Having spent many years of my life involved with residential and commercial turfgrass maintenance, it’s been interesting to see the rise of a new niche market within the industry: organic lawn care. I for one am glad to see a growing demand for this type of lawn care. Folks are beginning to see beyond the idea that a beautiful lawn can only be obtained through regular applications of chemicals, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other potentially harmful materials. But like all new markets, it’s important to be well-informed before jumping in. Knowing what to expect from an organic lawn care service, as well as what services are offered and how they're performed, will prevent you from being taken advantage of in this new and developing area of lawn care.
Make Sure They're Qualified
First, make sure to select an organic lawn care service that actually knows what they’re doing and is qualified to practice organic lawn care. “Organic”, “sustainable”, “green”, “eco-friendly” and other feel-good words can easily be thrown around by any lawn care business. These terms can be used very loosely, sometimes deceivingly to the point of greenwashing. A quality organic lawn care service should be exclusively organic, meaning that’s the only type of services offered. Ask to see some kind of certification or accreditation that proves they are qualified to practice organic lawn care. They should also be able to clearly explain each and every step of their service and how it corresponds with being organic. Ask to see the label of anything they plan to apply to your lawn. Ask them if they use only the best grass seed for overseeding purposes; seed that's been top-rated by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program for its genetic superiority. Professional organic lawn care services should be very transparent and won’t hesitate to explain their practices.
Know What to Expect
Next, know what to expect from an organic lawn care service. Don’t assume immediate results. Unlike traditional lawn care services that often treat a sick lawn’s symptoms with quick-fix solutions, organic lawn care focuses on prevention. This is gradual process, much like what regular exercise does for the health of your body. For example, traditional lawn care services will apply quick-release synthetic fertilizers to provide a fast green-up. These applications work well for a while, but do little to improve soil structure. They need to be repeated regularly and may result in fertilizer burn, waterway pollution and excessive thatch buildup. On the other hand, a good slow-release organic fertilizer will replenish the soil with a rich supply of humus. Eventually the health of your grass will increase. This in turn increases the pest, weed and drought resistance of your lawn.
A Good Company Will Educate as Well as Serve
Also be aware that a flawless, immaculate lawn is not the goal of organic lawn care. An organic lawn care service will probably not do anything about the clovers in your lawn. In fact, a good company will educate and explain to you how clovers are actually beneficial for your lawn. You should also expect to notice an organic lawn care company cutting your lawn slightly higher than you might be used to and leaving the clippings on the lawn instead of removing them. Don’t worry, they’re not being lazy. These practices all have a purpose in organic lawn care. Look for a service that will teach you how to properly irrigate your lawn, or that will even install rainwater harvesting systems.
Do Some Research
Finally, it’s always a good idea to do a little research when looking for an organic lawn care company. Ask family, friends, neighbors, read on-line reviews and check out the work they do with other clients. Make sure the company offers a written service agreement and doesn’t try to make you accept a verbal or over-the-phone contract. Free estimates should be expected. Your local Better Business Bureau is also a great resource for finding out more information about any potential lawn care service.