Fix-It Chick: Organic vs. synthetic fertilizers for your lawn

Choosing between synthetic or organic lawn fertilizer comes down to one question: Are you in it for the long game or the short game?

• Nutrients are nutrients. Whether they are naturally occurring or synthesized, basic nutrients in all fertilizers are the same. The difference is in the processing. Organic fertilizers (or soil amendments) are unprocessed, in their raw state. Chemical fertilizers have been altered to remove various particulates creating pure, easily accessible and quantifiable nutrients. Both organic and synthetic fertilizers make grass grow.

• Organic fertilizers take longer to break down. Synthetic fertilizers are instantly available to the grass. This means, synthetic fertilizers are more likely to produce an immediate result after application.

• Organic fertilizers remain available to the grass for longer periods of time. Synthetic fertilizers require multiple applications to keep grass happily fed. Organic fertilizers need to be applied once a year, preferably in the fall. Synthetic fertilizers need to be applied every six to eight weeks throughout the growing season.

• Synthetic fertilizer is basically salt. It pulls water from the soil and roots and can burn the grass when applied incorrectly. Organic fertilizer does not contain salt and will not burn the grass when over applied.

• Organic fertilizer adds organic matter to the soil, which feeds microorganisms, builds soil and fertility, and helps maintain a steady level of moisture in the soil. Synthetic fertilizers push microorganisms to consume organic material, depleting soil fertility and adding nothing to the soil itself.

• Synthetic fertilizers are typically less expensive than organic fertilizers per bag, but the need for multiple applications soon negates the cost savings.

• Synthetic fertilizers are water soluble, which can result in nutrient runoff, decreasing their effectiveness and increasing environmental problems.

• Synthetic fertilizers are engineered specifically for their intended use, making them more efficient than organic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers lack many important trace elements, and the fertilizer’s abundance of major nutrients can block the access of grass to other beneficial minerals.

• Synthetic fertilizers come in granular or liquid form. Organic fertilizers come in a wide variety of forms, sometimes making them more difficult to apply. Organic fertilizers can be slow to show results, but unlike synthetic fertilizers, they increase the health of both the soil and the grass. For the long game, organic fertilizers are the way to go.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at