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It's a good basic safety precaution to wear gloves and suitable clothing when applying any lawn product. Urea fertilizer has some potential hazards, such as getting stuck in a pet's paws where it could cause skin irritation, but the main cause of the warnings was probably the 'weed' part of the 'weed and feed'. These products combine herbicides such as 2,4-D with fertilizers, and herbicides must always be used with caution. Follow label directions carefully, don't over-apply, and make sure the product is thoroughly watered into the lawn.
While corn gluten meal is a less dangerous product than herbicides such as 2,4-D, it is not effective at killing existing weeds like dandelions. It is a pre-emergent herbicide, which means it prevents weed seeds such as crabgrass from germinating. The weed preventative effects of corn gluten meal may improve after two or more years of use on the lawn.
Follow label directions carefully, don't over-apply, and make sure the product does not contact non-target plants such as perennials, shrubs, and ground covers.
-- Nancy Rose is a research horticulturist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. To ask her a gardening question, call 612-673-9073 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.