Great gardeners know the importance of using quality products for their lawn and garden. But when you’re new to the world of gardening, it can be tough choosing between all the different brands on store shelves.
What’s one bag of soil compared to the next? What do the numbers on fertilizer packages mean? If you aren’t careful, you will learn firsthand why inexpensive lawn and garden products aren’t always a bargain for your plants.
Here’s what you should know before you buy bargain products for your lawn or garden.
Start with Good Soil
A beautiful lawn or garden starts with high-quality soil. Along with adequate water and sunlight, soil quality is one of the most important factors for plant growth.
Good soil has a balanced pH level (between 6.2 and 6.8 for most plants), proper drainage, and lots of plant food or organic matter to provide the essential nutrients plants need to grow. It should also have a soft, crumbly consistency with few sticks so roots can spread easily. Soil supplemented with peat moss will retain more water and help your plants survive dry conditions.
Bargain soils are often lacking in nutrients and tend to contain a lot of unwanted debris. They aren’t much better than the soil already in the ground.
While the best quality soil may cost a bit more than the bargain brand, it will ensure your plants have enough nutrients and the right conditions for growth. PRO-MIX, BIOMAX, Schultz and C-I-L are all trustworthy names in lawn soil and garden soil.
Find the Right Fertilizer for Your Lawn
All plants rely on three primary nutrients to grow: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen helps plants stimulate shoot growth, recover from environmental stress or injury, and produce chlorophyll. Phosphorous is important for rooting and seedling development. Potassium impacts how well plants can resist disease and tolerate periods of drought and cold.
Lawn fertilizer has a number on the package (the N-P-K value) showing the amount of each major nutrient in the product. For example, a 10-10-10 fertilizer has equal amounts of each; a 20-5-5 fertilizer has five times more nitrogen than potassium or phosphorus. In Canada, lawn fertilizers are not allowed to contain phosphorus and will have a value of 0 in the middle.
Depending on the season and the type of grass, your lawn will require a certain balance of these nutrients. More nutrients are not necessarily better. Too much nitrogen will boost shoot growth at the expense of the roots, which causes nitrogen burn, fast top growth and leaves the grass more susceptible to disease.
Bargain fertilizers may make your lawn grow faster and greener at first, but they’re hard on the environment, and the excessive nitrogen can cause the grass to yellow from nitrogen burn. Fast growth also means more mowing.
When choosing a lawn fertilizer, look for a slow-release fertilizer from a quality brand like C-I-L Golfgreen or Schultz. PRO-MIX Heal & Feed Fertilizer, although not technically a slow-release fertilizer, provides a continuous, even feed for six weeks. This will green up your grass without causing nitrogen burn or requiring extra mowing on your part.
Choose a Great Garden Fertilizer
Buying bargain garden fertilizer has all the same pitfalls mentioned above. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables require macronutrients to thrive, and the bargain brand may not contain the right balance for your plants. Low-quality garden fertilizer may also be loaded with filler material, which can clog up your sprayer and does your plants no favours.
Choosing a top-quality garden fertilizer will ensure your plants can easily absorb the nutrients. Along with a good quality soil, this will set the stage for a healthy, beautiful garden. All you’ll need to do is water and tend to your plants as you watch them grow!
If you prefer a natural product for growing produce, choose an OMRI-certified organic fertilizer like PRO-MIX Organic Tomatoes, Vegetables & Fruit Fertilizer 4-4-8. The certification guarantees that the product passed OMRI expert review for use in organic food production.
Look for Quality in Grass Seed
There are dozens of varieties of grass seed on the market, and not all are created equal. Starting with poor quality seed will result in a lawn that’s more difficult to maintain and less tolerant to drought, shade, and wet conditions.
Bargain grass seed blends also contain ‘filler’ material such as dirt, debris, and empty hulls. They also include weed seeds, which are obviously unwelcome on your lawn!
When you are looking for top quality grass seed, always check for the percentage of actual grass seed and the type of seeds in the bag. Choose a blend with 99.9% grass seed and at least a germination rate of at least 85%.