Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Synthetic turf lawns could get a boost

(Image courtesy

Synthetic turf as a replacement for natural grass is gaining momentum in water-scarce regions of the United States, and could get a big boost if a bill proposed by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña finds a favorable audience in the California legislature.

Saldaña’s proposal that would require HOAs to allow installation of artificial turf. Many HOAs in the state (and elsewhere) don’t allow fake lawns. But a growing number of homeowners in
these enclaves want to replace their lawns — or at least portions of their lawns —with artificial turf to save water and maintenance costs.

Synthetic turf doesn’t come cheap, $6 to $9 per sq. ft. per installation or as little as $2.55 sq. ft. if you do it yourself. But suppliers of the fake grass claim that property owners will recoup their investments in their properties in just a few short years through water and landscape maintenance savings.

We’ve blogged on this subject before and remain convinced that artificial turf installations for residential and commercial properties — judging by its seemingly ever-growing popularity in the sports field world — will continue to grow in popularity.

Check out this article (Homeowners, associations battle over turf) by Michel Gardner at signonSanDiego, and tell us if you agree or disagree. — Ron Hall

Monday, February 15, 2010

Round one on proposed NH lawn care pesticide bill

It’s not clear when the House Environment and Agriculture Committee in the New Hampshire legislature will make a recommendation regarding whether or not to proceed with a lawn care pesticide bill there.

HB 1456, sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Smith, would establish a legislative committee to study the use of pesticides in residential neighborhoods, schools and other places where children gather.

This past week the Committee conducted a hearing on the bill. Activists spoke in favor of the bill and for stronger measures against the use of lawn care pesticides. Lawn care business owners spoke against it, fearing the bill would be the first step toward banning the use of lawn care chemicals in the state.

The article about the hearing in the Concord Union Leader drew a string of posts from people with strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

Obviously, it’s impossible to assess the feelings of the majority of New Hampshire residents on lawn care chemicals from a handful of responses to a newspaper article, but it’s apparent there’s a segment of the population that’s determined to push for stronger restrictions on their use. The online posts in response to a particular article are often more revealing than the article itself. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Regional team of researchers continue studying miscanthus as possible source of biofuels

Turfgrass researcher David Williams in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is part of a regional team of university researchers studying the feasibility of growing miscanthus for biomass and biofuels.

Miscanthus x giganteus is a warm-season hybrid grass native to China that can produce large yields. Unlike Miscanthus sinensis that is found in landscapes and is invasive, Miscanthus x giganteus does not spread by seed so it is not invasive.

Williams, associate professor in the UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is one of the researchers studying the effects of nitrogen to miscanthus yields and quality. University of Illinois researchers are leading the project that is a part of the U.S. departments of energy and transportation's Sun Grant Initiative, which is administered by South Dakota State University. In addition to Kentucky and Illinois, researchers from Rutgers University, Virginia Tech and the University of Nebraska are also participating in the 5-year study. In 2009, they completed the project's second year.

Researchers apply three nitrogen treatments to their research plots. Each month, they measure plant height, stems per plant and leaves per stem as well as collect yield data at harvest. Then, they send plant samples and all data to South Dakota State University researchers for analyzing.

So far, a common finding is nitrogen fertilizer has no effect on miscanthus yields and quality.

"This finding has lead to several questions for researchers including: ‘are we applying at the most opportune time or using the right amounts,'" Williams said.

This miscanthus study is only the beginning and is laying the groundwork for further research. Researchers are in the process of working through some obstacles with the plant that they need to find solutions to before it can become an economically viable crop for farmers. A major concern is planting. Since the plant is sterile, it does not produce seeds. Additional plants are only produced by vegetative propagation. With no equipment currently available to handle the planting of this plant material, growers must plant it by hand.

Although UK plots had virtually no winter kill, plots at other universities did. UK's trial was unique in that it contracted a fungus that caused leaf damage. Little is known at this point about that fungus or any additional fungal or insect problems.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Is a lawn care pesticide ban in New Hampshire's future?

