What’s the definition of “organic” landscaping?

toddler in the garden with black eyed susansEvery year, we attend trade and garden shows where companies peddle their latest, greatest green wares. There is often someone promoting their “100% certified organic” 4-step lawn service, and I have fun pretending I’m a homeowner and grilling them about their methods. Why? Currently, no agency “certifies” landscape or lawn care practices or companies as organic. So, how do you know that your lawn service is keeping your family safe and your landscape healthy?

Here’s the deal:

OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute) certifies organic materials, like fertilizers and composts, and certified organic produce growers must use products certified by OMRI or other agencies.  The National Organic Program (NOP), part of the USDA also certifies organic produce, but not landscapers or ornamental growers.So, how do you know your landcare company is legit?

NOFA (the Northeast Organic Farming Association) was one of the leaders in certifying organic fruit, vegetable, and livestock production in the United States.  Now, they are the leaders in setting and training in a voluntary standard for organic lawn and landcare.  NOFA-Accredited Landcare Professionals pledge to maintain these standards in the landscapes we design, install, and maintain.  There is currently no audit or certification process beyond that.If your “all-natural” landscaper is not NOFA accredited, ask what materials, methods, and principles they use in their work.  Also, consider their overall business practices: if they are paying fair wages to their workers, providing proof of insurance and other certifications, and getting involved in serving their community, there is more of a likelihood that they are also “walking the talk” when they say that they are “green.” Greenscapes, a local environmental non-profit, has developed a helpful consumer guide for choosing an environmentally-responsible landscaper.