Many homeowners don’t think twice about picking up a container of everyday lawn fertilizer at their favorite home goods or department store. They believe that fertilizing is part of everyday lawn maintenance and that fertilizers, for the most part, are all the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case and that store bought lawn fertilizer could be doing your lawn more harm than good. Here’s what you should know before you buy.
What’s in a Store Bought Fertilizer?
Fertilizer is a product designed to promote plant growth. Some fertilizers claim to be specifically designed for flowers, some are made specifically for vegetables and fruits, and still others are marketed as lawn fertilizers that will help your grass grow thick and green. Lawn fertilizers are some of the most common of all of these, but they are also some of the most dangerous. Ingredients like nitrates, phosphorus, and potassium must be mined, and in some cases, they are even synthesized from oil products. Nitrogen is often made from ammonia, and in the case of slow-release fertilizers (which claim to make lawn maintenance easier), that ammonia is mixes with other chemicals like urea, formaldehyde, sulfur, and others.
Do These Chemicals Work?
When it comes to store-bought lawn fertilizer, the most important thing to remember is to use it as directed. Applying more fertilizer than you need can be harmful in many ways. According to a publication from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fertilizer runoff can harm fish, result in an excess of nutrients in local rivers and lakes, and more. Researchers from the University of Vermont have also found that excessive fertilizer can put too many nutrients in the groundwater, which makes it difficult for municipalities to properly treat it. In some places, this can result in higher water rates for residents.
What About Alternatives?
For the most part, unless the soil in your lawn is deficient in one or more minerals that your lawn needs to thrive, you do not need to use a fertilizer at all. Good lawn care practices – mowing late in the day as opposed to during the morning hours, avoiding cutting your lawn too short, and others – will go a long way toward promoting thick, lush, green growth. What’s more, rather than bagging up your clippings, consider leaving them in the lawn. As the organic matter decays, it provides “food” for the new growth, and this may very well be all the fertilizer you need. If you do need to purchase fertilizer, be sure to buy an organic green option.
How to Make the Switch
One of the worst things you can do for your lawn is to suddenly stop using your store bought fertilizer. Like anything else, you will need to wean the lawn off the fertilizer and by replacing one quarter of your current fertilizer with the new one. With each application, replace another quarter until you have completely weaned the lawn from the synthetic fertilizer. Other options include organic lawn additives, which include corn gluten meal, and a variety of organic products that contain only one or two specific nutrients that your lawn needs.
Although millions of homeowners across the country apply traditional lawn fertilizers to their yards every single year, the truth is that these products contain chemicals that can easily enter lakes, streams, rivers, and even groundwater, where they can cause numerous issues. To avoid this, you can start by replacing your store bought fertilizer with an organic, all-natural alternative, and for the best possible lawn care, consider hiring a professional.