The main difference between an organic lawn care, and a chemical lawn, is that, organically you feed the soil. Chemically you feed the plant. Another difference is chemically lawns are not safe because of the products used to keep them green. On average, an organic lawn will not need to be fertilized after 5 years. Once the pH, organic matter, and cation exchange capacity in the soil are corrected to grow healthy grass, then the grass will grow with minimal outputs. How do I know? After 12 years in the organic lawn care business, I’ve learned that after you have a well managed soil, grass can grow without the need of fertilizer applications. It will grow without the need of lime applications. It will grow without the use of pesticides.
Once we have a healthy microbiology population in the soil, those microbes will bring the pH back to neutral. They will increase to Organic Matter content. Earthworms will also help increase organic matter, and they will aerate your lawn. Nematodes will take care of the grubs. Compost tea will help fighting diseases if you are transitioning from chemicals. In general, organic makes sense. It takes time (3-5 years), but it will save you time and money in the long run. Think of it like a morgage in your house. You are investing in something. You are putting money into something tangible that will ultimately save you time, money, and will let you enjoy your lawn and/or garden. Chemical is more like renting a green space, that you can never fully enjoy, because of its perpetual maintenance. You are forced to use every year, multiple chemical applications to fix the problems caused by the previous applications. For example, you use crabgrass control, but you never fix the soil, and the crabgrass comes back every year. You put, broadleaf control, but the dandelions keep coming back every year. You put grub control, but the grubs keep coming back every year. Doesn’t this sound familiar? How many times did you have to apply the same products, to treat the same problems?
Organic lawn care and chemical differences
Another difference between organic and chemical, is that chemical fertilizers have the potential to burn the grass. Too much fertilizer, and you will have dead grass. Also, you will have fertilizer runoff . Organic fertilizers are for the most part, non water soluble, so you can put more fertilizer than recommended, and the grass will not be burned. You will, however waste a lot of product by applying excessive amounts of organic fertilizer.
Another common problem with Chemical companies, is that they treat every lawn the same. They will apply the same products to every single property they maintain. They will put the same type of products to every lawn, regardless if the product is needed or not. The products used on an organic lawn, are based on the soil test results. So, every property is maintained differently. Every year I get on the mail different brochures from chemical companies advertising their lawn care programs. They offer different packages, depending on how much products I am willing to pay. They are just concerned in selling me products. Organic, is a systems approach. You only use what the lawn needs. You always start with a soil test, and add products according to the soil results.
The main problem I see with chemical lawn care companies is their incompetence. Most lawn care technicians simply don’t know what they are doing. The rely so much on a specific product and schedule, that they don’t know how to solve problems. They will hydro seed in the middle of the summer, or they will mow the lawn every week, regardless of the weather conditions. Too much chemical fertilizer can damage, and kill the grass, if it is not done properly. Over fertilization is a big problem with chemical laws. Petroleum based products are water soluble, so you need water to decompose the product.
Lastly, chemical lawns need to be watered on a regular basis? Organic lawns can rely on Mother Nature to do all the watering. According to the EPA – 30-50% of urban fresh water is used for watering lawns.
So, in the Spring, before you start applying chemical fertilizers, think if it makes sense to keep wasting money and product to treat symptoms, instead of fixing problems.