I am looking for some input and recommendations on shifting a commercial landscaping business from a "rape and pillage" structure that blatantly kills any and all "weeds" to one that works to build the soils, provide optimal conditions for life to grow, and through aesthetics, can draw people in and begin to form a bridge over the gap between humans and nature. Going into my fifth year of landscape and garden maintenance, I have come to the conclusion that the work that I have been carrying out with weeding, spraying, and bagging lawn clippings is doing nothing beneficial to these landscapes to help everything thrive. Killing and removing these plants and their organic matter feels so terribly wrong to me, like I am stealing from these plants and ecosystems. I feel increasingly like seeing bare ground is like witnessing a scar on the earth, trying to repair itself by growing new plants to fill the void, only to be reopened with every misting of spray, and every pierce of my Hori. I understand the aesthetics to a certain degree, giving plants isolation to highlight them and removing competition. However, these beds are not even mulched, and the soils look and feel bleh, like they are lacking life.
I have approached my bosses a few times, indicating my interest in building the soils, fertilizing, and making a shift to organic and natural practices. The first time was well received, and I was informed about a folder labelled "IPM" for Integrated Pest Management, that basically contained a few ideas, mostly regarding organic vinegar, garlic, and eugenol-based sprays to mitigate weeds. During the second attempt (which was yesterday), I expressed my feeling about weeding and scarring the land, and how I wanted to utlilise landscapes and gardening to really create healthy, beautiful environments for people to enjoy and reconnect with nature. It went fantastically, and my boss recommended to create a list of ways in which we can incorporate these practices into our daily and seasonal routines. We will sit down, and refine it a bit, and then take it to the owner of the company to make a pitch for the start of a transition to creating healthy happy, and profitable landscapes in the company!
So what brings me here right now, is you folks. I know that a community as strong and diverse as Permies will have a wealth and breadth of knowledge to offer. I want to start a transition towards creating a business that is sustainable, conscious, and thriving. So tell me, what can you folks share with me, so that we can make a step towards a beautiful and healthy urban environment?
What resources can you recommend in organic, sustainable, and ecological landscaping?
One of the biggest things, to me, is when installing landscapes to shape the earth to capture water rather than shed it. Even in my droughty region, most landscaping is still done either on raised or flat areas.
My suggestion is to approach potential customers and ask.
In the town of Camden,Maine...a tourist town to say the least, the garden club went and asked all the inns, hotels and bed and breakfast's to convert to organic gardening. It was a request and not a demand or heavy handed approach. EVERYONE of them did. Why? I makes sense and shows they were committed to a greener world.
The older I get, the more I am convinced people just do what they do because it is what has always been done. If you can convince them there is a better way; a more reliable way they can have their landscapes maintained, but in a more environmentally conscientious way that they can brag up, you will get customers for sure.
Why did the inns, hotels and bed and breakfast's switch to organic gardening? Because someone finally suggested it to them.
You can probably do that only if you work independantly. You could as well bring all the lawn clippings home compost them and sell it. Not everything has to be on a customer's property. Giving you lawn clippings is liek a free present. I think it is important that you read up on the toxicity of the sprays.
My family did it in Cape Cod: we went off chemicals when the patriarch passed, started mowing high, leaving clippings in the lawn, and refraining from fertilising or weed-killing. Now it's green and lush without watering even in August, when it used to go yellow under the care of a conventional company. It does have a very few non-grass things growing in among the grass but they don't jut above the grass level or die back leaving brown spots, so we don't mind because it's still a green expanse for playing and sitting. Those could be weeded individually by hand or with agricultural vinegar (in a little pole that you poke at the base of the pant) and then it would be grass only. Actually we get lots of seedlings in one area from a nearby Rose-of-Sharon, and those are a little bumpy underfoot, so I pull them by hand at one time of year; they do die if mown back to 3 inches regularly, I know because I haven't done the hand weeding every year, and I never find ones with thick stems, only new seedlings.
Another thing that makes a problem into a solution and saves money is never send woody waste to a landfill, and never purchase bark mulch. Waste from trees that were killed or damaged by a specific pest may have to be carefully targeted to locations that don't have the vulnerable species of tree, which requires more care and attention.
Another thing will be that diverse landscapes will be more resilient than mono landscapes. With a diverse border, if one type of plant succumbs to something, the other plants may fill in for it, or that one can be replaced with something else, rather than taking out the heavy artillery to protect a large area of a single type of plant. This may require some changes to designs, I don't know.
Most clients will be thrilled to be offered organic or mostly organic landscaping. In fact maybe you could start off by offering an all-organic option for a slightly higher cost and see how many opt for that. Or else try to make the whole operation 95% organic so they cut back on cides and use them only where there's a major specific issue that can be targeted with IPM.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.