There is a huge difference between natural chemicals and synthetic chemicals.
Indeed, herbicides like atrazine are absolutely polluting all the ground water.
Scott's Weed and Feed sells it in their bags. It's an oxymoron. It's a big
money making machine. It's the big fat lie.
Synthetic is nothing, not even close to what you find in nature. Nature does
not have catalysts, synergists and the like.
So, wholesale condemnation will continue in the organic community. Why? Because
we know better, are usually better read than people who use synthetic practices
and the greatest of them all is WE DON'T BELIEVE THE BIG LIE.
I hear what you're saying. In the context we use the term chemicals,
"organic chemistry" would be an oxymoron.
Personally, I think it all goes back to Dow Chemical's use of the
slogan, "Better living through chemistry." I think you can be pretty
sure that they meant the chemicals they synthesized, and not those
occurring in nature.
I also think there is a belief that the uninitiated to whom we often
preach about chemicals are too likely to believe that the answer to all
their questions lie in the aisle at Home Depot that has the fertilizers
and herbicides, thinking the answer is just which bottle or bag at what
Also there is too much "bigger is better" in the world. Combine that
with "use first, read the directions later (if ever)", and there's a lot
of incentive to go overboard in our demonstrations that you don't get
"better gardens and lawns through chemistry."
I've often preached against the use of Weed 'n Feed, and extolled the
virtues of pulling weeds by hand. Yet if you access the information
grid, you'll find that my credit card has been occasionally used to buy
RoundUp. But I use it sparingly -- less intensively than the directions
say. (Yes, I did feel obligated to apologies and rationalize my
The trend in gardening is moving away from artificial methods, and to
more organic methods. In shorthand that has been reduced to "chemical
bad, organic good."
I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone here would say there is no use
in a gardening or on a lawn care for some synthesized chemicals, and I'm
very sure that everyone is aware that just because it's organic, it
doesn't do all good, and nothing but good.
I'm going to guess that our tenor is less severe than in some health
care forums where prescription drugs are evil, and organic remedies are
king. Those altitudes, and the "chemical bad, organic good" attitude you
see here are essentially backlashes to the assault lead by companies
(like Dow, but they're just one example) having the ears of the unwashed
for the past 40 years. Now the people have a soapbox in the Internet,
and dag nabbit, we're going to undo that 40 years of propaganda as
quickly as we can.
Well boys I got news, there is little if any need to stay on the
unsustainable path of "chemical" gardening. Recently the city of
Austin TX funded a study on turf grass and Texas A&M has changed their
fertilization recommendations there for the first time in 20 years.
Organic fertilizers produced better lawns. Hang on to your antiquated
views or stop the madness and become gardeners!
I thought that was DuPont's slogan.
Thought I'd add my couple pennies:
There is a difference between a substance produced in nature and the
same (by chemical structure) substance produced synthetically. The
difference is not really in the substance itself, but in the byproducts
of the production of the substance. Some things can be produced
synthetically without any problem, but others produce byproducts that
can be toxic. The trick is in knowing what substances are safely
As far as using "chemicals" on your garden, there is a place for them.
Chemical fertilizers certainly work, but since they are generally
soluble, they fall into the remedial, or quick-fix category. They will
perk up a plant, but they will leach out of the soil fairly soon. A
better option is to use fertilizers that hold the nutrients in place
until the plant roots act on them to release them. This includes compost
and composted manures. I know there are chemical fertilizers that
release slowly, but these are generally timed-release types: soluble
fertilizers encapsulated in polymers that release the nutrients in
response to water and ambient temperature, whether or not a plant is
there to use them.
Chemical herbicides or natural herbicides? Both can alter groundwater
quality. If you have to kill a weed, how about a hoe? If you have a weed
in your lawn, you can dig it up. In extreme cases, spot application of
herbicides will be the only thing that will work, but broadcasting weed
killer over your lawn is (1) wasting weedkiller and (2) contributing to
non-point-source water pollution.
OK, I can live with that. But how is a "chemical"/synthetic(?)
fertilizer substantially different (and bad) from what leaches out of
cow manure? If you need to add nitrogen, what *is* the problem with
ammonium nitrate in granules from a box or bag? Are any dolphins
killed in its preparation? Is the soil poisoned? I don't know much
about the manufacturing process -- I imagine it has *something* to do
with ammonia, and I might not want to work in the factory. I don't
want to work in an organic chicken-processing plant, either.
