Organic lawn care is not for everyone but it doesn't hurt to try and understand the systems going on in the soil, even if a conventional lawn care program is applied. In my experience, organic lawn care is not getting traction among lawn care providers and homeowners because of several pervasive organic lawn care myths. Even people who are environmentally aware and want to do what's right for their lawn tend to shy away from organic programs out of fear and a lack of understanding. One myth I would like to dispel is that an organic lawn care is prohibitively expensive. I hear it a lot but there's is little to back it up - it's more of an admission of ignorance, especially when it comes from a lawn care provider who is questioned by customers curious about going organic.
The notion of organic lawn care being too expensive is kind of funny considering the costs and inputs associated with conventional lawn care. Based on this idea alone, we are to believe that organic lawn care is more expensive than a program that consists of up to 8 fertilizer applications per year, insecticide applications, multiple herbicide applications and extensive watering. When a lawn care company says organic lawn care is too expensive, it just means that they do not offer an organic alternative and do not want to get involved in organic maintenance.
This 2010 study states that once established, an organic lawn program can result in savings of more than 25% compared to a conventional lawn care program. That's right, an organic lawn care program is actually cheaper in the long run. Now it begins to make sense why going organic is discouraged by many involved in the lawn care business. An organic program is based on building soil biology which will, over time, sustain the grass with minimal inputs. This is not conducive to the business model of your average lawn care company that needs to charge for repeated services and applications of products.
The fundamental aspect of an organic lawn care program is building soil biology. Initial costs may be more than a conventional lawn care program as one transitions from using synthetic fertilizers and chemical herbicides. Efforts such as topdressing with compost and relatively heavy fertilizer applications become less frequent or are eliminated after several years, or when the soil biology is sufficient enough to cycle nutrients and maintain adequate fertility on its own. As the soil reaches the desired 5% - 7% organic matter significant reductions in granular fertilizer can occur while maintaining applications of humic acid, compost tea, and fish hydrolysates.
Inputs like irrigation and labor also become reduced after time as the root zone approaches maximum possible depth and the turf no longer needs supplemental watering due to the health of the grass and the amount of moisture retained due to the higher amount organic matter in the soil.The study indicates the the reduction of irrigation needs ranges from 33% to more than 50%, while new drought resistant seed blends meant for low maintenance and organic lawns claim that supplemental watering can be reduced to zero. Naturally, all the reduced input equals less labor which translates into cost savings as well as more time to enjoy the lawn.
It is easy to understand why organic lawn care is seen as more expensive, especially when they are during the conversion process which can last several years. Year and years of conventional lawn care can destroy or severely compromise the soil's microbiology. The rehabilitation process can take several years and requires extensive use of compost and large amounts of granular fertilizers. Organics is all about the big picture though, and in the long run the inputs get reduced greatly. A truly organic lawn with a vibrant soil ecology can almost take care of itself. So to the naysayers who insist that organic lawn care is just to expensive - it's just not true.