Natural and organic lawn care is an innovative solution to not only promoting water conservation, but also preventing environmental damage caused by chemical runoff. Rather than pesticide applications that call for contractors to douse all their customers' lawns five times throughout the summer with treatments that may not even be necessary, natural lawn care differs from lawn to lawn.
NaturaLawn of America was the pioneering company to delve into the practice of environmentally friendly lawn care, and has grown exponentially and gained interest from agencies including (but not limited to) the Federal EPA, Greenscapes Alliance Partnership, Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program.
“I think when we first started, people in the industry thought that going organic and organic-based was a fad not a trend, and we just said 'no we think this is the way of the future,'” says Phil Catron, owner and president of NaturaLawn of America. “Quite frankly there was a lot of resistance from inside the industry, and we just kind of muddled through that.”
The company started in 1987 and began opening franchising branches by 1989. By 2013 it had reached an annual revenue of $50 million. The company now has 66 licenses located in 24 different states. NaturaLawn welcomes conversions. When they began, they had to do much of their product development in-house, which created the exclusive products that are used today in their lawn applications. In 1991 the company was even asked by the Federal EPA to write the chapter on integrative pest management for the EPA’s manual.
“I think that the rest of the industry is slowly catching on and at least wanting to head in this direction. But they’re struggling a little bit, trying to figure out how to do it, so obviously we’re welcoming anybody in the industry who wants to become part of our system to teach them how,” says Catron.
The NaturaLawn Process
NaturaLawn’s treatment program starts with a customer consultation where a soil test is taken. The soil test shows right off the bat what the nutrient levels of that particular lawn are, so that the treatments can be adjusted to fit. For their customers they will take soil tests every two to three years, to monitor any changes and prevent use of unnecessary services. This is one of the areas that the company has come out ahead of the trend on, as more and more states are now mandating that lawn care companies do take soil tests.
NaturaLawn’s program directly targets the underlying factors and eliminates those problems all together. They continue to strive to be ahead of the rest of the organic-based lawn companies, keeping their practices innovative.
“Take clover for example; clover is a weed that really likes an acid soil and it likes compacted soil and a low-fertility soil. So when you get your results back you’ll see the PH is very acidic so you’re going to make an application of lime over a period of time and raise the PH up, and you’re also going to increase the fertility level and you might aerate near the seeds. So does that totally treat the clover? Well no you might have to treat some little areas, but once you get it under control you can keep it out. It’s the approach of solving the problem, as opposed to continuing to treat a symptom.”
NaturaLawn experiences a very low cancelation rate, they keep communication with customers open, and right from the get-go they set customers' expectations correctly. Compared to non-organic lawn care companies, they are set in the middle of the pricing range, Catron says.
“I’ve always taken the approach that even if we’re a little more expensive, we’re giving you the same quality or better lawn. For the same or a little bit better price, you don’t have to worry about the safety of the neighbors and the pets and the kids. Why wouldn’t you take us?”