I hope I'm not going to start a big mess, but I had a question. I've
read lots about the opinion of many in this group that the pesticides
used by lawn services and in Weed and Feed products are bad news. I
don't need to be sold on that one; I have a very young son who will be
playing on that grass next year, and whether 2,4D's danger is confirmed
or not, I don't plan to take any chances. Regarding danger, is the
same true for the actual granular fertilizer (without weed/insect
I've read up on organic gardening as well, and what I've read indicates
that I should build healthy dense turf to choke out weeds (a
no-brainer). They recommend applying 1/4 to 1/2" of compost to the
lawn twice a year as fertilizer. I've got 12,000 sq ft of lawn though,
and by my figuring that's about 20 to 40 cubic yards of compost each
year. I don't want to say that's infeasible, but that's still several
trips by delivery truck (or several more in my pickup) each time, not
to mention the expense. Is the general consensus that chemical
fertilizers themselves are bad, or is it the herbicides and
insecticides that often accompany them?
Whoever is mowing should mow at a high setting and let the clippings
This means they have to use a sharp blade and cut fairly often.
You don't apply fertilizer without first doing a soil test and
correcting the pH and then you apply fertilizer at the rate the soil
I don't care what type of fertillizer you use it is still going to go
down in pounds of nutrient per 1000 sq ft
Never mind what the goose step four step guys on the commercials are
Your math is off by about a factor of 2. Still 9 to 18 yards are a lot
of compost is a lot. I would guess that you don't need nearly that
much. The chemical fertilizers have not been accused of creating health
problems except for those who insist on organic foods.
Well, I was talking about applying twice a year, and I was quoting the
yearly figure, so I _think_ its right. Either way, that's (literally)
tons of compost...
I've been thinking about just applying some compost to my front yard,
to please my neighbors, since that soil up there is dismal quality. As
the first respondent said, I'll need to get my soil tested as well.
That's a lot of compost! Certainly, yearly topdressing is a wonderful
thing, but unless you have access to high quality, reasonably priced
compost, that could become pretty expensive. I inherited an atrocious lawn
when I purchased a ca. 1952 home-- the lawn had probably *never* been
dethatched/core aerated and the turf looked like it. That first year I
dethatched/core aerated, used a pre-emergent to at least get a handle on
the weeds, and then used a yearly regimen of overseeding, fertilizing, core
aerating, and spot weeding until now, 5 years later, I have a pretty fine
looking lawn. For a yearly feeding schedule, I use Espoma's excellent
manual available at http://www.espoma.com/content.aspx?type=gp&id=4
Note that you don't have to use Espoma products for the schedule, you can
use comparable organic brands.
With regard to your last question, the general concensus is that the source
of fertilizer is somewhat irelevant-- grass doesn't know if nitrogen is
coming from manure or from 'the blue stuff' you find in Miracle Grow--
however, synthetic nitrogen sources are usually exceedingly 'hot' (as in
the case of Scott's Weed and Feed), so you get a big unhealthy kick of
nutrients that green up your lawn quickly. A more modest approach is better
for longterm health of the turf.
David J. Bockman, Fairfax, VA (USDA Hardiness Zone 7)
I second the Espoma product, it's reasonably priced, for the two
applications I do a year, spring and mid-fall. My lawn is lush and
green, and doesn't grow like crazy (like grass does when it's hit with
ChemLawn or Scotts).
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
Read the label. I would not allow a child to play in the grass after
any fertilizer application, until after a rain.
Chemical fertilizers are not bad if used properly. Organic
fertilizers could contain harmful bacteria and/or heavy metals. I use
both inorganic (3x a year) and organic (one time per year)
applications to my lawn. If you use a mulching mower, you
automatically and safely return nitrogen to the lawn. With herbicides
and insecticides, follow the label directions and use common sense.
Organic fertilizers can cause burns if you get the granules in your eye or
they contact any mucous membranes. Therefore you shouldn't let the kids on
the lawn until the fertilizer has been watered in.
The issue many people have with organic fertilizers is that they are often
applied incorrectly because people don't bother to read the label. The
excessive nutrients then wash off and enter streams where they can cause
problems. They are probably more of an environmental hazard than a personal
Compost actually has little nutrient value. Its primary value is
in improving the structure of the soil. Good compost (home-grown)
also contains soil bacteria that help break down fertilizers
(organic or synthetic) into the forms that can be used by plant
roots. If your lawn does not seem to respond to fertilize, top
with compost. This should be necessary only once.
I buy whatever off-brand lawn food that is the cheapest in terms of
dollars per pound of nitrogen. Nitrogen is the key nutrient
because it breaks down and is leached away the quickest. However,
I would not recommend a nitrogen-only fertilizer (e.g., ammonium
sulfate) for a lawn unless a soil test shows there is already
sufficient phosphorus and potassium.
With a chemical fertilizer, take the time to feed only half as much
as recommended but twice as often (unless it is already formulated
as slow-release). This ensures a more constant availability of
nutrients, avoids burning the lawn, and does not overwhelm the soil
When feeding, you can mix the fertilizer with soil sulfur (for
alkaline soil) or lime (for acidic soil). If your soil is clay,
you can also mix with gypsum. I would do this only in repsonse to
a soil test. Note: If you are an organic gardener, there are
natural sources of sulfur, lime, and gypsum that should be
General fertilizers are good for your lawn and environment if they are
spread properly and watered in. I don't like to use weed and feed
You can use a regular fertilizer on your lawn. I reccomend CIL Golf
Green. This is a slow release product which will feed over an extended
period of time.
In the auttumn use CIL winterizer to harden the grass for winter and
increase disease resistance.
Water it in well. Your son can play on the lawn after the watering
with out any ill effects.
It would take one hour with a fertilizer spreader to fertilize all of
your lawn and 6 hours of watering to water it in.
There are no nutrients in compost and it needs free Nitrogen to
decompose. Plus it would be very expensive to buy four dump truck
loads every year. The labour of spreading and working in the compost
would entail 3 days work.
Do not use Weed and feed if you have no weeds. I reccomend that you
use 2' 4-D according to the instructions if you have weeds in the
A lawn service company will do an excellent job of weed control and
fertilizing. The grass is safe to play on after it dries.
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