Sustainable Land Care: Insight & Advice from Chris Baliko of Growing Solutions, LLC
Growing Solutions, LLC is a full service landscape company serving Fairfield County. The company provides design/build, maintenance, large tree care, and masonry services. It specializes in organic land care which includes sustainable landscape design/build, lawn care, and tick control services.
What motivated you to focus on organic, rather than conventional chemical-based services?
Growing Solutions has been in business since 2002 and we have been accredited through the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) since 2006. We were motivated to focus on organics because we were concerned with how synthetic products degrade the environment and how they affect our health, the health of our employees, our clients and their families.
What is the most common reason that your customers are switching to organic lawn care?
The most common reason customers are converting to organics is that they are concerned with the health of their families and pets. Many clients are on well water and realize that the chemicals applied to their lawns can end up in the water they drink, cook with, and bathe in. An organic program may not be for everyone. Customers have to accept that their landscapes will have imperfections and that a lawn maintained organically could contain 5 to 10% weeds.
When beginning the transition from chemical-based lawn care to organic, what should the customer expect?
When converting from a synthetic program to an organic program customers must realize that this is a long term investment. The transition time is usually three to five years depending on the condition of the soil. The focus is not just on applying organic fertilizers and weed controls, but also on building a healthy soil and soil food web. Comprehensive soil tests should be done every two or three years to determine what may be needed in amending the soil. Cultural practices such as topdressing with compost, aeration, overseeding, and compost tea applications are also important parts of an organic program.
What is Growing Solutions’ approach to sustainable landscaping?
Growing Solutions approach to sustainable landscaping is to first build a healthy soil in which the plants can thrive. Next, we must consider the optimal conditions for each plant and make sure that we place the right plant in the right place with regard to soil pH, texture, moisture, and sun exposure. We prefer to use plants that are native to the Northeast - once established they require less maintenance and fewer inputs such as fertilizer and water.
From your point of view, what sustainable trends do you see happening within Fairfield County?
The biggest trend we have seen over the last two years is the creation of vegetable gardens and edible landscapes. We continually have requests to install raised beds for gardens and to install fruit trees, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes. Another big trend is composting. It is free and is easy to get started. The average American throws away about five pounds of garbage each day, much of which can be composted. By composting we can reduce the materials that end up in our waste stream thereby lessening the affect on the earth, and making our own free compost for our lawns and gardens.
Tick-control is a big concern for Connecticut residents. What organic options do you recommend?
There are many organic products available to control ticks. The two we prefer to use are composed of wintergreen and peppermint oils, and the other is the oil extracted from the chrysanthemum plant. In addition to our applications we advise our clients to install and maintain a three to four foot perimeter of wood chips around their yards and remove leaf litter which discourages ticks. We also recommend that they maintain their stone walls, use deer resistant plantings, and install deer fencing.
Growing Solutions serves the Fairfield County region and can be reached at 866.476.9765. Visit GrowSo.com for more information.