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Organic Lawn Care Catching On

Organic Lawn Care Catching On
  • Spreading the word on organic lawn care
    By Robert Knox
    Boston Globe, August 13, 2006
    Straight to the Source Spreading the word on organic lawn care
    By Robert Knox
    Boston Globe, August 13, 2006
    Straight to the Source

Lawn care -- long a byword for chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides -- is going natural.

The growing organic movement in agriculture is increasingly crossing over into landscaping, as professionals respond to rising consumer demand for healthy, full lawns that are nourished in an ecologically responsible way.

``People don't want chemicals on their lawn," said Kathy Litchfield, Massachusetts coordinator of the Northeast Organic Farming Association's Organic Land Care Program.

The program, spurred by surging interest in a natural approach to lawn care, seeks to extend the principles of organic agriculture to suburban landscapes -- parks, athletic fields, and residential lawns -- and reduce reliance on potentially harmful synthetic chemicals and fertilizers.

The association -- a nonprofit group of farmers, landscapers, gardeners, and organic food consumers -- has accredited more than 200 lawn-care professionals across the state, many from the suburbs south of Boston.

On Thursday, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association will host a daylong lawn- and turf-management course designed for managers of parks, sports fields, and conservation areas. The course will be held at South Shore Vocational Technical High School in Hanover. Lawn-care professionals, municipal park managers, and land-preservation organizations are expected to attend.

Chris Kennedy, a certified horticulturist, will discuss liquid compost. Kennedy said interest in organic lawn care has increased in tandem with customers' reluctance to apply chemicals to their lawns.

``We're hearing more and more of that," he said.

Kennedy, who has sold organic products for a decade at Kennedy's Country Gardens in Scituate, said some customers are worried that chemical products pose a health risk, while others learn about the organic approach from gardening shows and magazines.

Kennedy acknowledged that organic lawn care is more demanding and expensive for homeowners than relying on chemically based solutions. That's because organic methods view lawns as ecosystems, not carpets. But the long-term benefits for lawns and plants are significant.

``It takes a little more information," he said. `` You need to focus on what the plants like and what's good for the soil. You start from the ground up and try to make the soil as palatable to the plants as possible."

Kennedy teaches customers to use organic products that rely on natural microorganisms to please plants and weaken weeds. He recommends liquid composts like Soil Soup as root strengtheners, helping plants weather drought and resist disease. Corn gluten meal, another organic product, boosts nitrogen to bolster roots and curb weeds.

The Hanover course will also provide information on growing organic lawn and turf, converting from chemical-based lawn care, and marketing the organic approach.

Course instructors include Chip Osborn, cofounder of the Living Lawn Project in Marblehead, and Kimberly Stoner, an entomologist and founder of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

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