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The Lawn Debate

My friend Virginia Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer posted this article today. It offers both sides of the issue with regard to lawn care: http://www.philly.com/philly/home/gardening/51373677.html

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • LawnCanada

    I work in the lawn care industry using natural organic products as well as chemical pesticides and herbicides. Call me nieve but is a “natural” product like Milargonite any safer than using an NPK, mineral, slow release fertilizer.

    • Paul Tukey

      You bring up a great point, Erik. Not all “organic” or “natural” products are necessarily great, or safe. The issue, though, is that it’s difficult to have it both ways in gardening. The NPK in synthetic fertilizer often burns soil organisms to death. Organic approaches to soil management depend on the organisms being there. Synthetic fertilizers are also more prone to leaching out of the soil and into the groundwater or surface water, or volatizing outright. Organic fertilizers become part of the soil.

      Milorganite comes from the public sewer system in Milwaukee and that city in particular does a good job of trying to separate out heavy metals from industrial waste from the human waste stream. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that pathogens in human waste are never good to put into fertilizer.

      I don’t fundamentally think Milorganite is a bad product and I know it makes lawns green. I don’t have any studies to point to saying it is bad. I do, however, believe there are better organic fertilizers out there.

      One of my big arguments against synthetic NPK is all the nutrients required to manufacture the stuff in a laboratory. Every time we manufacture synthetic nitrogen, we are throwing Mother Nature more and more out of balance. The relative amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere was fixed for billions of years until the Haber-Bosch process came along in 1913. Since then, all the excess nitrogen has really screwed up the environment by contributing to global warming, algae and fungal blooms etc.

  • Craig

    Hi Paul
    I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and have been reading as much as I can about organic lawn care. I have found your articles to be very informative and I always look forward to your blog posts. I do however have trouble finding organic products here in Winnipeg that you discuss in your articles. So my question is this, I use an “organic” lawn fertilizer called ‘Myke’. Have you hear of this? Is it really a good organic alternative to chemical fertilizers? Myke is produced by Premier Tech Biotechnologies and this is their website: http://www.usemyke.com/mycorise/gardening/lawn/fertiliserfa/flawnfaf.htm

    I would love to hear your opinion on this product.

    Thanks.

    • Paul Tukey

      Myke was, in fact, an early supporter of my television show known as People, Places & Plants with Roger Swain. If it weren’t for Myke, it’s safe to say we might never have gotten the show off the ground. It’s been a pioneering company, trying to promote mycorrhizal fungi when nobody else even knew what what the stuff was. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Myke.

  • LawnCanada

    Does a slow release fertilizer promote brown patch or other fungi??? Would it also promote winter kill on zoysia???

    • Paul Tukey

      Erik,
      Regarding brown patch, the answer would be, in short, depends. Fungal diseases are often a result of too much nitrogen or too much moisture. A slow-release 32-10-20, for example, would be too much nitrogen, even if it’s slow-release.

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