What's the Difference Between Organic and Regular Fertilizers?

Written by Angie's List staff
Updated June 15, 2021
front lawn
Learn how to have a green lawn using organic fertilizer. (Photo by Lucas McDonough)

Lawn care expert says organic methods can be safer for homeowners to use because over-application won't harm the lawn. It may be worth it to make the switch.

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Charles King started his lawn care company, King Green in 1987, after spending 11 years in the industry with another company. The family-run business in Gainesville, Georgia, recently expanded its offerings to include organic lawn care.

Here he offers insight into the use of organic lawn care treatments by explaining the difference between those and regular treatments:

"The organic product we use is granular pellets made from processed, pasteurized poultry litter, so it's environmentally sound and safe.

"Most organic lawn fertilizers are more well balanced than normal fertilizers because they're produced from living organisms and contain all the nutrients a plant needs, including those needed in smaller supply like iron, copper, and zinc.

"Regular fertilizer mostly contains significant amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, which are the three main nutrients a lawn needs to stay healthy.

"Organic fertilizer is more expensive and it has a smaller concentration of these nutrients in each bag, so you have to put down more to have the same effect, and we have to charge more for it.

"We price by the size of the lawn to be treated, so it's best to get an estimate. Our minimum charge is $38 per treatment and a full program usually consists of up to seven applications throughout the year.

"Organic treatments are also strictly fertilizer. If you're going with organic lawn care, your lawn will have some weeds, because you can't kill them without chemicals.

"You also won't have the grass monoculture you might be used to seeing with a very clean lawn. There are also no organic fungicides to treat disease, and no organic insecticides to eliminate pests.

"As far as maintaining a green color, we can get the lawn the same color with an organic fertilizer as we can with our normal fertilizers, although it might take longer.

"It's not as efficient in the short term, but organic fertilizer releases its nutrients more steadily over time, which means they'll help the plant longer.

"Organic methods can also be safer for homeowners to apply because there's no risk of it burning or killing the lawn if it's spilled or overapplied.

"With proper watering and mower height, and a thick healthy lawn, you can prevent a lot of weeds. The majority of our area's grass is Bermuda, but because we're in a transitional climate zone, we also have a lot of fescue grass.

"For Bermuda grasses, you want to mow at a height of 2 inches or less, and fescues should be mowed at 3 to 4 inches.

"The mowing height matters because if mowed properly, the turf should be able to shade out weeds, making control easier.

"When it comes to watering, you don't want to water every day for 10 minutes. You should water about once a week for about an hour. That encourages the roots to grow deeper down into the soil. That way it can ride out the dry periods."

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