Gardening on the Planet

Home Depot’s Leaf Bags and their Eco-Terrible “Tips”

I’m seeing lots of leaf bags in my neighborhood, like this collection from just one neighbor’s yard.  Though I was happy to see they’re made of paper (which is required by my town), a closer look revealed that these bags come with a message about lawn care – a message that’s really, really bad for nearby bodies of water, especially the Chesapeake Bay.

The really, really bad part being, of course: “The healthiest lawns are fed 4 to 5 times a year.” Contrary to what any authoritative, environmentally conscious source recommends, including the  University of Maryland, which follows the now-standard best practice of recommending lawn fertilization ONLY in the fall (in order to prevent run-off of excess nutrients and also over-stimulation of top growth which just leads to extra mowing).

What makes this even more galling are the little credibility-builders elsewhere on the bag.  “Eco-options” my ass!

I followed the tip on the bag and visited Vigoro.com for more “tips” and learned that it’s apparently Home Depot’s in-house brand, so the responsibility for this horrible advice is clearly theirs.  (Not to mention that HD also chose to plaster it all over their bags.)   The website does indeed recommend that their super-charged chemical lawn fertilizer be applied “any time during the growing season.”  And signage in HD’s garden department backs it up with posters like these:

Yes, even SUMMER is a fine and dandy time to apply high-test fertilizer to your lawn.  A practice that probably no authoritative, noncommercial source has ever recommended.

On Home Depot’s gardening blog, I discovered that their Lawn Care 101 is far better: “Fertilizing once in the spring and once again in the fall should be sufficient.”  It even warns against overfertilization, though only because it can harm the lawn.  No mention of it harming waterways but hey, it’s an improvement over the store’s much more prominent advice.

Just as Bad as Scotts

Readers may have noticed multiple rants on this blog against Scotts for telling people to fertilize their lawns far too often and with highly polluting products but wow, Home Depot is definitely in the same league.  Is there anything we can do to tell them to at least stop lying to the public about what healthy, “eco-options” are?

Maybe their partner in all things outdoors – Martha Stewart herself – could get their ear on this important subject.

Posted by on December 7, 2012 at 9:25 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.
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35 Responses to “Home Depot’s Leaf Bags and their Eco-Terrible “Tips””

  1. Rick Orr says:

    Currently they may be encouraging 1x per year fertilizing but research does not show that fertilization of lawns adds to the nitrogen load of water bodies. In fact turf protects waterways far more then they harm. All of which is “contrary to what any authoritative, environmentally conscious source ..” because environmentally conscious sources aren’t interested in facts just promoting an agenda.

    • Susan Harris says:

      Rick, I followed the link to your “I Heart Turf” website, discovered it’s the site of a lawn spraying company, and understand your point of view.

      • Pam J. says:

        How tactfully stated Susan! Yes, I now understand his POV too. But does his POV rely on facts or is he just “promoting an agenda”? I dearly wish my next door neighbor would stop fertilizing her damn lawn so often since my vegetable garden abuts her lawn and is therefore the unwilling recipient of her fertilizers. Each time I take a bite of a tomato I wonder how many chemicals I’m ingesting.

    • Rick, your facts are wrong and your bias is showing.

    • greg draiss says:

      Right on Rick!!!! No mention of the fact that slow release N does not leach into water tables, no mention of the fact lawns are the best control for erosion. No mention of the fact of the oxygen machines lawns are.

      Tree huggers could care less about fact

      The TROLL

      • Sandy in TX says:

        . . . plain ol’ grass clippings being some of the best (and slowest) “slow-release” nitrogen around . . .

        Did you mean that Rick didn’t mention those things, or that Susan didn’t?

  2. tara dillard says:

    Do you believe in Santa too?

    Home Depot is in the SALES business.

    Once I studied historic gardens in Italy decades ago it’s been Tara Turf in my Landscape Design business.

    Tara Turf: no watering, no fertilizer, no weed killer.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. I never fertilize my lawn, and in fact, it seems to do just fine. I do use an old fashioned push-reel mower, which leaves clippings on the lawn…Also, it is native buffalo/blue grams grass, so maybe that helps,too, since they don’t get artificially fertilized in nature…

  4. Grammy Police says:

    Not to mention that fact that HD didn’t bother to proofread their own bags.

    “Water Deep.” Is that a warning sign next to a pond and they couldn’t spare the ink for a verb? Or did they just plain forget to make “deep” into an adverb?

