Frequently Asked Questions
Take a gander at the common questions folks like yourself have when first learning about organic lawn care.
Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are mostly man made chemicals that do not align with how Mother Nature intended for things to be. These materials have a direct and harmful impact on our ecosystems, water quality, air quality, and human health.
Many pesticides have been studied and researched over the last decade or two and the data links many of them to cancer in humans and pets.
Additionally, synthetic fertilizers are extremely leachable and almost always move away from the target source of where they are applied, especially after a rain event. These fertilizers are leaching into our waterways which raises nutrient levels in our lakes, rivers, and streams, killing fish and aquatic life as well as contaminating our drinking water sources.
Evidence continues to mount exposing the truth about pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and how harmful they are to us and all other earthly species.
Exposure to even low doses of unsafe, unhealthy products and lawn chemicals over a long period of time has been linked to many cancers, allergies such as asthma, and neurological disorders.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children has also been linked to pesticide exposure.
Additionally, studies show that since these pesticides are designed to kill either weeds, insects, funguses, and other pathogens that they also have the ability to kill other integral and beneficial species that our environment needs in order to keep things in balance. One example is the direct link between a certain class of insecticide and Colony Collapse Disorder which is killing honeybees all over the globe.
Many people don’t realize that something as simple as walking on your lawn, or a golf course, after a pesticide application can be where the “low dose over long periods of time” epidemic begins.
If you walk across your property shortly after a chemical lawn care company has applied a pre-emergent or post-emergent weed killer, you can track these chemicals directly into your home. If your dog jumps on your couch or lays down after rolling around on a recently treated lawn, the chemicals are now in your house, on your furniture, floors, carpeting, etc.
These chemicals need sunlight and moisture to break them down properly. This does not happen when they are tracked indoors. Instead, they stick around over long periods of time exposing you, your family, and your pets to their harmful ingredients over and over again.
Analyzing your property and testing the soil is the first step to transition from chemical lawn care to natural/organic lawn care.
We start with a site analysis because site conditions (sunlight exposure, terrain, existing tree species, etc) will help us decide which grass species will flourish best on your property. Some grasses do great in shade while others can only perform well in full sun locations.
We also like to look at what trees you have growing around or in your lawn areas. White Pine’s can sometimes alert us to a possible acidity issue with your soil which would mean we would need to bring the pH down to more neutral levels by using lime. Maple trees have very shallow root systems which can uptake water more quickly than the lawn areas around them which may result in the grass not getting enough water and burning out more quickly. Slopes and the existing grade changes can tell us a lot about drainage issues on your property. Taking notice of compacted soils just from taking a little walk on them can tell us a lot of important information as well. An analysis of your site informs the path forward.
As part of analyzing your property, we gather soil samples from several lawn areas, package them up, and send them off to a soil testing laboratory to return the invaluable data needed to design the right program for your lawn and soil system.
The only way to know how to balance, build, and change the soil on your property in order to make it more conducive to growing cool season turf grasses, is to test and analyze the soil. Soil testing is what separates the professional, organic lawn care providers from the “one size fits all” approach to lawn care used by conventional, chemical lawn care services.
The bottom line is if there is no site analysis and no soil test, there is no way to know how to diagnose and successfully address the fundamental problems with your lawn and soil system, organically.
You can expect a beautiful lawn that you don’t have to worry about.
No longer will your lawn feel like a toxic, fluorescent green, facade that exposes you, your family or pets to chemicals every time you play or lay down on it. Yes, the color of your lawn will of course be “green” but it will be a healthy, safe, verdant space that will be calling to you to take off your shoes, lay down and watch the clouds in the sky casually pass by.
You have the peace of mind that the slice of earth you are caring for is a safe, healthy, natural paradise. 🙂
You also won’t have the “lawn worries” as much because the longer a lawn and soil system is on an organic program, the more self sustaining it will become. Over time all of the issues with the soil are properly addressed and we reach a threshold where everything is firing on all cylinders.
We have finally enlivened and reinvigorated your soil by building organic matter levels, balancing the pH, providing the proper amounts and levels of nutrients. We’ve also increased your soil’s ability to hold on to those nutrients so that they are available to the grass plants.
We have basically created a soil system that can now work with your lawn system symbiotically and sustain itself without much help from outside sources. We will have created a fully functional, closed loop, self supporting system.
You can again have the peace of mind that all of that upfront investment in an organic program has now paid off and your lawn system is being taken care of by the soil and the biology that lives and works in your soil. This is how it was always meant to be!
