Lawn care experts explain synthetic, organic fertilizer

Lawn care experts explain synthetic, organic fertilizer

We asked three highly rated lawn fertilization companies on Angie's List about the benefits of organic lawn care.

Lawn fertilization experts

Matt Cellura, Columbus branch manager, Good Nature Organic Lawn Care, Dublin, Ohio,

Robert DeBonis, owner,Chesapeake Lawn Science, Silver Spring, Md.,

Ladd Smith, co-owner, In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes, Bothell, Wash.,

Smith: The organic lawn care approach is built on the food web and working with nature. Organic fertilizers feed the soil organisms, which then feed the plants. Chemical processes start to do harm to those beneficial organisms and disrupt the natural process. You're doing long-term harm by using chemicals instead of organic fertilization. Once the plant system is set up and healthy, you can use fewer products and won't have to keep up as much of a regimen.

DeBonis: Organics increase microbial activity in the soil, which helps eat up and decompose thatch faster and makes it less susceptible to summer fungus.

Are "environmentally friendly" and "organic" lawn fertilization and care the same thing? What are some of the differences?

Cellura: There is really no definition for "environmentally friendly." I think you need to ask what is in the product and/or how was it made. As far as I know, there aren't any standards for labeling lawn care products, so it's important to read labels and ingredients.

Smith: Many companies are trying to be green, but it's becoming a way to market themselves. Customers need to do their research and figure out how the company operates — whether they're being true to the green standards or just using it to get new customers.

What are the pros and cons of synthetic versus organic fertilizers?

DeBonis: The advantage to synthetic fertilizer is that it releases into the soil over a two- or three-month period of time. You can go longer between applications. True organics also don't cover anywhere near as much an area. I generally offer my customers a 50/50 blend — half organic and half synthetic. I'll apply all organic if they want, although it will take more applications. It's worth it. In the long run, you'll have healthier, thicker lawns.

Cellura: Organic fertilizers take longer to work and may initially cost more than chemicals. Chemical fertilizers are water-soluble and run off, causing pollution in our waterways.

What are some things homeowners can do to care for their lawns in a more environmentally friendly fashion?

Smith: Mow the lawn high. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn after you mow it. The pure nitrogen in the clippings helps feed the soil and reduces the amount of fertilization you need to do.

DeBonis: You want to regularly thicken the turf, such as with overseeding and aeration, to increase competition for root space. It's harder for weeds to grow around thick roots as compared to open areas.

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