Indianapolis expert explains organic lawn care

After obtaining a master’s degree in agronomy, Terry Jungels started his lawn care career traveling the country constructing golf courses. In 1989, he opted to plant himself in Indianapolis and he and co-owner Mark Cavin started TLC Total Lawn Care

Is organic lawn care always the best option for a healthy, environmentally friendly lawn?

Jungels: When we use organic lawn care, we see less disease pressures on the lawn and more microbial activity, which means the lawn is healthier. But, when a customer wants to go with organic lawn care, we have to match their expectations with what the results will be.

Most people perceive that a green lawn is a healthy lawn. Here in Central Indiana, we have mostly cool-season grasses that go dormant, turning brown during the hot summer months. Artificial practices such as watering keep it green through the hot season.

With an organic method, you have to accept that your lawn is not going to be as green. You can have a healthy brown or less-than-green lawn, but you have to come to terms with it.

There are also fewer organic products available and most lack the high nitrogen levels traditional fertilizers have, so you don't have the same "greening up" you get with traditional products. You also have to apply organic products more often and they tend to cost about 30 percent more.

We use a lot of integrated pest management, which means targeting certain lawn areas that are subject to pressure from weeds or insects by using specific pesticides or herbicides, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach with a single mixture of chemicals.

Fertilization is just one aspect of a good lawn. You also have to have good cultural practices before you worry about doing anything involving chemistry.

In the long run, we want to use fewer chemical products on the lawn. We try to get people to change the way they practice lawn care so customers can provide a good environment where their turf can effectively utilize the products we apply.

For instance, we recommend clients control weeds by mowing their grass at a height of about 3-1/2 inches so the turf can shade weeds out. Keeping lawn mower blades sharp is important, too. A dull blade will fray the tip of the grass, making it easier for diseases to enter.

Aeration helps break up compacted soil, adding more porosity and allowing deeper water penetration. That promotes good root development and increases turf thickness, which means less need for weed control.

For homeowners who water their lawns, we encourage them to water once every four days for 45 minutes, rather than every day for 10 minutes because a deeper soak is better.

The size of the lawn dictates the price of our service. The average lawn is about 8,000 to 12,000 square feet and our prices typically run in the range of $4 to $6 per 1,000 square feet treated, with a minimum price of $40.

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