Sustainable Lawn Care Tips From The Experts

Local landscapers share best practices for maintaining an ecologically healthy lawn

Using chemicals isn’t the only way to get a bright green, healthy-looking lawn. According to local lawn care experts, there are many ways to be environmentally-conscious while keeping your lawn beautiful.

Using Organics, Not Pesticides

Because of the health risks, local landscapers are trading in pesticides for organics.

Organics are naturally-occurring fertilizers, like compost, manure, peat or worm castings. Eco-friendly landscapers will use a combination of natural ingredients, like a leaf compost, instead of chemicals.

Tip: Grass disposal commences at recycling in Mahwah this Thursday.

Dan Muller, vice president of Blue Meadow Landscaping, said that his company implemented an organic landscaping program last year that they will continue this spring.

“We use 100 percent organic lawn care and fertilization of trees and shrubs because they add life to the soil,” Muller said. “When you use typical [non-organic] fertilizers and pesticides, you target certain insects.”

The insects landscapers want to avoid targeting are beneficial insects, microbes and nematodes, which pesticides strip from the environment. These organisms are necessary for the environment’s good health for years to come. Organics are a lower cost solution that saves these valuable organisms.

“If you can get the same results using an organic product that’s not going to harm the environment, that’s what we should strive to do,” Muller said. “Organics are less expensive than pesticides because a lot of fertilizers and pesticides have petroleum. As the price of oil rises, the price of petroleum generally follows.”

Rob Schucker of R&S Landscaping said that the reduction of pesticides, in general, is a “common-sense approach to sustainable practices.”

“We integrate pest management monitoring, inspection and only treating the garden as needed,” Schucker said.

Blanket spraying the garden, which is what some homeowners do, is an ineffective measure to weeding out harmful insects, Schucker said.

In addition to Organics, Muller said Blue Meadows uses a compost tea to fertilize a homeowner’s backyard. The compost tea contains compost, water and other organic elements to benefit trees, shrubs and lawns.

“We did research on it and talked to some suppliers,” Muller said. “Everyone is trying to get away from pesticides and commercial fertilizers because of what they do to the soil.”

Tip: To purchase a compost tea from Amazon, click here.

The Anti-Phosphorous Fertilizers Movement

There is a new fertilizer regulation in New Jersey that bans the use of phosphorous, which is harmful to lakes and streams, Schucker said.

“It is important to use a non-phosphorous fertilizer to minimize water quality issues,” he added.

According to American-Lawn.com, a source that provides tips and resources for homeowners and landscapers, too much phosphorous in water levels results in excessive algae growth that lowers oxygen levels and can then introduce poisonous toxins and kill organisms.

Tip: Don't be fooled by labels reading "Green" or "Healthy" -- the fertilizer may not a low (or zero) phosphorus level. There should be three numbers on the fertilizer's package (example: 3-1-5). The middle number is the phosphorus level. Ideally, your phosphorus should be 0. Click here to purchase an all natural, anti-phosphorus fertilizer from Amazon.

Reducing Water Usage, an Easy Way to Be Green

“One of the largest wastes of water and what consumes the most is automatic sprinkler systems,” Schucker said. “It is important to have it programmed properly to avoid over-watering. The system shouldn’t even be turned on until late May or early June.”

There are systems available that have a rain censor, stopping the system from watering the lawn after a rainstorm, which Schucker recommends instead.

There is new technology, like Smart Controller systems, that adjusts automatically based upon high and low temperatures.

Tip: Watering less frequently but for a longer duration encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil. Muller says this will help the lawn stay healthy during the late summer and early fall months.

Whether it’s organics, fertilizers or simply cutting down on water usage, sustainability is key for the future of the environment, Michael Kolenut, of Lincoln Landscaping, said.

“I’m convinced that the earth is going to be here for thousands of years,” Kolenut said. “The question is, are we? If we don’t start moving towards these natural solutions, we’re just going to hurt ourselves in the long run.”

More quick gardening tip, from your local landscape experts:

To cut down on water usage, choose a plant or shrub that is drought-resistant, like Parennials, Black-eyed Susan flowers, and Butterfly Bushes. 

Inspect your plants for disease or infestation. After this season's heavy snowfall, some of your plants might be broken or bent because of the weight of the snow, making them prone to disease and insects. 

Apply mulch to garden beds to reduce weeds and the need to reuse herbicides for plants.

Local companies that provide green landscaping services include: 

Lincoln Landscaping, Michael Kolenut, at (201) 848-9699

Blue Meadow Landscaping, Dan Muller, at (201) 891-4386

R&S Landscaping, Rob Schucker, at (201) 447-6205

Borst Organic Lawn Care, at 201-785-9400



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