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Fertilizer fast facts for a beautiful lawn

Posted: May 29, 2009 9:10 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Get the facts on fertilizers and make the right choice for your lawn.

The set of numbers on each bag shows the amount of three key nutrients for grass health — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. So a bag with the numbers 20-10-10 contains 20 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 10 percent potassium. The remaining 60 percent is inert and filler material that helps transmit the nutrients to the plant.

Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured through chemical processes or from chemically altered deposits.

They typically have more nitrogen and work quickly to generate fast growth and “green up.” Concerns include potential health risks due to exposure, environmental consequences of run-off and of their production processes.

Organic fertilizers are usually derived from plant and animal sources. They have less nitrogen and phosphorus than synthetics, so they work more slowly. But, over time, they tend to promote more even growth and healthier soil underneath.

Because there are no national standards yet, it can be tricky to find truly organic lawn products. Look for a seal that says “OMRI Listed.”

The Organic Materials Review Institute is a nonprofit organization that checks products against the National Organic Standards.

Always read and follow product labels carefully before using fertilizer and other lawn products.

Improper use can damage soil life and affect waterways.



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