Questions to ask about their approach, products and accreditation.
Do they use a soil based approach, or a product swap approach?
A true organic program is a soil based approach that begins with a soil test, and then the program is built around cultural practices, fertilizer, and amendments to improve its health. Sometimes organic compatible products to manage pests are used if a need is indicated by monitoring, but this should not be the central framework of an organic lawn care program. A “product swap” approach is a program that has scheduled applications of organic weed and grub control products. These programs are typically more expensive and also ineffective. When you hear people say, “organic is expensive and doesn’t work,” this is what they are referencing – not a true organic soil based approach.
Are the products and materials being used really organic? Organic land care standards have preferred, allowed, and prohibited substances. These standards are available to view online. One easy way to know if a product is organic is to look for Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certification. Some companies will use organic fertilizer and synthetic toxic pesticides while calling the program “organic.” Others will use fertilizer that’s prohibited by organic standards, like “biosolids” which is municipal sewage sludge.
Are they accredited in organic land care?
There are currently only two certifications for organic lawn care companies. AOLCP and OLCAP. These accreditations can be searched online on the NOFA organic land care website and Organic Landscape Association (OLA) website. This is how you know the person you are hiring has had proper training in organic practices.
Terms like “hybrid program” where pesticides are used along with organic inputs.
A program that uses sewage sludge called “biosolids” as fertilizer.
A company that uses the word organic in their name or calls themselves “eco-friendly” without having any type of organic accreditation.
A company that is not up front about exactly the products and ingredients they will be using, and does not share this information with people inquiring about their services.
A company that does not start with a site visit and soil test.