Eco-Friendly Yard Care

The Grass is Always Greener on the Organic Side


Homeowners in the United States love their lawns. There certainly are a lot of them — a recent NASA study found that over 32 million acres of the U.S. is lawn, making grass easily the most irrigated crop in the country. Why are these squares of grass and plants so important to U.S. homeowners? Author Virginia Scott Jenkins suggests that Americans love yards because it allows them a modicum of control over their environment. Others note the practicality of yards — they produce oxygen, and they offer a major source of cooling during hot summer days.

In the quest to control their yards, homeowners have resorted to a number of chemical treatments to kill weeds and pests and to keep their grass lush and green. Unfortunately, these chemicals are slowly killing the environment they are supposed to be improving. According to Bob Bertog, President of Bertog Landscaping, over time, these chemicals throw off the soil structure, making it unsuitable to grow much of anything at all. Bertog suggests trying organic solutions. Here are some of the tips offered by Bertog and the Environmental Protection Agency for a natural, healthy yard.


Get a Soil Test
Both Bertog and the EPA agree that the first step toward intelligent lawn care is to have a soil test done. This will uncover what chemicals the soil is lacking, thus determining what fertilizers will be most effective, and also what plants will thrive in the yard. According to Bob Bertog, one of the most common ways people damage their soil (and waste money) is by adding plants that aren’t meant to grow in their soil type.

Use Organic-Based Fertilizers
Bertog Landscaping uses “a custom blend of minerals and biological activators” such as bloodmeal, bonemeal, feathermeal and kelp. Bob Bertog notes that this fertilizer does cost more, and it does take more time to work, but if the yard owner has patience, they will find their grass and plants to be even greener and have stronger root systems, and their soil will remain fertile.

Another simple, more cost-effective solution offered by the EPA is to “grasscycle,” or use grass clippings to mulch the lawn. The clippings will feed nutrients to the soil, which in turn helps grass remain healthy. Mowing often and keeping the grass no taller than three inches will help avoid the unsightly piles of grass clippings that occur when an overly long lawn is cut. It will also reduce yard waste, which is the second largest type of waste in the country.

Be Smart With Watering
The EPA suggests that it is best to water plants “deeply, but infrequently.” They also suggest keeping buckets under rain gutters to collect rainwater. The rainwater can then be used for watering, rather than using a hose. These strategies will save both time and money, while simultaneously conserving water and helping plants thrive.


Make Your Own Mulch
While the ability of mulch to prevent weeds and add nutrients to the soil is not in doubt, Bob Bertog warns that commercial mulches contains red dyes that can upset the soil structure. The EPA suggests mulching with wood chips, grass clippings, dead leaves, and other natural items found around the yard.

Bertog Landscaping uses an innovative solution for plants under stress: they fill them with fungus. Mycorrhizal fungi are naturally occurring organisms that establish a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants. The fungi establish a biological chain between the roots and the soil, funneling water and nutrients into the plant.

Give Bugs a Chance!
Only about 5-15 percent of the bugs in a given yard are harmful. Many bugs are even good for the yard. Hire a professional to examine the bugs or do some research at home to determine if these uninvited residents of the lawn are truly pests. Pesticides can be very harmful to the air and soil, so it isn’t worth risking if it isn’t needed.

Bob Bertog’s motto is: “Everything works better in balance with nature.” If educated yard owners follow the lead of companies like Bertog Landscaping, using organic solutions instead of harmful quick-fixes, having 32 million acres of healthy, environmentally-safe lawns in the United States is an achievable dream.

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