Does anyone run an organic lawn service?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by jmartmel, Jul 28, 2001.

  1. LoneStarLawn

    LoneStarLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,415

    There are weed control organic products out there. Using the right applications you will not have customers seeing weeds. Take a lawn off steriods though could be devistating.

    Using low amounts of chemical applications and high organic products will produce excellent results.

    This month's <b>Landscape Management Magazine</b> talks about the growth of organic programs. Jump on now or you may be left out.
  2. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424

    seeding your lawn with clover is very successful
    If you want a clover lawn but it sure looks like crap to me!
  3. OrganicLawnGuy

    OrganicLawnGuy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    I've read at several sources now that Toronto is close to banning the use of 'cosmetic' pesticides (according to Grounds Maintence), so I don't think it's scare mongering Kermit (and why would anyone be scared of that? Except maybe Chemlawn). What a lot of companies may do is spend some money on marketing their new change and yet still resort to their chemical ways because Toronto is almost broke and really can't afford to test lawns. No doubt it will enable them to charge more for 'organic pesticides', some of which are more carcinogenic than their chemical cousins. Also, I've read a lot of posts where the complaint is about weeds such as dandelions. One thing that a lot of people don't seem to consider is that dandelions prefer a higher PH than many cool season grasses. So a regular PH test, and neutralizing the property can make it much easier to deal with weeds. One source I've checked with maintained that correcting the PH solved ALL of his weed problems (though I don't think it's always that easy). For my part, I advertise to my clients that I'll EAT every dandelion that appears on their lawn (as long as they've never used a pesticide on their property). The leaves are great in salads and I make a mean dandelion wine. Of course I've rarely seen dandelions on my properties, but there's plenty on other lawns (I ask if I can have them and this begins a new relationship that sometimes leads to new clients).
  4. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    When it comes to fertilizer, all the organic stuff has to be converted to the same inorganic compounds that are in the bags of "chemical fertilizers" before they can be used by plants.

    Organics therefore feed slower and may make a better looking lawn than quick release products. However there are plenty of good sources of slow release inorganics available that are a lot less expensive than organics and they make a lawn look good.

    We spray broadleaf weeds on an as needed basis and only broadcast spray and entire site when required to clean it up. We do use pre-emergent crabgrass control on all areas. Also use one application of surface feeding insect control which slows down some relevant lawn pests and other things like ticks which are a great concern in our area. We have lots of Lyme disease.

    For those that don't know or understand Lyme's, it is a cousin to syphilis but IS NOT sexually transmitted. Only comes from infected ticks.

    Our disease control and grub control are on an as diagnosed basis, treated at extra cost IF the problem truly warrants.

    My premise is proper turf culture such as fertility, watering, mowing and seed selection.

    We're not afraid of chemicals but feel we use them wisely as intended to produce quality turf and not directly as a revfenue source.
  5. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424

    "We're not afraid of chemicals but feel we use them wisely as intended to produce quality turf"

    You just described Integrated Pest Management"

    This is the way to do things. It is reasonable, enviromentally responsible and the best way to provide the client with what they expect.

    Unfortunately the "organic, natural, let the weeds grow, there is no place for ornamental horticulture, save the world crowd " will still say it ain't right

    Sometimes it seems that all these enviromentalists do not see any value in ornamental horticulture.:angry:
  6. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    Yes I speak IPM. I don't seem to have a hard time rationalizing the need or lack thereof for controls and spending money to my customers.

    I wish, I wish, that I could talk some sense into people about irrigation engineering, installation and use. Yes good one s cost more to buy but are cheaper to own and use. Somehow I can't get them past the purchase outlay even though I put numbers on paper with supporting info, cajole, listen, answer questions etc.

