Organic vs. Chemical

kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)June 16, 2006

Someone had to do it.

Can I have as beautiful, lush, green and healthy a lawn using organic practices as I can using a chemical program? Are there any shortcomings to organic practices?

Conversely, do chemical programs (quick release high nitrogen fert, broad spectrum herbicides, pre-emergent hebicides, insecticides) give a "quick fix" to more immediate problems at the long term expense of the overall health of my micro-herd and lawn?

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Dear The Someone,

Thank you very much for your inquiry. I donÂt mind weighing in on this issue. I do believe it is possible to have a nice looking lawn without the use of pesticides. However, there are several factors that must be considered before we judge this issue entirely. First, it is easier to achieve this goal in gentler climates where conditions for grass growth are favored as opposed to areas where it is going to be a hardscrabble. Second, you notice I said nice looking lawn. The idea of perfect (which of course is always in the eyes of the beholder) is very challenging here and the better goal is probably acceptable for the neighborhood.

Third, above actually the other two listed first, is the total commitment to absolutely following the four other cultural practices to the letter, mowing, fertility, irrigation, and cultivation. If these practices are out of balance (and in most cases they are), the weed population will begin to flourish as weeds are simply opportunists and are really an effect of poor turf management, not the cause. One issue with using the cultural practices only in your lawn can be patience. It will likely take more than one season to achieve your goals and the question is do you have time or patience to wait? One bit of research I have followed by my colleagues has been what we call the Âresetting the clock approach, and it does seem to be working. In this instance the weeds are controlled in a Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass stand with a herbicide on day 0 and then cultural practices of proper mowing (higher height and follow the one-third rule) and adequate nitrogen fertilizer showed that after four years there was less than 2% weed cover. Obviously this is dedication to the cultural practices, but I feel it works well and do recommend it for those who do not want to use any herbicides. (It means using one at the beginning but not afterwards for many years.)

There you have it. My official weigh-in on the issue. Again, thanks for the question and let me know if you have more.


Trey Rogers
The Yard Doctor

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 8:21AM
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