And this is bad? I *adore* compost and manure, and really use
practically no other soil amendments, but I don't think it's a crime
to do so. If "chemical" nutrients leach in/out of the soil, why don't
"organic ones"? Nitrogen is flippin' nitrogen. Compost improves tilth
and provides some minimal nutrients, and seems to make plants happy.
If there's a specific "chemical" deficiency in some particular plant,
what's the beef with adding a little of the "chemical" needed?
I agree absolutely. Particularly since I am taxed (currently) $45/yr
for "runoff" into the Bay. I don't wash my car; I don't water the lawn
(it's currently being drowned from "organic" sources :-) ; I have not
broadcast/sprayed any fertilizer, weedkiller, or insecticide on it in
over 15 years, *except* going after a few individual dandelions with
an extremely localized shot of foam weed-b-gon. And I have a pretty
nice-looking lawn. Lush and green in all but the most desperate
drought conditions. Evidently, grasses best-suited to the area and
conditions have taken over. I think there's probably some crabgrass in
there; clover; a persistent patch of ajuga in a shady spot; 2-3
buttercups. It gets mowed to a reasonable height every 10 days or so.
So why are all my green, sustainable, "organic" practices nullified
and I land in the organic celler when I advise a little weed-b-gon for
dandelions instead of digging them out year after year? MiracleGro is
a *very* handy fertilizer. I dig in compost and manure in large areas,
but occasionally supplement mid-season with this "chemical" rather
than removing all the plants and digging in more manure. I also use it
It *should* be pointed out that dribbling chemicals on plants or soil
is a short term fix, not a long term solution to poor soil. But it's
It's not all that complex. Natural and synthetic nitrogen are not the same.
One leaches right out of the soil, the other is carried by organic matter which
takes much longer to break down, thus, slow release instead of rapid release and
washing into the watershed.
You are not understanding the organic method. In the organic method we do not
feed plants, or make plants happy. We feed soil organisms which gives plants
nutrients slowly, over time, as they naturally decompose. Natural forms of
nitrogen break down slowly over time, as I said in my former paragraph. It also
carries with it organic matter. The soil biota ingests the organic matter and
makes is available to the root hairs. Synthetic nitrogen does not add anything
to the soil, and burns and kills soil biota with the amount of salts found in
the process. Thus, the synthetic cycle and thus how Scotts came to their 4 bag
a year "method" of turf fertilization.
If you want to fall for their synthetic treadmill, go ahead. I don't choose
that. I choose sustainable horticulture whereby the plants don't starve because
the soil is dead. When you use synthetic nitrogen, you are feeding the plants,
not the soil. That's the huge difference between conventional gardening vs.
organic method. I'll say it again; we don't feed the plants, we fertilize the
soil and the biota in the soil provides the plants with nutrients en masse. Not
simply traces, but the correct amount necessary for good, stiff, strong growth.
So why are you defending synthetic practices? Just to incite a riot? What?
I have no problem with container plants and synthetic fertilizer, but I always
suggest slow release Osmocote, or the like. And it's not us who nullified your
organic practices, it's YOU who did that when you used Weed B Gone.
Nobody said it was criminalistic. The problem is nobody dribbles it. They use
4 bags a year of it to the tune of many billions of pounds of it each year.
And, there is no regulation for what carries this synthetic fertilizer. It can
be any number of waste products, including those found in nuclear power plants.
And no, I will not cite the information, if you are interested, do the research.
I would love to give in to synthetic herbicides. If you think I love weeding
huge honkers of Johnson grass, you are sorely mistaken. I hold steadfast to
myself and the critters on this land...which I borrow from the owners, the
wildlife which was here way before I was.
I prefer to not mess with that. If you don't care, so be it. I do, as do many
others. Makes the world go around, I suppose.
I am in my first year in a new home and I am beginning to learn about the
trials and tribulations of lawn care. I opted for a lawn service because
of my lack of understanding and a desire to not lose the lawn in the
Before reading this thread I have come to the realization that
professional lawncare is a tread mill (I stop short of calling it a scam,
due to limited experience, but I will say I am very doubtful of the
methods and process).
The guy has come twice now and done his step 2 of a 5 step program.
Everywhere he fertilized has brown patch, which tells me he may have done
something wrong and upset the balance (it also has been wet and humid for
a few weeks now, so I could be off base). In any case, the cracks in my
faux peace of mind are beginning. I have a 6 month old daughter. I want
her to play on the lawn as I did when I was a kid and I am just worried
about those little colored pellets that lie around on the thatch. I would
love to understand how I can organically maintain my lawn. If organic is
the wrong word, then I simply do not want to dump sacks of godknows on my
lawn for godknowwhy reasons.
