The Well-Stocked Hardware Store
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A Well-Stocked Hardware Store
To assist local garden centers and hardware stores in transitioning their customers to holistic lawn care practices, Beyond Pesticides has crafted the “Well-Stocked Hardware Store,” which provides the products and tools necessary to support a move to healthy, organic landscapes. This guide fits in with Beyond Pesticides’ Model Pesticide Policy and Implementation Plan for Communities, but can be used independently for hardware stores looking to encourage the use of products and practices that protect the health of their customers, community, and the wider environment.
Proper soil fertility is critical to ensure healthy soil biology (and customers that are happy with their new organic lawn).
Soil Test Kit: Soil testing provides a baseline for chemistry, texture, and nutrient availability. Many agricultural extensions can also perform an organic content analysis and offer organic care recommendations, in addition to providing data on nutrient and pH levels. Business can reach out to most local agricultural extensions for sample boxes that customers can pick up right at the store and ship off later. Emphasize the importance of soil testing by placing a soil testing information station at a highly visible location in the store. Provide fact sheets from the local extension agent on how customers can conduct their soil test. TIP! Consider providing discounts for customers that bring their soil test results into the store.
Fertilizers: To begin, make certain that the fertilizers your store carries are certified organic. Do this by only stocking products with the “USDA Organic” label. Broadly speaking, there are two types of fertilizers: granular and liquid. Both have pros and cons within an organic turf system. Granular fertilizers take time to break down, allowing a slow release of nutrients throughout the growing season. Liquid organic fertilizers, such as seaweed and kelp meal, break down and provide nutrients the grass a bit faster, and can be mixed with other microbe-boosting soil inoculants at the time of application (see ‘soil inoculants’ below). It’s important to educate customers on when it’s appropriate to fertilize their lawn. Pay particular attention to state laws that may restrict the use of fertilizers (i.e., phosphorus or nitrogen), making sure to follow applicable regulations. Generally, once nutrient deficiencies are corrected per soil test recommendations, lawns will need very little fertilizer to maintain healthy growth. A ¼” topdressing of compost in the fall is usually enough to maintain healthy soil biology – the real focus of organic lawn care. Epsoma carries a wide variety of granular organic lawn care fertilizers, while Neptune’s Harvest carries a number of liquid fertilizers. Dr. Earth carries a line of both.
Soil Inoculants: Soil inoculants, or microbial inoculants, feed the microorganisms that work to break down and release nutrients in your lawn. These products can help speed up the transition to an organic lawn by kick-starting soil biodiversity. Examples include humates, mycorrhizal fungi, and a range of other beneficial bacteria. John and Bob’s, Age Old Organics, and Plant Success sell a number of soil inoculants that can help boost the microbial life in your customer’s yards.
Soil Amendments: While soil inoculants work to improve the biological health of soil, soil amendments can help improve the physical properties of soil (though, of course, the two are intricately connected). Carry lime and gypsum, which are useful in adjusting the pH of soils. Peat, coconut coir, vermiculite, and perlite can help adjust drainage issues and water retention (though they’re not usually an important part of organic lawn care). And the best known soil amendment, compost, can help break up and improve soil structure, in addition to providing a gentle fertilizer to your customer’s lawns. Stock a variety of soil amendments and organic certified composts, as well as a means for customers to produce their own (see ‘compost bins’ below).
Compost Bins: Sure, your customers can start their own compost pile in their backyard out of a few wooden pallets, but for urban and suburban areas, compost tumblers make a nice, aesthetically pleasing addition to a backyard. They’re also better at preventing offensive odors from wafting toward neighbors, keeping ‘black gold’ free of local vermin, and are just easier to turn and aerate. There are a wide number of compost bins on the market, ranging from expensive self-aerating composters like the Aerobin, to tumblers, which have convenient handles to turn the compost, to simple bins with tight-fitting lids. Selling worm compost bins (and maybe even supplying composting worms) is also a good idea, though one more appropriate for gardening than lawn care. Display educational information, such as this fact sheet, on how to begin composting. Also try to carry compost accessory items, like compost aerators, compost boosters, and under the counter kitchen pails for those that don’t want to make the trip outside every time they want to compost food scraps.