5 Reasons The Use of Synthetics is No Longer a Best Practice in Landscape Management

Five reasons the use of synthetics is no longer a best practice in landscape management

All industries eventually arrive at best practices that represent the most productive and efficient method to deliver desired results and at the same time minimizing negative impact.

Our industry is no different.

We have adopted protocols and products to deliver the green lawns and landscapes our clients and end users expect.

It is understood that all practices are subject to change over time.

In our industry changes have been motivated by the knowledge that the synthetics we use have had unintended consequences at times.

When we use the general term synthetics, we are referring to chemicals that are used as both fertilizers and pesticide control products. Each of these has their own issues and causes for concern that contributes to the 5 reasons synthetic that no longer considered a best practice for the management of landscapes.

5 reasons that the use of synthetics should no longer be considered a best practice in the landscape industry

  1. Stormwater runoff entrance to water bodies – rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and oceans

  2. Groundwater contamination

  3. Children’s health

  4. Human health

  5. Nonproductive influence on the creation of healthy turf systems- plant, soil, and environment (compromising native beneficial soil organisms)

Storm Water Runoff

When using water-soluble synthetic materials, we run the risk of allowing that material to move off target. Even with best intentions, certain environmental conditions may present themselves that can facilitate the movement of these soluble nutrients. If we have a turf system with less than maximum density, very often we do not have enough root system to process these nutrients as rapidly as they are being released.

Groundwater Contamination

Some synthetic materials are more mobile in the soil than others. Along with other information on the label about health effects and environmental effects of a pesticide product, we also have information about soil mobility. Some pesticides and fertilizers have the ability to move rapidly downward in the soil and eventually find groundwater.

Cumulative Effect on Children

Science and medicine are now looking at children exposure to pesticides very differently than they did in the past. The major cause for concern is not an acute oral or dermal exposure, but multiple low dose exposures over several years that can have a cumulative effect.

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Human Health

Not all mammals react to all pesticides in the same way. It is typically the lawn care pesticide when used at the homeowner level or in the public sector that can affect the largest number of people. The use of these materials contributes to the chemical cloud under which we currently live. For management of grounds and turf, reduction makes sense to reduce overall chemical exposure.

Nonproductive Influence on the System and the Biomass

Synthetic materials do very little to build the soil biomass in a positive way. The high concentration of salt in synthetic fertilizers and some of the pesticide products that we use can contribute to the minimization of soil biological life. It is the biological life in the soil that is central to a healthy, functioning system.


The development of organic lawn care, organic land care, and natural turf management protocols is in response to a growing concern around synthetic intervention in the landscape. It is the development of science-based strategies from the natural perspective that provide an alternative to managing from within a chemical framework. These concepts have been developed and are presented as an alternative to chemical management. The absence of synthetics does not mean that we must sacrifice quality. It does mean that we need to learn new protocols.

We no longer manage from a product centered approach, but rather we adopt a systems-based approach that involves healthy soils, natural, organic product imports, and very specific and revised horticultural practices. Moving forward, people will find that a natural approach to managing the landscape can meet the desired expectation and produce results similar to landscapes managed from a chemical perspective.

A version of this post first appeared on the Osborne Organics website.

Post image courtesy of OLA contractor member Complete Land Organics.


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