We have several Lab Lawns across Fredericksburg, Va, including our own lawn at our home in Spotsylvania County where we are testing new products and techniques for organic lawn care.
There aren't many lawn care companies offering organic services because:
It's difficult to do correctly,
It's often more expensive than conventional means,
It's slower to create a green lawn than conventional methods.
Uncle Onion's Electric, Organic Lawn Care is devoting a lot of time, money, and effort into researching methods and products to make organic lawn care a viable business solution to today's lawn care industry. To put it mildly, this is a cut-throat industry where we, as landscapers, have developed in our clients an expectation for inexpensive services with fast results. As it is right now, organic lawn care is neither inexpensive or produces fast results. In many cases, it takes two seasons of treatments before the client will start to see improvements in their lawn. Why would anyone want to pay for services that don't appear to be doing anything?
We went to work in our Lab Lawns with one question in mind: Is there an affordable way to produce results in one season with organic methods? From what we've seen so far, the answer is yes, but also no. We are controlling weeds and producing green grass in one season, but so far it hasn't been cheap. Uncle Onion's Lawn Service, LLC doesn't strive to be the cheapest lawn care provider, but we do strive for affordability. This year, we think we've found the key to keeping it affordable.
The process that is working begins in February and ends in November. This is a longer treatment period than normal services, but we've been finding early treatments help reduce weeds and "winterizing" the yard in late Fall prepares the grass to come back strong in the Spring. The products we've been using are safe for the environment and for kids and pets. The products that contain nitrogen are slow releasing, so there is less worry about pollution from runoff and no worries about burning the grass. We are prepared to use synthetic fertilizers that are allowed in organic farming, but so far none of our Lab Lawns have needed any additional fertilizing. We've been testing the soil and treating the soil rather than dumping nitrogen to green the grass faster, and it's been working.
This process is producing deeper roots, weening the grass off its chemical dependency, and making it more drought and disease resistant. The microbes and bugs are happier, so the grass has been greening up very nicely. And best of all, even though the products cost more than synthetics, we use less of them so the price works out in the end.
This brings us to the big question on everyone's mind. How much will it cost? Well, we don't know yet. Since we are wanting to treat for a longer period of time, it will most likely cost more than synthetic treatments.
If it's going to cost more, why would I want this?
That is a very fair question. We hope the answer is enough to sway everyone to convert their lawn to organics. Since organics green up the lawn just as well as synthetics, the benefits lie mostly within the health and environmental aspects.
These treatments are immediately safe for pets and kids to play in the yard. No waiting period.
These treatments are less likely to runoff the lawn, but when they do, they cause less harm to rivers, streams, and groundwater supplies.
These treatments improve the soil, making your grass less dependent on fertilizer, insecticide, and herbicide.
Over time, the lawn will become hardy enough that it will require less treatment. Grass is a monoculture, meaning it never dies and nothing else ever gets planted over it. In farming, the crop is killed off and the soil is allowed to rest for a period. Our lawns don't get that luxury. The soil is constantly being depleted of nutrients. The time frame for treatment will vary by each lawn, but a soil test in the Spring will tell us what nutrients we are devoid of. With that information, all we have to do is replenish that nutrient back into the soil. We are working with one product right now that promises to replenish the soil so well, that eventually the lawn will not need annual treatments. We'll see if that manufacturer is being honest with themselves or not.
We expect lawn treatments to get cheaper over time, even costing less than the normal synthetic method because of the reduced need for treatments.
We'll update this page throughout the summer as we collect more data. We'll also be documenting our findings very closely through photos, videos, and a newsletter. Sign up for our email list to stay updated. Perhaps you too will be converted to the wonders of organic!