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Organic garden products puzzle consumers

Many gardeners shun synthetic chemicals in the vegetable garden.

Many gardeners shun synthetic chemicals in the vegetable garden.

A lot of us are more interested in organic or natural gardening these days, but many of us are confused about what these terms mean, the cost and effectiveness of lawn and garden products and where to find them.

Eighty percent of consumers said they would use more organic lawn and garden products if they knew they could get the same results as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides with no additional cost. The results came in a recent winter survey by the Garden Writers Association Foundation, which has been doing research on consumer gardening trends since 2003

Retailers should know that fully 55 percent of consumers said “they would like to use organic products more if they could simply find them in a store.” A similar number, 53 percent, say that they would use more organic products if they understood what to buy and how to use it, the GWA survey said.

Those figures coincide with the 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey, conducted by the National Gardening Association.

In the NGA findings, nine out of 10 households “believe it’s important to maintain their landscapes in a way that benefits the environment.” However, only half, 53 percent, of all households said they were knowledgeable about maintaining lawns and gardens in an environmental friendly way. The NGA has been conducted consumer trend surveys annually since 1973.

I’d be the first to say that the organic or natural market is confusing. With food, we have some certification markers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s green and white organic label is one.

In the lawn and garden trade, products certified organic come with a label, too. omri-smallAn OMRI logo means the product has the approval of the Organic Materials Review Institute. Some products are natural regardless of their label, such as manure or compost as long as their source, such as grass, has not been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Some manufacturers have capitalized on using the term natural, even though there are no real standards that tell you what that is. Some products labeled as such may be a mix of natural and synthetic materials. So, for a start, always read and follow the label directions of the products you use.

Effectiveness and cost are tied together. Most organic or natural products are as effective as their synthetic counterparts; however, they tend to work slower. Many times, you use less of organic or natural products, so the cost can be competitive. When oil prices rise, though, petroleum-based products like fertilizers, get more expensive, too.

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