Grow a stronger, deeper lawn with organic fertilizers

By Ryan Cornell

While it’s true that “you are what you eat,” the same could be said about your lawn.

Homeowners who feed their lawn an organic fertilizer rather than a synthetic one are likely to see their grass grow stronger and deeper roots as well as minimize the risk of burn during the summer.

Lauren Eyer is an associate brand manager for Safer Brands, which produces a line of organic fertilizers.

She said many organic fertilizers are made from bone meal, poultry feather meal and plant-based materials such as soybean hulls — ingredients far safer than synthetic fertilizers for people and pets, not to mention the microbiology that lives underground.

She compared the chemicals in synthetic fertilizers to a human diet.

“If you’re constantly feeding your body when it starts to get tired, feeding it cups of coffee or energy drinks, it’s not good,” Eyer said. “Where if you eat a nutritional diet, you’re not stuck on caffeine, you’re treating your body for the long run.”

Unlike synthetic fertilizers that only focus on the lawn’s roots, she said organic fertilizers treat the soil itself and helps the grass establish a deeper and stronger root system, which makes it more drought-resistant.

That means the lawn can hold in nutrients for longer periods of time and requires less watering, which can cut down on the utility bill and save water when demand is at its peak.

She said she’s seen demand for organic fertilizers skyrocket as people grow increasingly aware of the negative consequences of using chemical fertilizers.

“I don’t think it’s a fad,” she said. “I think it’s here to stay and I think more and more people are going to adopt that healthier, organic lifestyle.”

Terry Fogle, co-owner and retail manager of Fort Valley Nursery, has also noticed this spike in popularity over the past five years.

Before then, there were very few organic fertilizers on the market, he said, while these days he gets catalogs “chock-full” of different manufacturers.

“I think there’s certainly more of an awareness out there about taking care of the environment, and to also be better for your plants, I think that’s a win-win situation,” he said.

He said many organic fertilizers offer a slow release that feeds plants over a longer period of time and contains micronutrients such as manganese and iron that other fertilizers lack.

“It’s more duplicated in nature as far as what plants would be feeding on naturally,” he said. “I think that’s always good.”

Inorganic fertilizers are also more likely to cause burn in plants because they’re so high in nitrogen, he added.

“There’s huge environmental advantages to using organics and one of them certainly is you tend to get some runoff with some of the inorganics,” Fogle said.

“The organics tie into the soil better, doesn’t run off and doesn’t provide those high amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen that can cause lots of problems in our waterways.”

The Woodstock nursery and garden center carries a variety of organic plant fertilizers from The Espoma Company.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com