Lawns can become 'addicted' to pesticide and fertilizer, some say

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Relying on fertilizers and pesticides to keep your yard looking green comes with a price. Some lawn care experts say a yard where chemicals are frequently applied can become addicted to the substances that can be harmful to both the soil and residents living in the home.

"Most companies here in Florida use atrazine as weed control, and that is carcinogenic," said Jim Schanstra, owner of Organic Safe Lawns, one of the only organic companies of its kind in the Tampa Bay area.

The Quinn family of Wesley Chapel hired Schanstra to beautify their lawn the all natural way.

"I had cancer early on in my life, so I've tried to use a lot of organic products, just to try to be a little safer for health reasons," said Kelly Quinn.

To break their lawn of its "addiction," Schanstra took a less common approach by using all organic products. His company uses a chicken manure-based fertilize for lawns. Minerals are applied to keep the lawn healthy.

According to Schanstra, going organic can save homeowners money. His company typically charges $40 to treat a yard.

"For bragging rights, this time last year, we were actually identified as the lawn in the subdivision," said Peter Quinn, whose grass is now thick and green.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on fertilizer in the United States. Millions of pounds of synthetic pesticides are used along with it.

A study conducted by the USDA in 2001 found that 80 percent of synthetic fertilizer applied to lawns is lost due to runoff. Due to Florida's long rainy season, much of the products are pushed into rivers, ponds, and the ocean, leading to dangerous algae blooms.

Homeowners looking to the organic route can start with getting a soil test, which will tell them what nutrients their lawn is lacking before addressing the problem through an organic approach.

To keep grass growing healthy, Schanstra recommends avoiding over watering a lawn, mowing the grass with sharp blades and cutting it relatively high, making it harder for weed seeds to get enough light to germinate.

To learn more about organic lawn care, visit

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, no evidence exists showing lawns become addicted to fertilizer, and that organic, natural and synthetic solutions are all completely safe options for lawns when used and applied properly. For more information, see:


Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the statement from the NALP.