By Thomas J. Cowett,  Special to News & Record – Part one of two parts.

From Our Gardens

We have been doing things so wrong for so long when it comes to fertilizing our lawns and gardens.

It’s time to get back to the ancient ways of gardening, like the Korean farming techniques from 2,000 years ago. To this day, whole communities in Korea get together to make big batches of natural fertilizers and pest control products.

I advocate for healthy lawns, landscapes and backyard vegetable gardens. At the same time we all see the need to protect the environment from over use of synthetic fertilizers and conventional pesticides. A new focus and understanding of the soil is changing the way we garden.

The overuse of synthetic forms of fertilizer over the years has damaged the soil by losing the balance in the microscopic-organism population. I experienced this firsthand with the family garden we had growing up.

Overuse of synthetic fertilizers caused the soil to become compacted, weed infested and unsupportive of good plant growth. The soil died.

As a territory manager for GrowinGreen, I visit many properties each year, and I see this damage in problem lawns and gardens all the time.

We can now fix it through new technologies that date back centuries.

At GrowinGreen, we spend time researching and testing new materials that are friendlier to the environment and produce healthier lawns and gardens.

If you hear our radio commercials with owner Jonathan Rigsbee, “Turf Commander,” mention that he has a turf grass scientist on staff, that person would be me. I don’t like to brag about my credentials. But, for the sake of qualifying myself as an expert in this column I will mention a few: I have over 30 years experience in the landscape and nursery business, a masters degree from North Carolina State University, I am a certified Master Gardener and a licensed pesticide consultant.

One thing I have come to realize through all this education and experience is that Mother Nature is in charge. To succeed with our gardens and lawns, we must assist her. When it comes to repairing or building the soil, we can practically kick back and let her do all of the hard work.

I kid you not. Look at the forest; no one ever needs to fertilize the forest. It is a self sustaining system where plants grow, plants die, the decaying trees, plants and leaves return to the soil and the cycle repeats itself.

The forest soil is actually teeming with living microscopic communities known as “The Soil Food Web.” In this underground world is the rhizosphere — an area near the roots where beneficial micro-organisms, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa and other larger things like earthworms live. The micro-organisms get sugars, carbohydrates and protein from the plants. The tiny bacteria and fungi contain fertilizer. As the larger protozoa, nematodes and even earthworms digest the bacteria and fungi, fertilizer is released to the plant.

Mother Nature has made this deal between the plants and the microbes in the soil. The plants feed the microbes, and in turn the microbes feed the plants. Through this process of growth and decay, we build the soil.

For this process to work, it must be in balance. We can add compost — organic products that contain the micro-organisms — to our lawns and gardens. To me, compost is king. This is where we as gardeners can help Mother Nature in the garden and the landscape.

One of the best ways an average household can make a good amount of compost for use in the garden and lawn is by composting your leaves. You will need approximately 70 percent leaves to 30 percent of a green material, such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps or in my case I use bunny poop. From the compost you can make a compost tea or simply spread compost in the garden.

If you would like more information about gardening go to, or visit the YouTube channel to see easy do-it-yourself videos on how to make your own compost as well as homemade products containing living micro-organisms.


Thank you, Tommy. We look forward to sharing Part II next week.

Inspiring you to love your lawn,


Read the published article on the Greensboro News & Record site:

From Our Gardens, Romancing the Lawn