Is Your Apartment Property Using Pet-Safe Lawn Fertilizer?


The author’s dog, Callie, doing what she does best. (Image Source: Tim Blackwell)

As Spring rolls in, curb appeal at apartment communities will become more prominent for those properties that have done their homework to enrich dormant grass, shrubs, and plants leading out of winter. The proof of a successful pre-emergent campaign will be a property’s lush, green lawn, and budding flowers as temperatures warm.

Most multifamily housing property owners go to great lengths to keep grass lush and green from front to back by contracting with landscaping companies that apply granular fertilizers throughout the year. Fertilizers provide essential nutrients to promote root growth and richly color many types of grasses and plants.

But brushing the landscape with a Green Thumb can be hazardous to pets and young children. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates chemically-based lawn products, fertilizers can contain industrial waste and measurable levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals that can be toxic in large concentrations.

In 2011, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) fielded more than 165,000 calls about pets exposed to poisonous substances. About 11 percent of the calls related to pesticides, including products used on lawns.

Most fertilizer manufacturers suggest that newly applied areas be off limits for pets and children for several hours or even days. Even after multiple waterings, granules that haven’t dissolved can be visible, leaving some to wonder if areas are safe.

An Ohio lawn fertilizer maker is hoping to catch the attention of apartment property owners by reducing the waiting game with a new pet-friendly product repackaged from an existing lawn care line. Pet Safe Lawn Fertilizer, which The Andersons Inc. began shipping to stores across the country in early February, dissolves more quickly and leaves treated areas ready for use shortly after watering, says marketing development manager Tasha Hussain Black.

“We have converted our premium fertilizer used in the professional market to a product for homeowners who want a thick, green lawn with the safety concerns of traditional lawn fertilizers, said Black. “Rather than having the fertilizer remain on top of the soil for days or weeks after the application, pets and children can enjoy the lawn minutes after the product has been watered in.”

With a single water application, the fertilizer dissolves into the root zone, reducing the likelihood that pets or children will pick up granules and potentially ingest them, she said. The company touts that PetSafe, which is phosphorous-free, is safe for pets but may be toxic to aquatic life and should not be used in or near ponds or streams. Pets or humans should not consume the product.

The Andersons, Inc., which also is a contract manufacturer for a number of lawn fertilizer makers, has marketed the product in the past to golf courses and athletic complexes but added the blend to the company’s pet product line. A 16-pound bag sells for $24.99 and covers 5,500 square feet.

“We came up with some of the best-selling fertilizers with golf courses,” she said. “We think consumers will like this, too. They have dogs and kids and they don’t have to wait and be concerned about safety issues.”

Chris Lee, president of Lillian, Texas-based EarthWorks, said safety of pets and small children is a concern when applying lawn care products at multifamily housing properties, but that in his 14 years with the company there have not been any incidents. EarthWorks has specialized in apartment community and commercial landscaping for the past 32 years and uses only “green light”, non-toxic chemicals that have been approved by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Lee said his crews are careful to notify property managers when and where fertilizers have been applied, even though he says the toxicity of the product is less than table salt. When application is complete, a notice is dropped at the property’s front office.

“We do get calls,” he said. “We get requests from time to time for us to supply a residence with Material Data Safety Sheets. Sometimes, we’ve had people call in and say their dog is allergic to what we’ve put down. But we have not had an instance where it’s caused harm to a pet. With us we’re more concerned with a small child. We’re very cognizant of what we use and don’t use on the apartments.”

Lee said that the average apartment community consumes 1,500 pounds of fertilizer over three or four applications annually. Most are designed to release nutrients over several weeks; some can take 24 weeks.

Proper irrigation is essential to effectively watering in fertilizers, and Texas properties are known for installing systems that cover an entire property. Lee said most of EarthWorks’ clients irrigate everywhere from the street frontage areas to islands in parking lots.

“For a lot of places, it’s big to irrigate out front and around the office,” he said. “In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a lot of properties have front-to-back irrigation systems. The issue with fertilization is that it requires watering, significant irrigation. A lot of multi-family properties are well irrigated.”

Black said that Pet Safe Lawn Fertilizer’s quick dissolving feature could benefit to property owners who are under water restrictions because of ongoing drought throughout much of the U.S. The product will be available on the company’s website for purchase on March 1.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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