The 411

Frank Crandall breaks down the basics of bionutrition and organic lawn care.

August 10, 2012
Brian Horn
Lawn Care

Frank Crandall calls himself an “enthusiastic proponent of organic land care principles, in the landscape and the environment.” So much so, the owner of Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions is currently working on a power point presentation focusing on the economics of organic services compared with traditional land care services.

“We need to be able to present clients with concrete examples of what organic care will cost in years one, two and three compared to traditional care,” he said. “If we are able to show the ultimate savings in the later years customers might be more willing to convert from traditional to organically based services.”

While he is working on finishing that, he took time to answer some questions from L&L about organic lawn care and specifically bionutrition.

How would you define bionutrition?

Bionutrition for the lawn can include natural products (nutrients), beneficial soil microbes and bio-stimulants. The products can feed the soil and help plant growth without using typical chemical fertilizers, which feed only the plant.

Are organics and bionutrition basically the same thing?

They may have some shared characteristics, but organics involves a broader spectrum of specific principles and methods of land care. The foundation of organics is the knowledge and proper care for the soil. A healthy soil contains sufficient organic matter and nutrients in a proper balance to support a large population of native organisms.

In an organically managed landscape soil fertility is enhanced by feeding the soil, not the plant. After conducting a soil test the decision may be to add compost, compost tea or organic sources of nutrients if needed. With a bioassay, a more detailed soil test that measures living organisms present in the soil (bacteria, fungi, mycorrhizae, protozoans, etc.), can provide specific recommendations for the addition of microbes if indicated in the test.

What are the keys to marketing organic services?

First reach your existing customers through direct mail, emails or visits to their homes. Have a detailed brochure clearly describing your organic services, the process to implement organic services, expectations, time frame for results and a cost analysis. I have found it is much more difficult to convert existing customers from traditional to organic than it is to provide services to those who request organics.

Second, become the expert in your area on organic lawn care, plant health care and land care in general. Line up speaking engagements at local libraries, conservation organizations, land trusts and other environmental coalitions.

Third, consider spreading your message using radio advertising combined with emailed newsletters and direct mailed over-sized post cards. Monitor your response rate so you can effectively plan future marketing efforts.

What are some less than successful organic practices that you have seen fall by the wayside?

The whole (misguided) practice of substituting a traditional 4 or 5 step lawn care program with a similar organic fertilizer program will not work and shows a lack of understanding of organic land care and the importance of soil biology. Organics is not a five-step program of fertilizer applications. Far from it.

A soil test needs to be taken before any plans for lawn care can begin. Only then can a program of soil fertility be planned using compost, compost tea, organic fertilizers and other natural amendments, if needed. Equally important will be the good cultural practices used in combination including mowing height, recycling clippings, appropriate watering, aerating and compost top dressing. It may take 2-3 years to overcome a traditionally maintained lawn's low soil fertility to create a thick, healthy lawn, which will out compete weeds and disease.