Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Fostering Ecosystems One Lawn At A Time
GIC Contributing Author: Dillon Gruber, Peach Street Organics
The global pandemic is forcing humanity to rethink many aspects of daily life. The ongoing crisis has given us pause to reconsider the fundamentals of how we live, from everyday basics to larger existential questions.
Personally, I have seen examples of nature rebounding as a result of humanity’s decreased environmental footprint. This stands to be an incredible opportunity to reshape how we live by decreasing our impact and nurturing the world around us. Creating a sustainable future benefits all of humanity, and what better place to start than our backyards?
Born out of COVID quarantine, this was the premise on which Ford Smith and I created Peach Street Organics (PSO) this Spring. Ford draws on the experience of starting two other successful agriculture and lawn care businesses: Regenerative Land Solutions & Organic Lawn. And I work as the Director of Yellow Dog Community & Conservation Foundation, an environmental nonprofit in Bozeman. Through both our professions we’ve seen the dire consequences of large-scale conventional agriculture on the environment. Spend some time on countryside’s the world over, and it’s easy to see the damage excessive fertilizer use has on ecosystems.
What really solidified PSO’s focus, however, was learning that our nation’s largest irrigated crop was not corn or wheat but actually lawn grass. It was shocking to realize that the way homeowners treat their lawns has far-reaching implications on the environment. True to our rural Montana upbringings, the mission of PSO is focused on preserving our state’s unique natural resources by empowering others to “create a sustainable future for our planet, one lawn at a time.”
Working to lessen the impact by making the lawn and agriculture industry more sustainable gives PSO its business purpose. We understand that every lawn owner has the power to treat their backyards as an integral component to a broader global ecosystem. It means offering an alternative to spraying lawns with synthetic chemical fertilizers, and drowning weeds in toxic herbicides, knowing the downstream ramifications of run-off is not confined to our yards.
At PSO we are giving people the tools to contribute to a sustainable future. When lawn owners work with us, they’re choosing to work with nature and not against it. Every product we offer works to improve a lawn's soil ecosystem (and its people, pet and microbe friendly!) The products we use are ProVide and ReVive. When you use them, you’re quite literally spreading and feeding millions of beneficial microscopic organisms over your lawn.
Think of it as an enormous microscopic workforce, or soil miners. Their entire job is to extract nutrients from your soil like nitrogen and phosphorus. But they can’t live on nutrients alone, so what do they do? They take their goods to market in hopes of exchanging them for something better. In this case, the vendors lining the busy subterranean market streets are lawn-grass roots, and the grass always has something that the soil miners are desperate to buy - sugar.
The miner knows that the price of sugar isn’t cheap, so when they walk into the store, they’re prepared to turn over their hard-earned bounty of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The soil miner walks out reeking of rich sugar and the grass roots receive all the essential nutrients they need to keep the other half above ground happy and healthy. Everyone wins.
The simplification above is the ecosystem found in earth’s soil and in your backyard. When we don’t foster these vibrant underground communities and relationships, your soil and therefore your lawn, can’t sustain the microscopic economy and disaster strikes in the form of weed pressure, non-beneficial fungus, pests, or drought stress.
When lawn owners promote soil life and abstain from crashing their backyard economies with a flood of chemical fertilizers and firestorm of weed killers, not only is their grass healthier but their soil is too. Ultimately, how we help or inhibit our tiny backyard ecosystems has a ripple effect on the Planet’s ecosystems.
Society has been conditioned to strive for a manicured yard with large chemical companies propagating this to their advantage. Instead, we should embrace the imperfection of a more natural backyard, acknowledging that dandelions are important sources of food for our pollinators in the Spring, and strive for grasses and landscaping that uses less water.
If the future hinges on the individual actions of many, then it’s important to believe we each have the power to enact change through the choices we make. When we begin looking at lawns as tools in creating a sustainable future, it becomes obvious that each of us have the ability to create a positive environmental impact though our collective actions.