    Any suggestions how to sell good irrigation systems to people who want to regard them as a commodity where all are equal and to be purshased at the lowest price?
  7. OrganicLawnGuy

    OrganicLawnGuy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    That's a real good point because watering is one of the backbones of organic lawn care. For example if you are having a problem with bentgrass taking over a lawn of bluegrass you can alter the watering habits. Bentgrass needs watering more frequently so by only watering deeply every 7 or 8 days you will starve out the bentgrass which needs it every four or five. Anyway, as far as the cost outlay goes what I've noticed after 15 years in the business is that most people have a budgeted amount that they will spend on their lawns-usually determined by their income and the price of their house but you must also factor in their feelings about their lawns, the number of children, etc. Pesticides, etc., usually fall well within this range so its easy to sell people on that but watering is one of those things people don't really think about and if they do they think rain or the occasional sprinkler will do the trick. The real key is to know and educate your customers. This is why I'm happy doing organic because I can tell people's relationship to their lawn immediately (I also have a questionairre). It isn't the 'I don't care what you do just make it green' people who will opt for organic. I know what my customers do, what they make (roughly), their general spending habits, and whenever I notice construction workers or a delivery vehicle then I know somebody's just gotten a bonus. Anyway, enough preachy talk, here's just a couple of suggestions that hopefully will help you out.
    1. Sell in advance. Way in advance if possible. If you have a supplier try to find the best time to get a deal on the equipment, let your customers know that you are doing this-though don't tell them you are buying it if they aren't committed. Make sure they know what they are saving on the item-people love to save money and tell their friends what a great deal they got. My customers seem to trust me implicitly which makes it easier, if you've saved them money on something else then let them know that too. A 'good customer' discount if possible helps or a discount if they've recommended you to a potential new customer.
    2. Work on the financing. Try to find a supplier who will finance over a year. People don't like shelling out big bucks but they don't mind little amounts (how else could car leasing have started?:) And remember, people are lazy, they do whatever seems easiest, you have to make sure this will be easiest by doing all the work for them.
    3. Make sure they know how much they can save or how much better their lawn will look. The best time to sell an irrigation system is during drought years when lawns are starting to look bad but before lack of rain becomes a news item (then they might be tempted to just let it go dormant for the good of the community). Software will help with showing how much better it will look. Also, if you have a website or they are at all interested in their lawns have some good links or third party info showing how much water is wasted by above ground watering. Often when you are talking they may just have the feeling that you are just selling them something. I think people have a built in scepticism when it comes to salespeople, so if you can point them at research from an educational institute that tells them what you are telling them they will be that much more comfortable with it.
    4. All my customers have the price of watering built in. I know everyone can't do that but because I only take customers in two different subdivisions I am able to stop by with my hoses and set it up in the morning while doing tasks at another home. I always make sure they know how much they would save with their own timed irrigation system. During the (sometimes) hot dry summer months here it is imperative that watering be controlled so I don't let them opt out of that. Some have said 'oh we can water it if its needs it'. I say that's fine but I still factor it into the price because since I'm always in the area I can tell if they are doing it or not. I have no trouble cancelling contracts if I can't control the water flow.

    That's enough of that so you can stop reading there. I just want to add since this is really the only organic thread that one of the reasons I started working for myself was that every company I worked for said they were into IPM and most couldn't even tell me what diatomaceous earth was. They had no idea of any organic ways of doing things, only the easiest chemical way. They hadn't even TRIED an organic approach. The ones that also did maintenance had people on a schedule for once a week no matter what type of grass it was or what season. They used walkers or exmarks even on smaller residential lawns and then sold them on aeration because their soil was compacted (well, duh!) As far as the spraying goes, even if the supervisor was into IPM he wasn't the one actually at the sites-that was some kid that just took an open book test to be certified as an apprentice. I believe in making many chemicals illegal simply because there are proven ways to do everything organically (although it takes some research) and because the vast majority of the spraying is not done by the one guy who owns the company and is responsible but by the companies that hire five kids to do it for them. We environmentalist's don't worry about you guys who are using just a bit to make the site safe and aesthically appealing because if you've minimized their use then you've already admitted to the problem and you would adapt (plus a municipality would be giving you an acceptable reason for raising your prices). Just a little bit of research shows how nasty these things are by themselves, compounded by the number of lawns and you've got a big problem. Ontario is the second most polluted region in North America, right behind Texas, so we really no longer have the option of doing things in moderation. As a final note, remember that three separate studies have found an incidence of brain cancer in applicators to be three times the norm. Whether you believe it or not, environmentalist's are your friends just practising tough love.
  8. dylan

