Since the 1950s, American lawns have been “hooked” on petroleum-based and synthetic chemicals. A plethora of post-war pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers were eagerly embraced by both homeowners and landscape professionals dazzled by the dramatic results; an almost instantaneous, lush, green lawn. There was a downside, however. Grasses become dependent on an endless feed of chemicals for their sustenance, and the underlying soil became sterile and inhospitable. Take away the chemicals, and the lawn quickly withered and went brown, unable to sustain itself.
Today, many landscape industry experts compare a lawn suffering from the all-chemical approach to a drug addict who cannot function without a fix. An emerging trend of using more organic and eco-friendly methods has been trying to address the detrimental effects of using chemical products by introducing a variety of products and practices that are more sustainable and often, less expensive.
An important reason for going organic with landscape care is creating a healthier environment for people and pets. One of the reasons people became more wary of using harsh chemical products was their pet's adverse reaction to them.
“I think that was a real big push with people complaining that their pets' paws were getting burnt with some of the chemicals that were out there,” according to Gordon Held, executive vice president of operations and sales for an Illinois-based landscaping company. And then, of course, that just started opening eyes of people saying, 'If it hurts the dogs, what's it doing to the humans?',” he says.
The fact that lawn chemicals are inherently dangerous is no secret—just read the warning labels on the packaging. Held and other landscape experts agree that the damaging effects of chemical pesticides are primarily due to their all-too-frequent misapplication.