Can you maintain a beautiful lawn (forget beautiful, let's leave it at
"lawn") sans Scott's 4 step program?
Yes, if you have a mulching mower (or even if you don't have a mulching
mower and leave the clippings on the lawn). The tricks are proper
watering, so the grass sends its roots down instead of bunching up at the
surface, frequent mowing to the proper height to conserve moisture and not
stress the grass, and leaving the clippings. In the fall, mow at least
some of the leaves instead of raking them.
I like to fertilize *very* lightly in the spring and again in the fall with
cheap commercial fertilizer (*not* weed 'n' feed), but you probably have
enough fertilizer residue in your lawn from the chemlawn guy that you won't
need that for a few years.
But your lawn has had a dose of bad heroin (the chemical lawn service), and
its going through withdrawl now. Just give it lots of water and say nice
things to it for a while.
EUREKA! Intelligent life as a novice gardener! Congratulations on having an
open mind and using the brains.
Oh, they're doing 5 steps now? Wow. I remember when they started with this lie
and how the marketeers sold it across the nation. I can tell you without any
problem at all that, this 5 step crap is a scam.
I don't know where yo alive or what kind of grass you have, but I am more than
willing to give you a step by step method of taking care of turf which will
rival any other method the lawn jockeys can come up with. Where do you live,
what kind of grass? Start there.
Oh for goodness sake YES! The key points in management of turf is that you
water properly, aerate properly, mow properly and fertilize properly.
The moment you tell us where you live (no not the address!) I guarantee myself
and ten other people can easily tell you how to do it.
It is central Massachusetts. I am never sure whether I'm Zone 5 or 6 as I
seem to be on the line, slightly east of Worcester. Most of my lawn is
exposed to sun most of the day. I have about 17K sq feet of it, 50%
sloped. As best as I can tell, I have a blend of perennial ryegrass, tall
fescue and kentucky bluegrass. Lawn is 3 months old. It is cut weekly to
3 or 4 inches by a cutting crew. I have checked the cut blades and they
are square, so I think they do a good job. I plan to do that myself next
year when I can find the right tool for the job. As mentioned I have an
extensive outbreak of brown patch at the moment. The grass seems to be
recovering in the early patches and spread has ceased. If it recurs, I am
inclined to try the "cornmeal" approach. Other ideas welcome.
Thanks for you assistance. I am very serious about trying something
different. I do hear of people getting infested with grubs and losing the
whole lawn. I am especially curious to know if there are ways of dealing
with those things, aside from chemical pesticides?
*I* dribble it. I have been using the same 20 pound bag of low phosphorus
(15-5-10 I think) synthetic fertilizer on my front lawn (about 1000 square
feet) for about 5 years and haven't even used half of it. I mow with
mulching mower. I use 2,4-d in a squirt bottle and spot treat dandelions
and thistles. Other weeds I either pull up or leave and let the mower get
them. I don't fertilizer the back lawn at all (the dog does that).
I add compost to my garden to feed the soil, and I use a little miracle
grow to foliar feed my tomatoes and peppers. (I did use some of that lawn
fertilizer on my sweet corn this year, but that was unusual.)
Raising hand! You are not accurate about that. Not in my case. I don't use
any pesticides at all. I've been known to use Sunspray oil on one of my
maturing redbuds to save it from a major infestation of scale. That happened
due to the incredible stress it went through when it was dug up in Dallas,
replanted in Austin and, well, stress attracts pest insects.
Natural poisons are just as, if not more toxic than synthetic chemical
pesticides. Personally, I don't use any. I spend my dollars on compost. Good
quality compost which is made intentionally to have both fungal and bacterial
properties, as well as using mycorhizzae fungus at planting time.
Building the soil is how organic gardeners do their gardening. We don't try to
find better pesticides in nature, as much as we seek out and scientifically test
soil structure and texture for any given plant. The organic community is also a
large part of the Native Plant Society. I say that because chances are if you
grow native plants, with nice soil structure, or the soil they like to grow in,
natively, you don't have the problems the people on the synthetic cycle have.
Synthetic chemicals put people on a treadmill, much the way a gerbil runs and
runs on the running tunnel we provide for them to get exercise. That's what I
think of Monsanto, DowElanco and the like.
As a result of doing this very easy way of gardening, I have a tremendous
population of beneficial insects. Only 5% of all insects on the planet are not
beneficial. If we leave things alone, it really does work out.
