By Teresa Iqbal

August 20, 2015 5 min read

A green lawn is an idyllic vision that most people have for their home. Whether the goal is an area where children and pets can run around and play or simply improved curb appeal that will add value to a home, a greener lawn is a common desirable trait. Most homeowners who are looking for healthier, greener lawns, as well as gardeners hoping for an abundance of produce, will turn to fertilizer.

It's important to remember that fertilizer is a chemical, and dealing with chemicals always requires special care and attention. So, what is it that you should take into consideration before fertilizing your lawn or garden?

Some basic safety rules for fertilizer begin with storing it in a cool, dry place away from children at all times, just as with other chemicals. Read all instructions thoroughly before beginning the fertilization process, and follow the instructions closely, of course.

Protecting yourself from fertilizer before you begin the process is also wise. This can be done by wearing gloves, goggles, pants and a long-sleeve shirt. This simple preventive measure can help protect you from chemical burns should the nitrogen in the fertilizer come into contact with your skin or eyes. If your skin or eyes do come into contact with the fertilizer, it's recommended to flush with water as soon as possible.

It's also vital to pay close attention to the amount needed for your lawn or garden. Shannon Dauphin of All About Lawns explains, "Keep in mind that lawn fertilizers can leach into the groundwater, so apply only what you need and no more." Be sure to dispose of all leftover fertilizer and empty containers carefully -- and at the appropriate location, as well.

Once you've applied the fertilizer, there are more important safety measures that you should be aware of. It is highly advised that pets and people remain off the lawn until the fertilizer is able to be absorbed into the ground. It may even be wise to inform close neighbors who have pets and children of your fertilization plans. If either pets or children exhibit symptoms of having come into contact with the chemical fertilizer, such as vomiting and seizures, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.

The type of fertilizer that you choose to use will determine how you are able to tell whether the fertilizer has been properly absorbed. Liquid fertilizer manufacturers often advise consumers to water the grass after the fertilizer has been applied. It's important for both the fertilizer and water to be absorbed before pets and children are let back on the lawn, which is often when the grass blades appear dry. Granular fertilizer is clearly visible when it is applied and is considered easier to apply more evenly. Even and correct distribution is an important safety precaution to take, as too much fertilizer may not be absorbed in the recommended time frame given by manufacturers. Amy Rodriguez of Demand Media Studios advises consumers to let 24 hours pass once the granules disappear from the grass blades before allowing pets or children on the lawn.

Chemical, or synthetic, fertilizers are not your only option when it comes to fertilizing your lawn or garden, as there are several brands of organic fertilizer on the market. With organic fertilizer, it is indeed possible to meet the nutrient requirements for plants using natural sources, such as animal byproducts and seaweed. Experts at the National Gardening Association explain a benefit of using organic fertilizer: "Organic fertilizers dole out the nutrients more slowly than chemical fertilizers, so plant roots are less likely to be burned by getting too high a dose." Though organic fertilizers are often deemed safer than most synthetic fertilizers, there are still hidden risks associated with them, as well. For example, a number of undisclosed chemicals may be included in a bag of organic fertilizer, just as with synthetic fertilizers.

Carefully reading and abiding by manufacturer instructions should allow you to use fertilizer with peace of mind. If you're still concerned about measuring and distributing fertilizer properly, composting is one great cost-effective and all-natural option that anyone can take on at home, often delivering great results.

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