Whether it’s to do right by the environment or to protect the health of people and pets, more and more people in Georgia and elsewhere are becoming interested in living a less toxic lifestyle. It’s a choice that can impact just about every aspect of life—including lawn care.
Here at T.Lake, we get it. We’re outside people. We like to go barefoot with the children and roll around in the grass with the dog. Their health, and ours, matters to us—a lot. So we certainly want to avoid unnecessary chemical use. But “Can you do organic lawn care?” is not a simple question for us to answer.
Of course, the easy reply is, “of course we can.” But the truth is, a 100% organic approach may not make you 100% happy. Here’s why.
What is “organic” lawn care?
First, let’s clarify the term “organic,” because it means very different things to different people.
To a chemist, “organic” means it contains carbon compounds. Which of course includes petroleum. That’s obviously not the definition we’re looking for here!
Another way people commonly use the term “organic” is to mean that no synthetic chemicals are used. However, as landscape professionals we have to be more specific.
These days, “organic” can only be used in the legal sense to apply to products that are officially certified by recognized certifying organizations (such as USDA or Oregon Tilth) to have been produced without the use of petrochemicals or any artificial or synthetic ingredients or products.
The keyword here is “certified.” I can spread a load of straw mulch from a local farm that’s never sprayed anything on their fields, but without that fancy piece of paperwork to go with it I’ll get in big trouble if I say it’s organic. And the thing is, those certification papers can get expensive. Which of course means that as soon as you say something is “organic” you can just about guarantee a price hike.
So the first thing to get clear on is: how important is certification to you? Because if you need it for your LEED certification or sustainability initiative or something like that we can deliver. But most people don’t care, in which case we call it “natural lawn care” and can probably save you a little money.
The Truth About Natural Vs. Conventional Lawn Care
More importantly, let’s get to the heart of the question. What condition is your lawn in to start with? And what kind of results are you looking for?
The reason I ask is that grass is a living thing, just like a human being. And just like people, turf can fall into pretty sorry shape if it’s not given the proper nourishment and tender care.
Believe me, I’m all for natural health care methods, but there are appropriate times for antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. Used wisely and with discretion, they can save lives—especially in acute situations where quick intervention is needed. The same is true for turf care.
If your lawn has extreme weed problems there’s no way to cost-effectively get rid of them without the use of some chemicals, at least initially. In our humid climate fungus can present a similar problem. Once the acute situation is under control, then we can transition to a more natural approach. When we do use conventional lawn care methods, we aim for a light handed approach and try to be as conservative as possible when it comes to chemical use. As my physician says, “why use a stick of dynamite when a firecracker will do the job?”
A Common Sense Approach
Ultimately, our philosophy is to do our best above all else to ensure the health of the turf and especially the soil that supports it. And natural methods make up the lion’s share of what goes into maintaining good soil health and a healthy lawn. These include:
- Ensuring the turf is not over watered.
- Aeration every few years to relieve and/or prevent soil compaction issues.
- Adequate sunlight (at least 6 hours a day.)
- Proper drainage.
- Proper balance of soil microorganisms. (We use a product called Holganix and similar natural products that work like probiotics in the diet.)
- Minimizing exposure to foot traffic, equipment, etc.
How strictly you can adhere to 100% natural methods and still have a lawn you’re happy with depends a lot on your soil health, other site conditions, the way you use your lawn (do you host athletic events or have kids with dirt bikes trucking over it all the time?), your budget, and your aesthetic expectations.
Most of the time, 100% organic vs 100% synthetic is not an argument that even makes sense to waste time on. Just as many people realize when shopping for food, the answer is usually a combination—and more specifically, a common sense combination. And that common sense approach is the one we take at T. Lake.
Have concerns about chemical use on your lawn? We’re happy to discuss your situation, and work with you to come up with a healthy solution for your family, the environment, and your lawn. Just reach out to us here!