Your pets will have less worries too!
You will be mitigating huge risk factors in terms of their health and well-being especially when it comes to many forms of cancers that dogs and cats can develop from playing and residing on a lawn that is on a chemical lawn care program.
Yes, your dog may like the natural products we use because they smell tasty and might be fun to roll on. In my experience however, most pets don’t take much of an interest in our materials since they do not contain any animal/poultry manure or biosolids. Rather they are all plant based materials.
Also the granular fertilizer is broadcasted at a high disbursement rate so there is no concern that they could actually ingest very much of it. With the liquid products we use I usually tell clients to let it dry and then just monitor your dog to make sure they aren’t just eating large amounts of the actual grass.
It’s all natural and safe, but even natural products can be hazardous and harmful if ingested in very high amounts. Bottom line is, always err on the side of caution with any lawn care product. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we should let Fido eat it up to his or her heart’s content, besides this is lawn food, not dog food.
Transitioning off of a chemical lawn care program is process that requires a commitment because it takes time to undo the damage inflicted on the soil and turf grass.
This time period needed to successfully wean your lawn off of chemical management is known formally as the Transition Period by organic lawn care professionals. The Transition Period can last between 1 to 3+ growing seasons depending on the soil quality revealed through testing.
The transition period is complete when we have reached a sustainability threshold that allows us to progress to our Sustainable Management Program.
Occasionally, we encounter conditions where the soils are so poor to begin with that we may consider literally starting over with new topsoil, and compost, to provide what the grass will need right off the bat. In these cases we effectively skip the transition period.
Because implementing successful organic practices is a process, starting and stopping is detrimental to success.
Once started, a commitment should be made to stick with organics for at least the first few years. This time is needed in order to build, balance, and change the soil for a successful lawn. Otherwise we will not achieve the sustainable results we want.
If budget is ever a concern, we can explore our “do-it-yourself” or “do-it-with-help” consulting programs to keep the progress going.
We do our absolute best at making the transition as smooth and as aesthetically pleasing as possible from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Most of the time you can’t tell that we have even switched, and in some instances things start looking better right away! Especially on the lawns where nothing may have been done for some time.
The important thing to remember that a “perfect lawn” is usually a chemical lawn saturated on a regular basis with cancer causing, unnatural products designed to kill plants, insects, and biology. The true “perfect lawn” is a lawn that’s green, but safe and chemical-free. Even if it does have weed or two here and there!
This all depends on soil test data, but a minimum commitment of 2-3 growing seasons on an organic program should be made in order to get close to the threshold of sustainability.
On very poor soils, with very low organic matter and very little soil biology, this can take longer.
Once a site analysis and soil test are performed, we will be better able to predict the time needed to reach sustainability for your lawn.
It most certainly will.
The bare minimum is of course better than using lawn chemicals, but if the integral components of soil building are not addressed in the first few years, we will not be efficient and effective. An upfront investment of time and resources is required to build and balance soils to reach our goal of a sustainable lawn.
We may develop some weed pressure especially if the existing turf system is thin, or has bare spots, since we will no longer be applying a chemical pre-emergent in the spring.
Crabgrass can germinate and begin growing in a bare spot the size of a quarter. The good news is that there are many new and natural weed treatment products on the organic market now and we have the ability to use these if needed.
Organic principles prove that “grass seed is our weed killer”. The thicker the turf density, the less weed pressure there is too contend with, crabgrass included.
We put this principle into practice from the commencement of an organic lawn care program by overseeding during the appropriate times of year to build and thicken up the existing turf system.
Proper mowing practices also play a critical role in controlling crabgrass.
Homeowners, and lawn mowing service providers, need to understand the importance of proper mowing as it relates to weed control. An organic program can literally be “undone” by improper and uneducated mowing practices. The lawn system, other than the first and last cut, should always maintain a consistent height of 3.5 - 4 inches.
A taller lawn is more resistant to insect and pest damage, and more adept at dealing with hot, dry drought-like periods and environmental stresses (since it will have a deeper root system). The tall grass blades also shade out smaller weed plants and seedlings at the soil surface. When weeds are unable to photosynthesize effectively due to less sunlight, they are less able to take hold, establish, and outcompete the good grasses!
It is hard to compare pricing because we are providing a fundamentally different service.
Unlike conventional services that make your lawn chemically dependent, we provide services that have sustainability as the end goal. Therefore we propose different practices and methods to accomplish those goals.
