Shut Up and Dig

Organic Lawn Care in the News

by Susan
Yes, another post about lawn care because it’s the most important choice that homeowners make about their landscapes, I venture to assert.  Right, Paul Tukey?  He’s a consistent pro-organic voice and contributed to this huge, prominent Washington Post spread about the issue.  (And readers, note that Paul  recommends "rebuilding the soil
life by top-dressing the lawn with screened compost and giving four
yearly applications of compost tea."  Hey, another convert!  I am SO going to try that stuff next year.)

Most of the article seems to make the case FOR organic lawn care, but then there’s this interesting quote from Scotts Miracle-Gro, which offers an organic lawn-care products "because consumers
want the choice."  As for the environmental benefits of organics,
their chief environmental officer said "We believe most of that is
perception."  A perception worth cashing in on, of course.

And David Clement, a "home landscape expert" with the University of Maryland, is skeptical of the claims of organic turf-grass advocates.  "Organic lawn care is fine, and you can do that, but when you have problems, very few of the organic solutions are as effective," he’s quoted as saying.  And "I’m not sold that organic would be that much better than the regular regime.  I know there are a lot of people who feel otherwise.  It almost comes down to your belief values."  Wow, isn’t that exactly what Cheney says about conservation efforts?  It’s a personal choice, ya know.

Posted by on September 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
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6 responses to “Organic Lawn Care in the News”

  1. Lawn Mowing says:

    Thank you for your blog. I enjoyed it. It seems there is always a battle between the 2 types of lawn care isn’t there. Your blog made it clear. Thanks!

    – Chris J.

  2. Brooke says:

    We are lucky in Georgia, the grass just grows, in fact, it grows too much. No fertilizer needed. The drought has meant that the grass is not as out of control as on normal years. Normally it’s invasive, always trying to encroach on my flower beds. This is why I hate grass, it’s so agressive here.

  3. Are any of you coming to OKC for the Garden Writers’ Symposium? I look forward to meeting you and ranting with you.

  4. Jeff Ball says:

    Sorry Susan, you’ve jumped on a band wagon with two flat tires.
    Compost tea is primarily a source of beneficial soil microbes, mostly bacteria and fungi. The only way to make tea work is to use it in combination with organic matter of some kind (leaves, straw, finely shredded bark). Those microbes need food to survive and organic matter is their food. Compost is not microbe food. It has already been digested and decomposed. Compost is primarily a source of beneficial soil microbes (didn’t I just day that?).

    If you use compost on a lawn it should be spread as part of a mixture of 4 or 5 parts Canadain sphagnum peat moss to 1 part quality compost. Now we’re adding microbes and giving them food to survive. The earthworms pull the peat moss down into the soil, sort of caterers for microbes. This task is done once or twice a year in the fall and or in the spring. If you have finely chopped leaves available (leaves chopped with a mulching mower or leaf shredder) they will do the same job and they are free.

    If you use chopped leaves in the fall and spring and use aerated compost tea you would see magic. However, there is a small problem. Only about 5% of the homeowners with lawns have access to bio-activated compost tea. You need a brewer and few have one because they are too expensive still.

    Then we get to the term “organic lawncare”. Bad mistake. The goal is in three to five years to have a low maintenance lawn needing no fertilizers or pesticides. It turns out that in five years that lawn is truly an “organic lawn”. You can’t get there if you start out in year one and year two using only Organic rules. Farmers wanting to shift from traditional to organic take three to five years. Lawn owners should be given the same flex.

    A lousy lawn has lots of weeds, probably is vulnerable to grubs and fungal disease. There are no organic herbicides that kill all those tough to kill weeds in a lousy lawn. You have to kill the weeds and overeseed at least twice before you back off on synthetic herbicides. If all goes well, that is the last time you use herbicides ever. But it takes two years to get to where the rules for organic work.

    Scott’s four step program is popular because it is easy to understand. Building a truly low maintenance fertiiizer and pesticde free lawn is not easy to understand or to develop.

  5. Paul Tukey says:

    Susan,
    The coverage lately has been fantastic. We were in the Post, the Philly Enquirer and the Associated Press in a week’s time.

    The bottom line is this: Anyone who doesn’t think organic lawn care works simply isn’t doing it right. Check out SafeLawns.org and learn more if you’re confused. You’ll find more than 30 videos showing you how to grow great, safe lawns.

    PT

  6. Ed Bruske says:

    That’s pretty funny that someone recommends Canadian peat moss as part of organic lawn care. The Northeast Organic Farming Association, which has promulgated standards for organic landscaping, barely allows the use of peat moss, and requires that records be kept whenever and wherever it is used.

    “Although peat moss is widely used as a soil conditioner, we do not recommend it because the harvesting of peat moss destroys increasingly rare bog habitats,” states the group’s “Standards for Organic Land Care.”

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