Contract With A Conscience

The fiscal cost that goes along with the physical cost is that $5.25 billion per year is spent on synthetic fertilizers, and $700 million is spent on pesticides each year in the United States. It’s much more cost-effective—both in terms of saving the environment and saving money—to switch to an organic program.

How does an organic fertilization program save money? Many experts agree that aeration is one of the most important components for a healthy lawn. Microbes and earthworms thriving in a chemical-free environment continuously migrate up and down in the soil, aerating it naturally and helping to create healthy soil that breathes.

This also means that the organic fertilizers, which use natural, slow-release ingredients, are pulled down into the earth where the roots can slowly absorb what they need. So even though the organic fertilizers are somewhat more expensive, they can be used much less often, and in many cases fertilizers may be eliminated.

As an additional bonus, a more porous soil absorbs more water, reducing run-off and allowing for less irrigation.

In terms of dollars and cents, these are key selling points that allow your client to think of switching to organic solutions.

Mulching is the other key ingredient to creating a healthy, organic soil. The microbes break down the mulch and enrich the soil, which allays the need for fertilizer. The mulch also prevents weed seeds from reaching the soil so they cannot germinate, which lessens the need for weed killers.

Lastly, mulch reduces the amount of water evaporation from the soil, allowing it to stay moist, thus reducing the amount of water used for irrigation.

Again, the key is informing a client how the organics work and how much money and effort can be saved.

The Trimmed Hedge

Imagine the dew glistening from perfectly trimmed hedges, separating the carpet-like lawn from the bright, happy flower beds. What a lovely sight to see: a stately home with a well-maintained garden.

What a huge, wasteful expense. Let’s look at some statistics:

• Eight-hundred-million gallons of gasoline are used annually for lawn maintenance.

• According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas-powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions in 1 hour of operation as 11 new cars, each being driven for 1 hour.

• The EPA estimates that 17-million gallons of fuel are spilled each year in filling up lawn equipment. That is more fuel than was spilled by the wreck of the Exxon Valdez.

• Fifteen to 30 percent of the waste deposited in landfills comes from yard clippings.

These are stunning numbers, but M. Smith will only admit to creating a tiny percentage of the problem; more than likely, he will shrug it off as a necessary evil.

To keep those nicely trimmed hedges and pristine lawn, the average homeowner pays around $350 per month to cut the lawn, trim the hedges, and pull weeds. What would the homeowner pay if there was no turf (or at least less turf) to cut, no hedges to trim, and less weeding?

Next to nothing.

Furthermore, the same look of lower-growing evergreen hedges can be achieved using dwarf cultivars, which eliminates the need for trimming and hedging.

Here in Dallas, people love their azaleas. But what is the biggest problem with growing azaleas here? Do we have acidic soil? Nope. Do we have well-drained soils? Nope. Do we have abundant moisture? Nope.

Our soils and climate make it almost impossible to grow azaleas without creating completely artificial environments. The cost of doing this can be high and completely unnecessary, as the same look of bright, vibrant blooms can be achieved using more environmentally conscious plants.

There are several plants that are native to this very hot and dry city on the prairie. Replacing water- and nutrient-hungry imports with native or hardy naturalized plants saves the homeowner money from purchasing chemical treatments and with the reduced watering needs.

Irrigation

One of the easiest and most effective ways to promote sustainability is by changing the way clients water. Many clients overwater or water at the wrong times, so irrigation technology has advanced to combat these mistakes.

Three technologies are commonly used to reduce water usage, even paying for themselves within a few years:

Weather station controllers—Sensors measure air temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, wind run, wind direction, and rainfall, and combine them with site conditions entered by the installer, ZIP code (for historical data), slope, shaded areas, turf vs. beds, etc., to efficiently manage water usage.

Pressure-reducing heads—Up to 40 percent of water sprayed from traditional heads is lost into the atmosphere in areas with high water pressure (8-percent water loss for every 5 pounds of pressure over 30 pounds per square inch).

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