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  • Matt Keenan

What lawn care professionals don't want you to know

Early fertilizer apps

As soon as the snow melts professional lawn care services are out fertilizing lawns to give their customers the first lush lawn on the block. What you don't know is that early fertilization depletes your turf's roots much faster resulting in a brown, dormant lawn all summer. It turns out that it takes energy to put all that nitrogen fertilizer into plant tissue, and that energy comes from last year's energy storage.

Core aeration —a downward spiral

If you hire the door-to-door lawn aerators every year or have your professional lawn care team take care of your annual aeration, then you are stuck in a downward spiral requiring you to core aerate your lawn every year.

I'm here to tell you, aeration should NEVER be an annual maintenance service and should only be done where and when it is needed.

Core aeration is a mechanical means to reduce compaction, or if you'd like to get fancy, the "bulk density" of your soil. Every lawn care professional, agronomist, farmer, and horticulturalists are well aware of the deleterious effects compaction has on plants, and you should too.

The danger lies in the reduction of precious organic matter. Oxygen is absolutely necessary to healthy plant roots and the microbial population that exist throughout the soil environment. Like most things, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and exposing your soil to a surplus of oxygen every year allows those beneficial populations of microbes to devour organic matter in overdrive and release it into the atmosphere as CO2.

One way to measure prove aeration is short-lived is with a penetrometer (a device that measures compaction). The sad truth is that core aeration will only relieve compaction for a few months and return to baseline, declining over the years and this can be demonstrated by taking penetrometer readings throughout the year.

Synthetic fertilization = MORE water

Synthetic fertilizer may have the advantage in that you pay a little less upfront but if you consider all of the extra treatment required to maintain a chemical lawn, it hardly seems worth it. One such requirement of synthetic-based lawns is all the extra water needed compared to organic lawns. This is chalked up to a few reasons such as:

  • synthetic fertilizer depletes organic matter thus depleting water holding

  • synthetic fertilizer has a high salt index

  • synthetic fertilizer causes surge growth requiring surge watering

Synthetic fertilization encourages summer turf diseases

There are several turf diseases that thrive in a hot humid and nitrogen-rich environment, so avoiding synthetic fertilizer in the summer months will help to reduce disease. But to fully protect your lawn from disease, you'll have to avoid synthetic fertilizer altogether. The way that chemical fertilizer delivers nutrients to the soil and subsequently the grass diminishes the turf's ability to resist disease. If you are a golf course superintendent, you'll mix up some sort of pesticide cocktail but the homeowners in Ontario are restricted from using these chemicals (and for good reason) so the emphasis on your turf care program should be on the prevention of diseases and weeds alike.

You can get your synthetic fertilizer at a box store

Just like a healthy diet, a lawn will also benefit from variety. There is only a slight variation between synthetic fertilizer varieties, essentially what you're paying for is soluble nitrogen in an easy-to-apply format and that's why synthetic fertilizer is around 60% filler. On the other hand, organic fertilizers are much less accessible to the consumer because their ingredients are more challenging to mass-produce. One popular choice for organic fertilizer is corn, although this is a decent option, there are certainly better organic fertilizers out there as of 2022.

How can Renew-a-lawn help?

We've developed a lawn care program that combines the fast results of synthetic fertilizer without all the problems. We offer a variety of fertilizers and composts that will reliably maintain your lawn at the highest quality without the need for yearly aerations or dethatching.

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