Will little New Hampshire become the crack in the dike that anti-pesticide activist groups are seeking in their efforts to curtail chemical lawn care in the United States?

Remember, it was the tiny city of Hudson in Quebec Province and favorable court rulings in the 1990s that started the avalanche of bans on lawn care pesticides in Canada that eventually led to entire provinces (Ontario being the most populous) banning them for what is termed “cosmetic” reasons.

Recently New Hampshire Rep. Suzanne Smith offered a bill (HB 1456) that would establish a committee to explore the consequences of a ban in that state. Anti-pesticide proponents and industry groups are keenly aware of the significance of this bill that, should it pass, would require a three-person committee to determine whether or not to pursue a ban. — Ron Hall

Here is HB 1456 as introduced:

AN ACT establishing a committee to study the use of pesticides, herbicides, and their alternatives in residential neighborhoods, school properties, playgrounds, and other places children congregate.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Committee Established. There is established a committee to study the use of pesticides, herbicides, and their alternatives in residential neighborhoods, school properties, playgrounds, and other places children congregate.

2 Membership and Compensation.

I. The members of the committee shall be as follows:

(a) Three members of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.

(b) Three members of the senate, appointed by the president of the senate.

II. Members of the committee shall receive mileage at the legislative rate when attending to the duties of the committee.

3 Duties. The committee shall:

I. Study the use of pesticides, herbicides, and their alternatives in residential neighborhoods, school properties, playgrounds, and other places children congregate.

II. Study the effects of a moratorium on the use of such pesticides and herbicides.

III. Determine what areas and properties would be exempt from such a ban.

IV. Study any other issue related to a moratorium on the use of such pesticides and herbicides.

4 Chairperson; Quorum. The members of the study committee shall elect a chairperson from among the members. The first meeting of the committee shall be called by the first-named house member. The first meeting of the committee shall be held within 45 days of the effective date of this section. Four members of the committee shall constitute a quorum.

5 Report. The committee shall report its findings and any recommendations for proposed legislation to the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, the house clerk, the senate clerk, the governor, and the state library on or before November 1, 2010.

6 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Can you add to this list of sustainable landscape info?

The body of knowledge focusing on environmental and landscape practices that preserve and enhance our urban environments is growing at an astonishing rate, reflecting the recognition by our society that we can't continue to waste and misuse our resources — our water, our fossil fuels, our soils, etc.

Those of us in the Green Industry (product manufacturers/suppliers, plant producers, landscape architects, designers, contractors) have a special and direct relationship to our urban and suburban environments. In fact, the products we use, the planning we do, the practices we use to install and maintain landscapes as we maintain and grow our businesses and our industry have a huge impact on these ecologies.

The following is a list of information sources that you may find useful in meeting our society's expanding environmental consciousness.

If you can add to the list, please do so for the benefit of all. — Ron Hall

Valuable websites

Professional Landcare Network:
American Nursery & Landscape Association:
American Society of Landscape Architects:
Irrigation Association:
American Society of Irrigation Consultants:
Golf Course Superintendents Society of America:
U.S. Composting Council:
Sports Turf Managers Association:
Turfgrass Producers International:
Synthetic Turf Council:
Sustainable Sites Initiative:
Sustainable Land Development International:
Sustainable Horticulture:
U.S. EPA WaterSense:
U.S. EPA GreenScapes:
Lawns & the Environment Initiative:

Edible landscapes

“The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques,” by Rosaline Creasy (author) and Marcia Kier-Hawthorne (illustrator), Sierra Book Clubs, 1982
“Edible Flower Garden,” by Rosalind Creasy, Periplus Editions, 1999
“Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables,” by Fred Hagy, Overlook Hardcover, 2001
“Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally,” by Robert Kourik, Permanent Publications, 2009

Water issues

“Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to do About It,” by Robert Glennon, Island Press, 2009
“Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters,” by Robert Glennon, Island Press, 2004
“When the Rivers Run Dry,” by Fred Pearce, Beacon Press, 2007
“Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition,” by Marc Reisner, Penguin, 1993
“Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water,” by Maude Barlow, New Press, 2008
“Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource,” by Marq de Villiers, Mariner Books, 2001

