Organic Yards

Many misconceptions exist about organic lawn and yard care.

Organic Land Care is a holistic approach to landscaping that improves the natural resources of a site by fostering cycling of resources, promoting ecological balance, and conserving biodiversity.

The question of what “organic” actually means can lead to a lot of confusion. Organic land care is not simply about the type of fertilizer or pesticide used on a home landscape. Rather, organic land care is a holistic approach to landscaping that restores and enhances biological cycles involving soil microorganisms, plants, and animals.

The term “organic” as it applies to landscaping means landscaping without the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or synthetic soil amendments.

The federal government through the National Organic Program (NOP) developed national organic standards for agriculture and a certification program identified by the “USDA Organic” symbol, which certifies that agricultural products meet federal organic standards.

However, there are no federal standards for organic land care. In order to educate and assist land care practitioners in determining what is acceptable under an organic program, Rutgers Cooperative Extension has developed an Organic Land Care Certificate Program. The program focuses on providing education on organic practices for promoting healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing polluted runoff from managed landscapes.

Making the transition to organic land care may seem intimidating or overwhelming to the average homeowner who maintains their own lawn and landscape. Many misconceptions exist about organic lawn and land care. Perhaps you have questions whether “that stuff really works” or perhaps you fear your yard turning into a hotbed of weeds and pests.

Organic land care involves treating your landscape as a whole living system where the soil, plants, and animals within that system are interdependent and should sustain each other. This type of thinking is based in ecology, which is the study of the relationships that living organisms have with each other and the nonliving environment.

As the steward of your home landscape, in an organic system your goal should be to “do no harm”; that is, to protect the ecological cycles in place on your property, as well as ensure your property does not negatively affect surrounding land uses.

When transitioning to an organic home landscape, the goal should be to create a healthy lawn and garden that are self-sustaining with few material or product inputs. n

For more information about organic land care, visit njaes.rutgers.edu/organiclandcare/forhomeowners.html