    dylan Member
    Messages: 276

    Lots of people from Ontario here. I've been organic for 2 years now.
  9. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Sorry guys, but I gotta let off some steam.

    You guys in Canada think you've got it bad? The biggest chunk of my sales revenue comes from selling pesticides to Tree & Lawn Co.'s in Westchester County New York. Home to the Queen of Liberal, Miss Hillary.(we haven't seen Bill all summer). There have been attemps to ban pesticides in certain villages. So far, all have been defeated. The county executive Spano, has even forced the county golf courses to practice IPM for Hyperodes Weevil. I just love the way bare dirt putts, don't you.

    These are the same neighborhoods that don't allow the use of a gasoline powered leaf blower in the summer time. The WhitePlains woman who convinced her town to start this fiasco 5 years ago was actually sited last summer by the town. Her neighbor turned her in to the Blight Police. Her place looks like a jungle. A 100% Natural Organic fire hazard. Boy, it's a good thing we wrote some new laws to protect us huh?

    These guys have adopted a "Neighbor Notification Law". All abutting property owners must be notified, in writing, 48 hours before you apply anything liquid. Now, where did I leave that arsenic dust?...
    Most applicators, after they're turned in for non compliance, just lie & tell the county pesticide cop that they applied an exempt material. The poor guy wouldn't know how to prove your lying, so he hasn't even tried, yet. The former Ciba/Novartis did a GREAT job schmoozing the NY politicians. They just about OWN the list with something like 5 real pesticides. There are only 7 all together. Unless you count lemon-oil, garlic, vampire urine, & voodoo dolls. Well, there goes the IPM program.

    Part of me really wishes that the liberals would succeed, just once, in banning pesticides completely from one town. I'd love to see the looks on the faces of the hug-a-tree crowd as New York City sewer rats move into their $3.5 Million raised ranches in a place like Scarsdale. I can practically hear them screaming now over the din of a chainsaw taking out the last Elm Trees downtown. And won't it be great when the last Hemlock has shriveled to Grey? The realtors will have a field day as the liberals run further away form the Big Wormy Apple. At least I won't have to ask my lunch appointment to pass the salt. I'll just wait for a cockroach to run it over.

    The real issue here is that these people live their happy little insulary lives in a fantasy land. They come down with Breast Cancer and they immediately blame the environment. It can't be hereditary, if it were, then they passed defective genes onto their children. NO, NO, NO, it can't be. Check the on-line death records. My wifes big into geneaology, so I have checked a few of the higher profile voices. Interesting.

    The Yentas on Long Island are beside themselves that the ground water just PASSED a thorough & scientific screen for pesticides. It had to be a GW Bush led conspiracy. Now what will they talk about over their latte. I to am in shock. The LI sandbar was previously one big potatoe farm, just oozing with Dieldrin, Temic, Aldicarb. Oh well, the water still tastes bad. And despite all their noise, the LI Yentas don't even have the nations highest breast cancer rates. They lied. Rockland County, NY beat them breasts, er, hands down.