There can be a difference in price of the products used as they are all natural, plant-based and made by small American businesses, most of the time family owned and operated, and LOCAL!
Because they are not derived from the dirty petroleum and coal mining industry like many synthetic lawn products are, they also aren’t mass produced like urea and pesticides such as glyphosate which means those companies can make things very cheap! But cheap and dirty, also means unhealthy for all of us!
We use an array of organic granular fertilizers (plant-based).
Liquid biology foods like kelp and humic acids, and molasses
Customized and local grass seed blends
Granular soil amendments to build and balance the soil
Granular vermi-compost (vermi= worm-castings)
Granular humates to increase organic matter levels as well as increase the soil’s ability to hold on to nutrients
Professional High Calcium Lime to lower pH’s to the neutral level to create ideal grass growing conditions
Organic compost for compost top-dressings
We also build services like slice seeding and core aerations directly into our programs since these mechanical services are what gives us a leg up on thickening and building turf density when we put grass seed down.
Mowing is an important consideration and must follow our recommended guidelines.
Mowing too short (less than 3 - 3.5 inches) even once can severely impact a lawn system. We never ever want to scalp a lawn!
The first cut of the season can be short (2 inches or so) in order to open things up and get sunlight down to the new seed that we would be putting down with the first application. After the first cut, begin to raise the deck on the mower in order to achieve the maximum cut height of 3.5 - 4 inches.
During the season the grass blades should never be cut below the 3” minimum! The last cut of the season can be short again (1.5 - 2 inches) in order to mitigate grass laying over on itself all winter, which can sometimes make winter snow mold more of an issue.
*Please refer to the “What can we do about crabgrass?” question above for more information regarding mowing and weed control.
Irrigation is not required, but is a convenient asset when watering is needed on poor quality soils.
The key with watering is that we inevitably want to be on a schedule that follows the idea of longer, deeper waterings on a less frequent basis. The idea is to more closely mimic natural rain events which promotes deeper root growth and healthier, more resilient grass. Another factor is that because we are taking the time to build the soil, we are improving the soil’s ability to hold moisture. This means the water is used more efficiently and effectively.
A normal watering schedule would follow more of the 1” of water/week rule. This water can come from a rain event, supplemental irrigation, or watering by hand.
Too much water is not a good thing! We refer to over watering as “killing your lawn with kindness”. Unfortunately, this happens often.
It’s always better to keep your lawn and soil system on the edge of being “dry” as opposed to too wet or saturated which can cause root rot, fungus issues, and can literally drown the grass plants and soil organisms. Grass is much tougher than we think.
I usually recommend that clients pay close attention to how their lawns react to the watering schedule. If things look and feel dry then they probably are, and that means doing a longer, deeper watering (maybe for 45 to an hour per zone if there is an irrigation system).
We will provide special watering instructions for your property and adjust our recommendations to support different services or special situations.
Basically your lawn is now in detox mode from being unplugged from the intravenous drip of steroidal Nitrogen fertilizers and soil biology killing chemicals.
Synthetic fertilizers are very high in sodium (salts) which literally can dehydrate the soil microorganisms. After many years on a chemical program the soil will lack biology and has literally become a lifeless environment. It is no longer biologically alive, “teaming with microbes” and full of organic matter.
If the lawn looked good prior to stopping your conventional chemical program it was under the guise of a harmful, synthetic, high nitrogen program.
These treatments basically kept your lawn “on drugs” with the constant juicing of fertilizer. As long as there are enough roots, the plants can uptake the synthetic nutrients and literally live on the surface of something truly dead and lifeless or even a “soil” as hard as concrete.
Thankfully your lawn has been unplugged from the harmful chemical lawn care drugs that leach into stormwater systems and our drinking water that harms us and the environment. We can now address and mitigate the adverse effects of this detox period with high quality, science based, natural & organic methods and products.
Our “soil-centric” approach will keep the lawn moving in a new, healthy, enlivened, reinvigorated, direction without the use of addictive lawn drugs.
The links from the Complete Land Organics website to the Organic Landscape Association website are affiliate links. That means if you decide to click through and purchase a membership, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. We became affiliates of the OLA because it is an association we believe will accelerate the national adoption of organic landscape practices and protocols.
Take a look at Organic Landscape Association website to learn more about their mission. They offer memberships to professionals as well as homeowners that want to support the movement to eliminate harmful chemicals from landscape management.