Sustainable landscaping

“Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies,” by Owen Dell, ASLA, 2009
“Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors, Second Edition,” by J. William Thompson and Kim Sorvig, Island Press, 2007
“Living Systems: Innovative Materials and Technologies for Landscape Architecture,” by Liat Margolis and Alexander Robinson, Birkhäuser Basel, 2007
“The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals,” by Barbara W. Ellis and Ferm Marshall Bradley, Rodale Books, 1996
“Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses,” by Michael A. Dirr, Stipes Publishing, 1998
“Turfgrass Management (8th Edition),” by A.J. Turgeon, Prentice Hall, 2007
“Landscape Plant Selection, Soil Preparation & Planting,” DVD by A.C. Burke & Company

Landscape water conservation

“New Waterscapes: Planning, Building and Designing with Water,” by Herbert Dreiseitl and Dieter Grau, Birkhäuser Basel, 2005
“Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainability in the Garden and Designed Landscape,” by Nigel Dunnett and Andy Clayden, Timber Press, 2007
“Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment, and Alternate Reuse,” by Heather Kinkade-Levario, New Society Publishers, 2007
“The New Create an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems-Includes Branched Drains,” by Art Ludwig, Oasis Design, 2006
“Builders Greywater Guide,” by Art Ludwig, Oasis Design, 2006
“Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands,” by Brad Lancaster, Rainsource Press, 2006
“Xeriscape-Appropriate Landscaping to Conserve Water,” DVD by San Luis Video

Green roofs

“Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls,” by Nigel Dunnett and Noel Kingsbury, Timber Press, 2008
“Green Roofs: Ecological Design and Construction,” by Earth Pledge Foundation, Schiffer Publishing, 2004
“Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide,” by Edmund C. Snodgrass and Lucie L. Snodgrass, Timber Press, 2006
“Green Roof: A Case Study: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ Design for the Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects,” by Christian Werthmann, Princeton Architectural Press, 2007
“Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction,” Theodore H. Osmundson, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997
“Award Winning Green Roof Designs,” by Steven Peck, Schiffer Publishing, 2008

Healthy soils

“Handbook of Soils for Landscape Architects,” by Robert F. Keefer, Oxford University Press, 2000
“Urban Soil in Landscape Design,” by Phillip J. Craul, Wiley, 1992
“Soil Science and Management (5th Edition),” by Edward Plaster, Delmar Cengage Learning, 2008
“Soils in Our Environment (11th Edition),” by Raymond W. Miller and Duane T. Gardiner, Prentice Hall, 2007

General reading

“Green to Gold, How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage,” by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston, Yale University Press, 2006
“Smart Green: How to Implement Smart Business Practices and Make Money,” by Johnaton Estes, Wiley, 2009
“Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How it Can Renew America,” by Thomas L. Friedman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
“Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” by Michael Braungart, North Point Press, 2002

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Don't let a bumper sticker kill a sale

Bill Phagan, a former Tampa-area landscaper and long-time industry business consultant (Green Industry Consulting, Inc.) offered up what we feel is valuable sales advice in his latest quarterly “Your MoneyTree News” enewsletter.

Phagan opines that it’s not a good idea — at least from a sales perspective — in being too out front with clients in regards to your political, religious or perhaps even with your favorite team preferences.

Being a native Floridian he offers up the example of a owner/salesman who may have lost sales after getting into extended conversations with prospects over which is the better athletic program, the Seminoles or the Gators. If you know anything about Florida football (and you’re not a Hurricane booster), you’re either a fan of Florida State or the University of Florida. It's unlikely you're passionate about both.

The point of Phagan’s advice: don’t expect prospects to necessarily embrace your political, religious, social or sports views. In other words, keep your sales calls focused on business. This goes for any potentially devisive bumper stickers (including non-U.S. flags) that you sport on your sales and service vehicles, too, he writes. — Ron Hall