Is the organic approach to lawn care and the movement against the use of chemical pesticides becoming mainstream? That seemed to be the case recently when more than 100 folks attended two events – one in York, Maine, and the second next door in Ogunquit – hosted by Scott Eldredge, owner of Eldredge Lumber and Hardware. Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, and Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics, provided homeowners and turf professionals sound reasons to reconsider approaches to caring for lawns and gardens.
Scott Eldredge has been concerned for some time that chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are not good choices for building healthy soils and assuring clean water. These concerns were confirmed by the speakers. The bottom line is that chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers don’t address what’s needed for a vibrant lawn or garden: healthy soils. Rather, they merely address the symptoms of unhealthy soils. While multi-step fertilizer applications and herbicides and pesticides do nothing for the long-term health of the soil (they only set up the homeowner for buying more of the same product – a sales treadmill), a system-based approach using organics gets to the root issue of healthy soils that contain plenty of organic material, lots of microbes, at the optimum pH level. This is the level where vibrant lawns and productive gardens really begin.
In 2014, the Town of Ogunquit became just the second community in the U.S. to enact a pesticide ordinance that covers both public and private property. In all but seven states, towns are actually pre-empted from adopting a pesticide ordinance by state statute. While New Hampshire is one of the states where communities aren’t allowed to pass a pesticide ordinance, towns here are permitted to adopt fertilizer use regulations, which New Castle and Franklin have done.
The incorrect application or overuse of lawn and garden care products compromises the health of our waters, and the Great Bay watershed is no exception. Through stormwater, tons of nitrogen are harming the fragile ecosystem of Great Bay. The side effects of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides – even at low levels – have consequences that are not yet fully understood. Reducing their use – out of abundant caution – is a very smart move.
Scott Eldredge has already pulled some commonly sold pesticides and herbicides from his shelves at two store locations. He just refuses to sell them. It’s encouraging to see decisions based on the health of land and water and not a business’s bottom line.