    Do you think the neighbors would mind if picked up their neatly bagged leaves and composted them?

    • Dan Long says:

      “Do you think the neighbors would mind if picked up their neatly bagged leaves and composted them?”
      Go get ‘em! We do this all the time in the suburban neighborhoods nearby. Just got to watch out for the occasional funky additions and remember there’s no telling what’s been sprayed. We never use others’ bags to enrich the veggie garden.

      • Susan Harris says:

        My town turns these leaves into something between mulch and compost, depending on the timing. I’ve probably gotten 20 carloads of the stuff this year for my new garden.

  5. steve day says:

    Instead of buying fertilizer, feed your lawn with freshly shredded dollar bills.
    And mulch in the fall with the same “product”.

  6. Frank Hyman says:

    Very entertaining comments :-)

    Also, thanks Susan for cracking down on Home Despot’s crazy talk about fertilizing lawns too often.

    I’ve always suspected that vendors promote this silly notion because the excess nitrogen also makes turf (and other plants) more susceptible to bugs and diseases–so that they can then sell you a fungicide or insecticide for ‘control.’

    Kind of a GIGO thing: garbage in, garbage out.

  7. John says:

    I have never fertilized my lawn in the four years I’ve lived at my house, yet the lawn is still alive. Strange. According to “official” sources like Scott’s and Home Depot, shouldn’t my lawn have withered and died by now without chemical additives?

  8. Stuart says:

    Over here in England – we use these http://www.worm.co.uk/products/love-em-and-leave-em if it’s of any interest. Just leave them in a hedge bottom as the jute degrades just a little longer than the leaves.

    • gemma says:

      I love that idea! I’ve never seen jute sacks here, and the only person I’ve ever known IRL who talked about and made leaf mold was my late aunt, who lived to be 85 and died 10 years ago.

      I’ve collected a compost bin full of leaves, and I’m hoping for some leaf mold someday.

      ok, I searched and found most sellers of jute sacks are in the UK. A few seed companies sell them in the US, at around 2 for $15 plus shipping.

  9. Laura Bell says:

    Fertilize a lawn 4 to 5 times a year !?!?!? That’s a lot of growing & cutting to do. No, thank you. I don’t often remember that single Fall dose of fertilizer yet my chem-happy neighbors often grumble how my lawn looks better than theirs which they spend lots of time & moolah on.

  10. oscar parrish says:

    anyone that sells roundup should be boycotted
    oscar

  11. Rachelle says:

    As always…follow the money…

  12. Hap says:

    HD has it down, a loss leader Leaf Bag that is just a media for advertising to support their millions of pounds of chemical fertilizer sales every year. I have to hope that they are at least using soy based inks on their compostable Leaf Bags and not a heavy metal laced ink to print their trademarked Orange….

  13. Amy says:

    Is there a petition that we could start (perhaps using a platform like change.org) to get signatures and send to Home Depot? Or perhaps to Martha Stewart as well?
    Obviously they’re pushing product on people who may or may not know there’s a better way. Surely we could join together in a constructive way to let them know that’s not acceptable?

  14. UrsulaV says:

    This sort of thing just makes me so tired. It seems like two steps forward, one step back some days…

  15. Nadia A says:

    I never fertilize my lawn because I have 3 kids who roll around on it. PLUS, I let the clover run wild so that is probably helping it gets its nitrogen fix. The chemicals used on the lawns is linked to so many childhood diseases I’ve developed somewhat of a paranoia of letting my kids walk on grass :-(( What is the big deal about a perfect lawn anyway? Its almost like societies obsession with perfect looks.. can’t we tolerate a little raw beauty now and then that is not manicured to perfection?

  16. Charlie says:

    Absolutely amazing. I try to support businesses that are responsible stewards of our community. I appreciate the information.

  17. [...] of excess nutrients and also over-stimulation of top growth which just leads to extra mowing). (Click here to read the original [...]

  18. TJP says:

    Scotts has to recommend excessive chemical application because of the chaff they try to pass off as seed. You’re better off letting your existing lawn go to seed and sprinkle that instead.

    You may also need a lot of expensive, test-tube made fertilizer if you use Scott’s soil products. They grind up construction garbage as fill! I can see a few sticks in the mix, but chipped siding and plastic bags?

  19. Batsheva says:

    Get rid of grass. Buy perennial clover seed from farm-supply store & plant. Looks just as good, never have to mow or do anything much.

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