Healthy Lawns CaseStudy

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Case Studies

Case Study 1: Chanticleer Garden, Wayne, Pennsylvania

My own experiences as a green horticulturist and businessman demonstrate the success of the organic ethos. Years ago I worked with a trophy-caliber public garden called Chanticleer, near Philadelphia. For years the gardeners at this not-for-profit property had been aware of the perils of pesticides, and so worked with me to eliminate and remediate toxins from the garden, making it a superb example of the benefits of organic horticulture.

I worked with Chanticleer’s highly trained staff to address the garden’s needs and problems. Chanticleer consists of 36 acres employing 15 full time horticulturists and even more summer help. I began working on the turf in 2006, introducing new horticultural practices, including the timely use of soil-friendly teas (rich in beneficial fungi and bacteria) that I brew using my recipe of compost and microbial food. This consists of liquid applications of foods from the oceans, and humic acid, organic fertilizers with no synthetics added. I spread compost over fine turf areas to encourage earthworm activity and to counteract the effects of compaction from foot traffic. Our program focuses on adding soil microbes, then feeding the microbes, which in turn generate rich nourishment for the plant.

The 2006 season was fraught with drought conditions throughout the spring. This was followed by an unusually wet summer, and yet Chanticleer’s turf did exceptionally well. Admittedly, the turf is not 100% organic; however, only a small amount of pesticide is used in spot applications and only if absolutely necessary. In addition, biologic controls were proposed and cultural practices discussed to further limit the use of pesticides on the property.  – Mark Pavletich

Visit the garden online at


Case Study 2:  Cabarita Beach Bowls and Sports Club, Boganger, NSW, Australia

Dave Perez has gone from being the self-proclaimed “Captain Toxic” to the king of sustainability in his profession as Greenskeeper.

Dave Perez is a very humble guy. A humble guy who is at the very forefront of changing the nature of his profession. As head Greenskeeper at the Cabarita Beach Bowls and Sports Club since 2006, Dave has taken a whole new approach to his job that shows initiative, passion, and commitment to the ideas and concepts of sustainability.

Dave is at the top of his game and helping establish new benchmarks for both the Greens keeping Profession and the Club Industry. Way back, Dave was a Sports Turf Management consultant in Townsville, and heavily involved in the use, promotion and selling of some serious chemicals commonly used in the industry to solve a multidude of problems that occur in turf grasses. Self proclaimed “Captain Toxic”, Dave’s approach to Turf disease problems was the “moron” principle …if it doesn’t work first time…”pour more on”!

Dave moved to the Northern Rivers area and finally to Cabarita in 2006 where he started work at the Bowls and Sports Club. Soon a fairly radical change began happening in Dave’s approach to his profession. Slowly but surely, encouraged by Club management, sustainable practices became the focus of Dave’s day to day work. Dave says it all began with an energy and waste audit conducted by the Club, then a dirty bin of food waste, followed by training in sustainable agriculture practices and the light was switched on.

The seeds of a new biological approach to greenkeeping had been sown. A growing awareness of the holistic relationship between soil and human health saw the seed germinate and take off With two caps on, head Greenkeeper and Grounds Manager, responsible for everything outside at the Club, Dave initiated a number of recycling programs and completely transformed his approach to maintaining the greens, with both working hand in hand. He set up both a worm farm, to compost green waste and food scraps, and a Bokashi system, a Japanese fermentation system that allows meat, dairy products and food scraps to also be composted, in the last year 4,040 kgs of food waste has been recycled at the Club.

The development of the composting system on site also allows Dave to produce specific compost teas that are used to treat all the traditional turf problems that would have otherwise been solved artificially. Understanding that the cause of his greens problems lie within the soil, he now treats the problem not the symptom. Dave is basically eliminating the need for artificial and hazardous chemicals and fertilisers on the greens and surrounds. By using compost teas and plant extracts, balancing the microbial content, fungi and bacteria of the greens soil profile, he’s created a living system that protects and supports itself ; a biological approach to greenkeeping that is world class.

This sort of approach needs support and effort on a number of levels throughout the Club, and everyone is onboard. The bowlers are pretty impressed with their greens! It also takes someone to drive it, and that’s been Dave Perez. ‘Small efforts lead to big changes’ is one of his mottos and an idea that keeps Dave learning and striving to improve in every aspect. Currently taking a 12 week online training program with Soil Food Web guru Elaine Ingram, Dave sees it as the next step to fill in his knowledge gaps and refine his approach to become environmentally responsible. From there, he has big plans to take it to the people and inspire others that it can be done. They say sometimes you can only make a difference in your own backyard. Through passion and commitment, Dave’s done just that but could also be about to make a big difference in a lot of backyards in the very near future.