    There are still a few New York families that favor the responsible use of pesticides. Especially the one 6 blocks north of my old LESCO Service Center in East White Plains. Those little kids mother was the first confirmed death from West Nile Virus. I was sprayed twice by the GPS guided helicopters spraying malathion in the weeks that followed. But none of the greiving widowers neighbors were complaining about it. Believe me. I was telephone interviewed 3 times on WABC radio (home of Rush Limbaugh) as the ONLY pro industry face who could find my politically incorrect voice. I bet a liberal radio talkshow co-host a steak dinner that by the end of the summer at least 3 more would die from West Nile Virus & that there would be ZERO confirmed pesticide related illnesses. There were 7 deaths that summer. I still haven't gotten that steak!

    Sometimes I think it's getting better. Especially after the liberals accused RoundUp of causing testicular cancer in two of the hundred or so farmers who tested RoundUp back in the "old days". The 2 guys probably got sack cancer from their tractor seats but their military medical files are sealed so we may never know. Too bad that Monsanto didn't get FDA approval for Glyphosate sooner. It's now been approved as a CANCER THERAPY. That's the end of that propaganda source huh?

    Please don't get me wrong. I'm all for the responsible reduction of pesticides, when appropriate. And most organic fert's do antagonize disease pathogens to the point of at least some supression. I used Sustane for the last 2 summers here at the house for that reason. But some synthetic ferts (soon to be released) do a BETTER job of supressing disease. And this one is LESS likely to leach or volatalize than any organic made.

    The quality of life in the USA has been greatly improved by the advancements in Medicine & Agriculture chemicals. If you really think all these "chemicals" are so bad for us, then try to explain to me why our average life expectancy has increased on a parallel with the use of modern pesticides and pharmaceuticals. By the way, the incidents of most new cancers is on the decline.

    But please let's not blame poor turf management practices on sysnthetics. That's taking the easy way out just like my yenta freinds on Long Island.
    All soils that aren't properly cared for die. That means organic matter is to be added as needed. It doesn't mean you have to swear off commercial fertilizers and herbicides. It's just turf science, not Rocket science. Didn't we all learn this stuff in school? Hmm... maybe not.

    Better days to come! Steve
  10. OrganicLawnGuy

    OrganicLawnGuy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    The reason life expectancy has increased is due primarily to improved food transportation and storage. During the last century (the time in which most comparisons are based because it had relatively consistent records) mortality was considerably decreased because of unsafe working conditions, unsafe shipping, starvation, scurvy and tuberculosis (the white plague). Scurvy was then recognized as a deficiency of vitamin C and TB was controlled by penicillin (grown on molds, not synthetically til recently). In the past, poor nutrition due to unsanitary food storage resulted in most deaths because of viral infections (no refrigeration).
    The 20th century saw industrial north america copying the practices used in industrial europe. Of course much of this century saw two world wars as well as several depressions. Of course any anthropologist will tell you the biggest increase in longevity is in third world countries when proper nutrition and clean drinking water is available-mortality has been seen to drop by up to 1000%.
    As far as other points you make go, many cancers are on the decrease-many others, like children's leukemia, are on the increase. Pesticides and herbicides are not only linked to cancers but to many other diseases-many of which are on the increase. Most telling I think is the fact that in cases of cancer in children one of the first questions a parent is asked is whether pesticides are used in the neighborhood. Many health practitioners and doctors are issuing warnings which reinforce the suspicions many people have had. Part of the reason more is not known about these effects is that government, as a regulatory body, is complicit in its use, and would be culpable if it is found that these chemicals are harmful-so it is difficult to finance studies.
    I think it's kind of silly to equate using chemicals to try to make grass prettier and use of it for a health scare like West Nile Virus, even though you are far more likely to die by lightning, the flu, or a traffic accident than contract and die from WNV. As far as your not finding any pesticide related illnesses though, I doubt you did much searching to discover this.
    The claim that these synthetics have contributed so much to our standard of living is questionable, and equating them in the same sentence with pharmaceuticals is puzzling. I do agree with your conclusion though, that we shouldn't just blame poor landscaping on synthetic chemicals, in fact I would reverse it and blame synthetic chemicals on poor horticultural practices.

Share This Page