Go Green by the Yard

Go Green by the YardGet Back to Nature with Organic Lawn Products that Produce Lush Lawns and Earth-Friendly Benefits

By Cheryl Withrow

Adopting a “green” lifestyle usually brings to mind taking eco-friendly steps such as improving how you heat and cool your home or choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, you also can minimize your impact on the planet by maintaining your lawn with products that promote a more environmentally sound way of life.

Last year, members of Emerald Coast Magazine’s Test Drive team decided to try their green thumbs at lawn care. Our mission was to determine if organic weed-and-feed products could produce vibrant, lush, pest-free lawns that matched up against other lawns treated with synthetic chemicals.

We created three separate test areas on a one-acre parcel of land on which we tried three organic lawn products: Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish/Seaweed Blend 2-3-1 Fertilizer, Nature’s Turf 8-1-9 Complete Organic Lawn Fertilizer and the Cockadoodle Doo 4-Step Organic Lawn Care Program. Our test site had been chemical-free for more than two years.

After all was said and done, our top test product was Neptune’s Harvest. It was easy to mix, simple to apply with a standard liquid sprayer, and provided the greenest, most weed-free yard of all the organics. The blend of fish hydrolysate and seaweed ensured a complete fertilization program in one bottle.

We followed the package directions, mixing 1 quart of concentrate with sufficient water to cover 2,000 square feet, and fed the test plot monthly from early spring to the end of July and again in late October. The results were significant: The centipede grass flourished and stayed a brilliant green well into December. A gallon of the Neptune’s Harvest Fish/Seaweed Blend 2-3-1 costs $37.99 and is available online at greennationgardens.com or by calling (866) 496-2540.

Running a close second was Nature’s Turf 8-1-9.

This is a granular variety that provides key nutrients and enlivens biological activity in your lawn. This product is especially healthy for the sandy soils of the Emerald Coast. The 8-1-9 in its name indicates a high level of nitrogen (the first number), a low level of phosphorus (the second number) and an acceptable level of potassium (the third number). Since our 2,000-square-foot test plot was low on organic matter, we broadcast 24 pounds of Nature’s Turf at monthly intervals from April to October. We noticed significant greening of the test plot by the end of June, as well as minimal weed growth. A 50-pound bag of Nature’s Turf 8-1-9 runs $39.95 and is available at extremelygreen.com.

Coming in third in our organic performance trials was the Cockadoodle Doo 4-Step Organic Lawn Care Program. Step One is a pre-emergence organic herbicide labeled “Super-Premium Organic Weed Control.”

We applied this product when soil temperatures reached 55 degrees — late February in the Emerald Coast — using a rotary spreader at the rate of 45 pounds for our 2,000-square-foot lawn. Thirty pounds of Super-Premium Organic Fertilizer was applied 60 days later. In early August, we again applied the weed-control product. In late October, we broadcast the fertilizer, feeding our lawn over the winter and saturating it with vital nutrients, which jump-started early spring growth. Our centipede plot did well with this four-bag program, but the substantial cost and storage requirements resulted in its lower ranking. The Cockadoodle Doo 4-Step Organic Lawn Care Program runs $139.99 and can be ordered from purebarnyard.com/cockadoodledoo or by calling (877) 873-6742.

Compared to another nearby site that had been treated over the same time period with a well-known chemical-based product, our test lawns fared well, though they weren’t quite as lush or as green. In our testers’ opinions, however, the tradeoff of a healthy and safe yard is more than enough reason to recommend that any gardener should consider these planet-preserving products.