Arts & Life

Organic Lawn Care - Green Column, July 2010

Written by Jon Ferguson | Jun 24, 2010 6:47 PM

 

He also figures that if he goes all purist and refuses, the customer will fire him and hire one of his competitors who use chemicals freely during every stage of the lawn-care progress.

 

Morgan, however, does make it a point to give his customer a copy of the chemical product's Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS. It can make for scary reading.

 

"We will give them that sheet happily," Morgan says, "and we will say, Read this: This is what you're asking us to apply to your lawn.' "

 

Morgan started a lawn-mowing business called Trusty Lawn Care when he was 12 years old and never looked back. He decided to make it an organic lawn-care business when he neglected to read the MSDS for a product he was applying.

 

 

"I had an allergic reaction to the third step," says Morgan, a Franklin & Marshall College graduate. "I got the heart-racing thing, the rashes from my fingertips to my elbows and my toes to my knees. Just in general, I got scared that I was imploding. I'd never felt that before and it scared me to death."

 

When he created Organic Approach in 1989, he decided to stay away from the chemicals.

 

Morgan developed his own line of organic products, which he sells, and set out to take a plant-positive, not a pest-negative approach to lawn care.

 

It all starts with the type of grass. Morgan believes a lot of people here make a fundamental mistake by planting bluegrass and ryegrass, which he says are high maintenance, demanding a lot of water and fertilizer to look good.

 

He prefers endophyte-enhanced tall fescues. He says endophytic grasses have a fungus that has a bitter taste and lives in the stem of each grass plant. Bugs don't like it.

 

"Bugs get a taste of that bitter endophyte and get out of Dodge," he says.

 

When he plants grass, he uses a lot of seed — 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

 

"If the objective is to grow grass and not weeds, then what's the most important thing to invest in — grass seed," he says.

 

He uses a high-quality organic fertilizer to help grow the grass so thick that it will squeeze out weeds like crabgrass, not giving them room to grow.

 

And he says it's important that the grass be mowed at the right height — about 3 1/4 inches is ideal.

 

"The longer you leave the grass, the exponentially deeper the roots will grow," Morgan says. "The key word is exponentially. If you leave an extra half-inch of grass on the blade when you cut, you're going to grow an extra inch and a half of root."

 

He says that extra length will help the grass survive the heat of the summer because it cools the soil and retains moisture, making it less stressed. Weeds, which germinate best when it's hot and dry, take over when the grass starts to thin.

 

Morgan says his methods work, and he has 21 years of experience with Organic Approach to back it up.

 

"I can grow a better, healthier lawn than any chemical counterpart – hands down," he says.

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