Fertilizers Are Not Helping Your Lawn

The fertilizers you buy at any big box store all have one thing in common; they're extremely high in synthetic nitrogen. It makes sense when you consider that nitrogen is a crucial nutrient required for plant growth and development. Traditional fertilizers have leaned heavily on nitrogen, often to the detriment of the overall soil system and the surrounding ecosystem. 

However, there's an alternative to the traditional approach. Using a combination of low nitrogen inputs and nitrogen-fixing plants in your lawn offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to nitrogen based fertilizers. These unique plants possess the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form, benefiting both themselves and surrounding vegetation. In this blog, we explain what nitrogen-fixing plants are, how they are beneficial to your lawn,, and the advantages they hold over nitrogen fertilizers.

Nitrogen fixation is the process by which certain plants and microorganisms convert atmospheric nitrogen gas into ammonium - a form of nitrogen that plants can utilize. This extraordinary ability is made possible by the presence of symbiotic bacteria known as rhizobia, which form nodules on the roots of clover and other nitrogen-fixing plants. These bacteria reside within these nodules and convert nitrogen gas into ammonia through a series of enzymatic reactions.

There are various types of nitrogen-fixing plants, including legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils), members of the Fabaceae family, as well as other non-leguminous species like alder trees and certain tropical plants. Legumes have an established symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria, allowing them to efficiently fix nitrogen. These plants are known to improve soil fertility and enhance agricultural productivity.

The most common nitrogen fixing plant found in lawns is white clover. Often considered a weed, clover can be highly resistant to disease and drought, helping your lawn stay green in the harshest of conditions. Until WWII it was often planted alongside turfgrass in lawns.

white clover

Using nitrogen-fixing plants instead of nitrogen fertilizers offers numerous benefits for both the environment and agricultural practices.

Nitrogen fertilizers contribute to water pollution because fertilizer adds pure nitrogen to the soil, without the beneficial organisms that typically anchor it in place. So when it rains, large amounts of nitrogen leach into water bodies, polluting the water and leading to harmful algal blooms. Loose nitrogen on the soil is also more prone to volatilization, releasing huge amounts of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. Nitrogen-fixing plants help mitigate this issue by reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers, thus minimizing nitrogen runoff.

Synthetic fertilizers actually work to erode your soil quality. High doses of nitrogen are a shock to the delicate soil system, which is rich in life and beneficial microorganisms. Adding nitrogen can irritate earthworms, which end up dying or leaving. It disrupts the helpful fungus on plant roots, and changes the pH, making it inhospitable to beneficial bacteria. In short, it kills the soil. When the nitrogen is used up or washed away, the organisms aren’t there to add more, so you’re forced to add more nitrogen, which turns into a vicious cycle. 

Nitrogen-fixing plants enrich the soil by adding organic matter, and increasing nitrogen levels naturally. This enhances soil fertility, structure, and nutrient availability, creating a favorable environment for the growth of other crops.


nitrogen fixation

But the benefits of nitrogen fixing plants do not start and end on your lawn. Consider the overall carbon footprint of fertilizer production. The production of nitrogen fertilizers is an energy-intensive process that uses petroleum, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. By utilizing nitrogen-fixing plants, we can significantly reduce our reliance on energy-intensive fertilizers, thereby decreasing their carbon footprint.

Nitrogen-fixing plants represent a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to nitrogen fertilizers. Through their unique ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form, they offer significant benefits for the environment, agriculture, and even cost-effectiveness. By incorporating these plants into a fertilizer routine that utilizes low nitrogen inputs, we can foster a more sustainable approach to food production while reducing the ecological impact of nitrogen fertilizers on our planet.

All of our Lawnbright plans utilize a fraction of the nitrogen found in every other lawn care routine on the market. Our system has been refined and developed over several years, and incorporates all of the elements of a sustainable and responsible lawn care routine. This includes nitrogen fixating plants, low maintenance turfgrass, and inputs that help build a healthy soil microbiome. Check out our plans and get started today by taking the quiz on our homepage. 

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