Americans love lush, green lawns, but as awareness grows about the health risks and environmental damages of the cocktail of chemicals we spread across our yards every year, more and more are switching to organic methods.
Why Go Organic?
A typical suburban lawn in the United States may receive three times more chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers per acre than a typical agricultural field.
Of the 30 most common lawn pesticides, 27 are irritants, 19 are known or suspected carcinogens, and 13 are linked with birth defects. Pesticides and herbicides are especially dangerous for children and pets, because of their smaller size. Pesticide use in the home and garden raises the risk of childhood leukemia by as much as seven times, and dogs exposed to herbicide treated lawns have double the rate of canine lymphoma and up to seven times the rate of bladder cancer.
Health risks aren’t the only reasons to switch to organic lawn care methods. Chemical fertilizers can contaminate ground and surface water supplies and are one of the leading causes of water pollution today. Pesticides kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones, and can also harm or kill larger wildlife such as birds, amphibians, and mammals. Organic lawns also tend to require less watering, which means they can also save money on water bills!
Organic lawn care is a win-win situation for the homeowner, the lawn care provider, the environment, and the lawn itself. Because organic lawn care methods focus on tackling the root problem instead of using chemical quick fixes, organically managed lawns tend to be healthier, greener, and lusher over the long term than conventional lawns.
Starting an Organic Lawn Service
Organic lawn care is a great green business opportunity for entrepreneurs on a budget because of its relatively low start-up costs. Starting an organic lawn service can be as simple as taking your lawnmower around to your friends’ and relatives’ lawns and asking them to recommend your services to friends.
However, because organic lawn care requires more knowledge and observation skills and less of a quick-fix mentality than ordinary lawn care, it is helpful to study organic methods thoroughly before starting your business, as well as familiarizing yourself with local soil conditions, water needs, and common weeds.
Other Ways To Go Green
In addition to eliminating use of harmful chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, there are many more ways to go green with your lawn care business.
For smaller yards, you can use old fashioned reel mowers or electric mowers to reduce carbon emissions. Electric mowers also reduce noise by 50-75% over conventional gas powered mowers. Rotary powered mowers reduce it even more.
Many organic lawn care services offer other landscaping services in addition to lawns. You can increase your commitment to green gardening by offering design services for xeriscapes, rain gardens, butterfly gardens, habitat restorations, and other natural landscapes that will provide beautiful surroundings for humans while simultaneously conserving water, offering food and shelter for wildlife, and reducing the urban heat island effect. You can also contribute to the local food movement by helping homeowners design beautiful edible landscapes.
Promoting Your Organic Lawn Care Business
There are several organizations that offer accreditation and other services for organic lawn care professionals. SafeLawns is an organic lawn care industry organization founded by Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual. Organic lawn care professionals can apply to be approved for a listing on the website. The Northeast Organic Farming Organization (NOFA) is another organization that offers classes and accreditation for organic lawn care professionals through their Organic Land Care Program, as well as a searchable directory of accredited professionals.
Three Organic Lawn Care Services For a Lawn That’s Truly Green
TLC for Safe Lawns is located in Wells, ME and offers a full range of organic lawn care services. TLC for Safe Lawns starts with a soil test to determine the specific needs of your lawn, and uses customized mixes of organic fertilizers to help your lawn be the best it can be. TLC for Safe Lawns also performs regular pest inspections, core aeration and overseeding, and deer and tick control.
Texas-based Soils Alive offers its possible Soil-Building program, which includes regular inspections, liquid compost treatments, and 100% organic weed, pest, and disease control. Soils Alive also offers an irrigation management service that helps plants develop the deep, healthy root systems required to survive hot Texas summers while saving money on your water bills by preventing overwatering!
Clean Air Lawn Care uses biodiesel or solar-powered electric lawn mowers and runs its offices on wind power. All grass clippings and other organic wastes are composted on site or at local composting centers, and all fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are 100% all natural and organic. Founded in Colorado, Clean Air Lawn Care services are now available in a number of other states, including California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and North Carolina.