Organic products are popular, even for turfgrass. This segment looks at some of the main differences between organic and synthetic lawn fertilizers. No matter what you choose, it's important to use the right amount of fertilizer at the right time in order to have a lush, green lawn.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at:

Organic Fertilizer - Is it Better?

We’re moving toward organic products more and more. And, it’s no different for lawns and landscaping. It’s much more common to go to a lawn and garden center and find organic products on the shelf.

The main difference between this and your typical lawn fertilizer, which is derived from a synthetic source, is that organic products are derived from plants or animals. Plant sources that most of our fertilizers come from tend to be alfalfa-based, cottonseed oil-based, or soybean meal are the type of plant materials. When it comes to animal materials, it’s more manures.

One of the drawbacks that come from applying organic fertilizers is that most all of them are in a slow release form. Unlike some synthetic fertilizers that are quick release, they’re water soluble, they can quickly be utilized by the plant. Most all of our organic products have to be broken down over time by organisms to a form that can be utilized by the turf.

So, that would be one disadvantage to the organics is that there aren’t many in a quick-release form. And often for our fall fertilizer applications, we prefer something that’s a little bit quicker release. But they’re still very useful for September fertilizer applications. And, there is one product that is a quick release organic, and that’s blood meal.

Usually the nutrient analysis tends to be lower than a synthetic product. For instance, this product is a 3-1-5. A lot of our synthetic lawn products are something like a 25-3-3. So, what that means is that you have to apply more product per square footage in order to get the same amount of nitrogen desired during application time.

When it comes to the type of fertilizer – organic or synthetic – it’s really getting the nutrient down in the right amount at the right time. So, there isn’t an advantage in using one versus the other.

This feature story prepared with Chelsey Wasem, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

Horticulture Newsletter

KSU Horticulture Newsletter

Get more information from our weekly newsletter.

Find Your Local Office

Have questions or need help?

Local Extension Office Map

Click the map to find your Local Extension Office.

YouTube Videos

YouTube Videos

Watch K-State Research and Extension Videos.

Kansas Healthy Yards Tagline