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Dave Olson, Published April 14 2014

Lawn care goes green: Business touts soil-building benefits of organic fertilizer

Fargo -- Adam Mund minored in microbe biology at Concordia College.

What he learned came in handy a few years ago when Mund, who was working construction jobs at the time, decided to mix up a batch of organic fertilizer for his yard.

The formula worked wonders.

So much so that a relative suggested he turn his organic brew into a business.

Mund did just that and this spring marks the third growing season for his lawn care company, Mund Organic Solutions.

While the company is based in Kindred, many of Mund’s jobs are in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The precise formula of his fertilizer is a secret, but Mund said the main ingredient is worm tailings, better known as worm poop.

One advantage of organic fertilizer over synthetic or chemical fertilizer is that it more closely emulates nature’s processes, Mund said.

He said chemical fertilizers provide nutrients, but because they are salt-based they can be harsh on the plant and soil environment.

“The beauty of organics is, I’m feeding the plant but I’m also rebuilding the soil by adding back microbial activity,” Mund said. “It’s basically bringing it back to nature’s way. It’s a self-regenerating cycle.”

People who have been on chemical programs can be skeptical about organics at first, he said.

But a lawn using organic fertilizer will be just as green as one using synthetic chemicals, though it may take a little longer to get there, he said.

Once organic fertilizer is applied, he said, the nutrients are available to plants for a longer time than is the case with synthetic applications.

Room for both

Esther McGinnis, a North Dakota State University Extension Service horticulturist, said that in the world of lawn care there is room for both organic and synthetic fertilizers.

She said synthetic fertilizers will green up a yard more quickly and when used correctly are safe for yards and the environment.

McGinnis stressed that timing is important when applying synthetic fertilizer.

“You’re more likely going to have an adverse reaction if you apply it in the fall,” she said.

“I’ve seen entire lawns killed when you apply it too late in the fall, because you’ll see the grass take up the nitrogen, grow too lushly and then not shut down in time for winter, so you end up with winter kill,” McGinnis said.

Mund said he once accidently spilled a bag of organic fertilizer and, alarmed, he spread the material about as best he could, worried he had killed that particular patch of grass.

He need not have worried.

“That spot was perfectly green all summer,” he said. “If that was chemical fertilizer, that whole area would have been dead and it would have been a dead zone for years,” said Mund, whose standard approach to yard treatments is to apply chemical weed control followed by an application of organic fertilizer.

With that approach, Mund usually makes four applications in a growing season, which typically runs from April to October.

If a client wants spot treatment of weeds, it requires more applications and the cost goes up.

McGinnis said it is best to limit the application of synthetic fertilizer to two times a year, around Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the Fourth of July another possibility, but only if the yard is watered regularly during the summer months.

Experts say watering should be done infrequently, but deeply, and it is best to water in early morning.

Grass mowing tips

On lawn mowing, Mund said it is best to cut grass no shorter than 3 inches and longer is even better because it shades the soil and keeps it moist. Longer grass also deprives weeds of sunlight and helps control their growth.

Letting grass trimmings stay on the yard is also a good idea because it contributes to soil nutrient levels, he said.

Mund said his clients seem happy with organic fertilizer and what it does for their yard, and most are patient when it comes to the slow-acting benefits of the organic approach.

Laura Harris and her husband, Brad, heard about Mund Organic Solutions from a neighbor and used the service last year to address a yard plagued by weeds.

By fall, their yard was looking much better and they were getting compliments from neighbors, Laura Harris said.

“We did get results and we have peace of mind,” she said, adding that while green-up is not “as instant as a chemical thing,” they’re OK with taking a long-term approach.

Mund acknowledged that organic fertilizer takes time to work.

“It’s more difficult in the beginning, because you’ve already broke from nature’s cycle; it’s going to take a little bit to restore that soil and get it back on that natural cycle,” Mund said.

“Once you do,” he said, “it’s easy. You can basically sit back and watch your lawn be green.”

Mund Organic Solutions can be reached at (701) 893-5869.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555