’t fit any of these categories. Therefore, I would stick with the store bought stuff if I were you 😀

      I think you’ll have to go with a non-equivalent home fertilizer if you want to keep the cost low. In other words, put in as much as you can below the cost of the store product and see if the results are acceptable with less nitrogen.

  9. I think you are right, but if I find away to get the desired Nitrogen content witout buying the store bought stuff I will let you know. It maybe be beneficial to use just purchase liquid nittrogen fertilizer and add all the onther ingredients that I am reading about that are supposed to be benenficial to the lawn. If the other ingredients truly helpful then maybe the nitrogen becomes less important.

    • I think that’s great. Please let us know if you found a cost-effective solution. I actually just use a 4-3-2 organic fertilizer on my lawn and mulch my grass. It seems to be plenty of nitrogen and my grass doesn’t grow crazy fast. My grass is very green even with this severe drought. I think you will be fine either way. I’ve enjoyed your questions so far. Good luck and feel free to drop by for a comment/question anytime.

  10. Have you ever tried to figure out how many lbs of nitrogen that should be delivered to your grass per year, according to some industry standards? I found a web page that stated that kentucy blue grass should have 3 lbs N per year. So you would have to determine how many applications you are planning on putting on in a year and then 3 by that no. After that you would have to choose a fertilizer concentration (bag or liquid) and then calculate the amount of N per/1000 sq. ft. it would deliver. Then determine how many bags or gallons you would need from there.

    I ask because in a earlier post you stated that I would probably want to deliver at least 1 lb per 1000 sq. ft. I wondered where you got that number.

    If you are using a 4-3-2 fertilizer on your lawn, that is a low concentration. How many times a year do you apply & what type of grass do you have? Most of the time you see a much higher %N rating on a bag or liquid fertilizer.

    • I would have to look it up for sure, but I think most grass types fall somewhere between 1-3 lbs. per year. I have St. Augustine grass and I usually apply fertilizer 5 times a year. However, I also put out corn gluten meal in the spring and fall mainly as a pre-emergent weed preventer, but it also has 9-0-0. Don’t forget that these are not hard and fast rules. Your lawn definitely needs nitrogen, but ultimately every lawn is different. Your soil structure, grass type, and climate are all likely different than mine. I’ve found that trial and error is a good way to get a feel for what your lawn needs. I would use the recommended guidelines as a good place to start. If your lawn is green, then it’s green 😉

  11. When you plant new grass using seeds, are you supposed to rake the seeds underground or leave them on top of the soil and do you really need straw at this time of the year?

    I had trees cut down and now I have just tilled the ground and raked it smooth. Then it rained the other day. It dried up enough to spread some starter fertilizer on the ground and rake it into the soil, lightly. Then I used a hand seed spreader to spread the seeds.

    I have had grass grow in the past without raking the seeds in but I heard that you are supposed to. Do you know and what about the need for straw this time of year?

    Thanks, MR

    • You don’t have to, but it’s a good idea to gently rake the seeds into the very top of the soil. It should increase your germination rate. If you think the seed bed might get fried by the sun or you’re having trouble keeping it moist, then straw or some kind of top-dressing should help.

  12. Thanks for the information. I see that you have an interest in lawns, maybe a hobby. I don’t know what your occupation is, but now I understand how this all works. For example, the numerous websites posting home made fertilizer recipes, that can not possibly give you the recommended nitrogen content per 1000 sq. ft. are written about because people are looking for away to save money on costly fertilizers. As such, we scour the Internet and when we come to a web page such as yours, there are numerous links to other sites that sell products. If we choose to buy a product generated from your website link, you get credit and make money. I just learned about affiliated marketing. I don’t mind that, what I do mind is people creating a solution to a problem that does not work, just to generate traffic. It’s a little disingenuous IMHO.
    Wouldn’t you agree?

    • I wouldn’t say that particular recipe doesn’t work – I just don’t think it’s practical – particularly on a large scale. I could see how someone would think it’s disingenuous, but I can’t say for sure why everyone searches this topic. I think we’ve adequately answered the concerns of anyone with the same motive as you though. Your questions have been great and I appreciate your interest. Check out this webpage:

      http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/organic/2002085416013761.html

      I think you’ll like it.

  13. why cant you use hydro seeding when reseeding? that is, dethatch and then spread seeds

    • I’m not sure I understand your question, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do that.

  14. Another Ammonia Hydroxide question for you:
    I am a surveyor who uses Ammonium Hydroxide (29.4%) for my blueprint machine. Over time, the solution becomes weak and I have to replace it with a new bottle. I have often wondered about using it in diluted form for lawn use (there are no additives in it). So, if I dilute it with a 4:1 or 5:1 (Water:Ammonium Hydroxide), and use it in your recipe, then it would be the appropriate strength, right?

    • Jeff,

      I think that’s correct. It sounds like a great way to recycle your supplies 😉

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