One more thing which is part of the organic community; We don't try to force
the issue. For example: I have St. Augustine turf in the front of our home.
Every year I remove more and more of it, till I'm left with the turf which
doesn't require almost a thousand gallons of water a week. Each year when I
notice areas with cupping blades are removed the following fall or early spring
(which is February in my part of the world). I replace the turf with either
native forbs, grasses or trees with native ground cover.
So, I'm sure you know it is far more than standing on a soap box on the
Internet. It is the way to go. It's a great deal easier these days because
finally, the land grant U's are doing the testing on natural, organic materials
for use in the landscape. I know Texas A&M has released a study this year which
recommends of all the bagged fertilizers they used to conduct the study, the
8-2-4 found in both Sustane and LadyBug Brand far surpassed the synthetic
fertilizers. That's science, not wizardry.
Let me make sure you're raising your hand to the right thing. When I
said, "but I don't think anyone here would say there is no use
in a gardening or on a lawn care for some synthesized chemicals," I was
not speaking of the choice you make for your own garden. If you're
disagreeing with me, you'd be saying you don't believe that synthesized
chemicals have any use for anyone, anywhere in the entire disciplines of
gardening or lawn care.
If you meant to disagree with me so globally, then I stand corrected. I
would also then say I respect your choice for your garden, and I believe
you are generally in a good place. But I'd also have to call you an
extremist if you're saying that there is no one anywhere that has a
valid use for a synthesized chemical in caring for their lawn and
garden. And I'd have to point out that I find fundamental problems with
any extremist view, even if I agree with most of the doctrine.
Certainly my goal is to be as organic as practically possible. And I
respect those that personally go beyond what's practical because it's
what they believe is best, and advocate their beliefs. I don't respect
people who tell me that there is no room for dissenting opinion in the
Mother Teresa didn't expect everyone to be just like her and do
everything she did.
Mother Theresa? What does she have to do with this? Oh a metaphor...I guess?
Anyway, here is where I stand. There is no NEED for anyone, anywhere to use
synthetic methods to grow food, turf, or trees. No NEED. I didn't say NO USE.
I would argue that The Gallo Wine Vineyards are some of the largest vineyards in
the world and supply may millions of gallons of wine. They are strictly
organic, certified. In other words, they don't' NEED to use anything other than
This takes time to learn, and my take on it is that most people are not willing
to learn how, so they rationalize what they are doing. It's not only in
gardening, it's in all walks of life.
If someone comes to me and asks me a question, but doesn't like my answer, that
person will ask ten more people till they find the answer they are looking to
hear. It's no different with people who garden.
It's not a matter of character. It's a matter of responsibility. If you don't
agree, that's really fine. We'll have to disagree. However, your "doctrine"
is just as "fundamental" as mine, so keep that in mind.
I know what you want, but that's not how it works. If you are talking to
people who agree with your every practice you will get slack. If you are
talking to people who disagree with you, you may get slack. Certainly nobody
character assassinated you, did they? If it appeared that way, I sincerely
I don't have a garden. I am a gardener. Maybe that's the difference. I do love
to garden. I love when I come in from a day of gardening and I can hardly move
from stiffness in every joint and muscle. I love feeling the soil, having the
lizard stare me down, seeing a snake squiggle by. That's church to me.
It's not church to everyone. But, people who have adapted sound organic methods
in gardening cannot and will not tolerate anything less. So, give ME some
slack. Maybe it only works in one direction, not sure.
I'm not sure why you would say that. Nothing you've quoted is anything
I've written, and I've positioned myself a little left of the middle
ground in my support for organic gardening as much as pracitical.
Now if you want me to get started about how top-posting is wrong, I
could spin quite a manifesto.
There are a few off-the-deep-end "organic" folks. Personally, I am
not one of them. I use products available to me at reasonable cost,
but I do preach about reading and following all the directions on the
container. I've tried "organic methods" and sometimes they work,
other times they are not very effective at all. For example, I hate
pulling weeds and I use Weed-B-Gone and Spectricide in small amounts
with spot treating. Never have I spread weed killer over my entire
lawn, although the directions say you can--it is not necessary in most
cases. I've tried going completely "organic" on my rose garden, and
the methods of natural aphid-control and black-spot control were
unfortunately not successful for me at all, but I gave it a try
anyway. BTW, I have a praying mantis that has been living on my
hydrangea for the past two months and this exceptional specimen has
been chemical-free for the last two years feeding on compost and a
little rotted manure.
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