Dandelion, Clover, and Ground Ivy Control with A.D.I.O.S. Herbicide

“In summary the product worked very well on all three tested weeds, in spite of the fact that we applied treatments in 45-55 degree weather, considerably below the label recommendation.”
Read the full study here >

The ECO-Nomics of Organic landcare.

There are two real costs to consider when evaluating a maintenance plan for your property . 1. A truly organic program saves you money over time because you can reduce the amount of inputs needed. Planting and maintaining the right turf or tree in the right place is paramount to this system and saves money in unnecessary maintenance.In a chemical system you use a top down approach to control weeds, pests, and stimulate plant growth with various chemicals. This system manipulates nature and creates an artificial man-made environment that will need costly chemical inputs for perpetuity. In an organic system, a bottom up approach is taken to strengthen the soil and prevent weeds/bugs by improving the health of the soil and plants. Healthy soils produce healthy insect and disease free, drought tolerant plants. This a much less expensive long term solution.
2. The second ECO-Nomic factor to consider are environmental costs. When looking at a chemical landscape care proposal add in a monetary factor to account for the cost to the environment. Chemical fertilizers are petro-chemical based. We are drilling for oil converting it to fertilizer then spreading it on home lawns. Earth’s ecosystem was not designed to handle chemical fertilizers. The monetary factor is the the cost to replenish chemically ravished soils and clean-up chemical residues in our soils and Dead Zones in our waterways.

Case Study 3: Urban Organic Lawn Care at Lincoln Center, New York, New York

By James Sottilo

Healthy Lawns Case Study

It is not often that people think of beautiful lush lawns in the middle of New York City – let alone on a green roof that is in the middle of one of its most visited sites. The elevated lawn at Lincoln Center is just that:  A beautiful section of vibrant turf grass built on a green roof structure, with only eight inches of soil sitting on top of a restaurant. This lawn is visited by thousands of people a week, with many who dance, walk and picnic on it. It requires special attention to keep such a delicate place looking so beautiful throughout the year with all the foot traffic, spilled drinks, and extreme micro-weather climates.

Often when people go through a paradigm switch from a conventional lawn to an organic lawn, they focus on the synthetic chemicals and fertilizers and how to free themselves of these products and use more natural fertilizers or soil amendments like compost tea and sea kelp. Sometimes other issues rear their head that forces change, and that was the case on this turf at Lincoln Center.

Each year during the first two seasons, the lawn would brown out during the extreme heat and dry portions of a New York summer. There were always reasons, such as the transpiration rate was too high or not enough water and so on. During the 2013 season, after Superstorm Sandy caused flooding throughout the tri-state area, the purchase of a filed based salinity meter was needed. Since this beautiful lawn was only on eight inches of soil, a quick field test indicated there were high levels of salts lower in the soil profile. This appeared to be the reason for the lack of turf growth: high salts, extreme heat and limited water were causing the delicate root tips to burn, making them unable to pull water up into the turf. Once temperatures cooled and roots could grow again, the natural process of water absorption was able to take place and the turf grass begin to green up.

Transitioning the turf from a conventional system to one where we were able to help flush the salts out of the soil and change to salt-free fertilizers created one of the finest lawns in NYC for 2013. It is critical to remember that grass, flowers, and trees, along with the soil, are living organisms much like ourselves. The negatives in our food that we try to avoid to live a healthy life need to be looked at the same way for these living systems.

Case Study 4: Organic Lawn, Berwyn, Pennsylvania

It’s a myth that you can’t have a lush, green, weed-free lawn organically.

This property was taken organic in 2010 by Organixx llc. The organic lawn care program included applications of:
– Premium compost annually.
– Organixx Bio-Blend, a special recipe of compost tea.
– Avenger herbicide (spot-treatment only).
– Organic fertilizer.
– Corn gluten meal for pre-emergent weed control.

This lawn had been chemically treated for over 10 years. The compost tea was used to bioremediate the chemical residues and restore the chemically ravaged soil microbiology. The compost was used to fertilize and rebuild soil microbiology.

Cultural practices played an important role in the program. The lawn was mowed biweekly at 4” height. This practice creates a deeper root system (the taller the grass, the
deeper the root system). The deep-rooted turfgrass is able to choke out weeds and handle drought conditions.

The result of the program is a lush green lawn without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Case Study 5: Hybrid Lawn on Applebrook Golf Course, Malvern, Pennsylvania

This residential lawn has been organic for six years. There was an outbreak of dandelion in 2014 and the owners decided to use an application of 3-way herbicide. For 2015 soil testing is being done to see how the soil is deficient. Dandelions are messengers telling us that there are soil problems to be treated. Organixx llc is creating a custom program to fix the soil so dandelions will not be present. The owners want a 100% organic lawn the process sometimes takes several years.

Healthy Lawns 101