In the Know
It’s the time of year again to think about lawn care. Scarborough is one of the few towns in Maine, and in the nation, to have adopted an organic grounds care policy for town and school properties.
The Scarborough Pest Management Policy was adopted by the Town Council in September 2011 and can be found on the town’s Community Services website on the Community Information webpage.
The policy was primarily created to protect human health and our children’s health, above all, but it also protects our watershed, including Scarborough’s signature marsh and beaches; our shellfish economy; our wildlife, including our vast array of migratory birds; beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees; as well as pets.
The policy charges Town Manager, Tom Hall, with implementation of the policy, and further establishes a citizen’s Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC). The Committee holds televised Community Channel 3 meetings, typically once a month, with its meetings open to the public, and minutes recorded on the Community Services website.
The PMAC acts in an advisory and problem-solving capacity, particularly during the transition period from conventional to organic grounds, a process of about three years. With only one year of experience with this new approach, the PMAC continues to monitor the effectiveness of the program, both in turf management success and cost, providing an important advisory role to the Town.
Go Green Landscaping of Scarborough currently serves as the town’s major contractor with staff who are accredited organic lawn care professionals (AOLCPs), some of only a few such credentialed professionals in the state.
All of the documentation of the company’s field scouting reports and photos, soil biology tests, care schedules, applications, and material data safety sheets regarding products used is available on the town’s website.
The town’s Community Services staff joins Go Green on the front lines of this transition, balancing neverending sports field, playground, school grounds, and park use with organic cultural practices such as mowing, aerating, and watering.
The PMAC is further charged with encouraging the reduction of pesticide use on residential and commercial properties.
The social and cultural challenge involves shifting expectations from artificial perfection, chemical dependency, and soil depletion to a new paradigm of restorative soil health, horticultural science, living soil food webs, and an aesthetic that no longer comes at a price to human or environmental health.
The goal of an organic approach is to create a living soil, where a small number of weeds and pests are horticulturally acceptable and can be held in check with the natural predators, exchanges, and cycles of a biologically-diverse system.
Organic practices include: Soil testing; aerating; topdressing; overseeding with hardier blends of grass seed; amending soil with compost, compost teas, and grass clippings; wiser mowing practices (higher and when grass is not stressed or wet) and watering practices (deeply and infrequently); special organic pest management strategies or applications when pests or weeds get out of balance; and reduction of lawn area in favor of low maintenance ground covers or food production.
Once soil health is restored, such practices should save time, effort and money in the long run.
The PMAC collaborated with the town’s Conservation Commission in January 2013 to host an educational forum about the policy, its history and purpose, its transition from conventional to organic practices, and successes and challenges in implementation.
A tape of the forum is available through Community Services. Nationally-recognized organic sports field expert, Chip Osborne, was present to speak from a sports field and horticultural science perspective. The PMAC also hosted an educational booth at Summerfest and hopes to participate in future events.
Additional information for home and business owners considering an organic transition may be found at NOFA’s website at www.organiclandcare.net.
Cumberland County Soil and Water District’s Yardscaper website, through your local AOLCP, and through workshops offered through Scarborough’s adult education program.
Column contributed by the Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee.