The Difference Between Chemical and Organic Lawn Fertilizer

The debate over chemical versus organic lawn fertilizers is still going strong.  Many state that using chemical-based products is damaging to the environment, soil and ground water.  Others argue that organic fertilizers simply don’t have the nutrient mixture needed for the healthiest, most attractive lawns.  How do you know which one is best for your grass?  And how can you tell the difference between these two types of fertilizer?

What Are Chemical Fertilizers?

These fertilizers are made with inorganic materials and are specially formulated to contain the proper mixture of nutrients.  Generally they also contain acids that can be harmful to the microorganisms deep down in the soil, which will in turn be harmful to plant growth.  The benefits of chemical fertilizers is that they are easy to spread and store, making them much more commercially viable than their organic counterparts.

The Difference in Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are made with organics, as the name suggests.  By-products of natural materials and mixtures of various organics are used as a fertilizer both for lawns and gardens.  Manure is a popular choice, although it should be composted beforehand to reduce odor and the concentration of nutrients.

There are a few reasons why people opt out of organic fertilizers, despite the environmental benefits.  They can be difficult to spread, sometimes requiring special machinery, and may have a distinct odor.  Often they contain a concentration of one of the three important nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) instead of a well balanced mixture as the chemical-based products do.  This can make them ineffective or even harmful to the grass in certain circumstances.

How To Tell the Difference

Check out the ingredient list on your fertilizer for the first indication.  Often a chemical-based fertilizer will use organics in the mixture, but at the core they are still mainly chemical and contain all of the risks associated with that type.

Consider the source as well.  The local farmer down the street will usually be providing organic fertilizers.  Retail stores often have the chemical type, although during the peak season they may also carry organic varieties.  Keep in mind that organic fertilizers do not have the shelf life that inorganic types do, so they will only be available for a certain period of time.

In most cases organic fertilizers are less expensive, although that isn’t a hard and fast rule.  You can also attempt to make your own using compost from your own non-diseased yard waste and kitchen scraps.

The right type of fertilizer depends on the needs of your lawn and your own personal preference.  Investigate the effects, cost and application of each one and make the best decision based on your grass.

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