On April 25, 2016 the Village of Willowbrook partnered with Pure Prairie Organics to provide the Village with its first steps toward establishing a sustainable lawn care system. The program consists of two types of structured lawn care methods including an “Organic/Natural” program for Borse Memorial Community Park and an “Organic Based Blended Program” for all other Village-owned lawns. While some traditional elements of lawn care maintenance remain, such as granular fertilizers and elements of chemical weed control, Pure Prairie Organics has introduced something completely new to the Village: compost tea.
Compost tea is a liquid blend of organic matter that is combined, brewed, and applied directly to the turf within a limited time frame for optimum effectiveness. Compost tea’s main purpose is to add nutrients to the soil in order to strengthen root systems and increase the vitality of grass blades. In their program, Pure Prairie Organics applies a mixture of kelp, humic, fulvic, and amino acids to Willowbrook turf. While this is a fairly new concept in the municipal sector, Willowbrook is not alone in its attempts to promote more sustainable lawn care.
Both the Chicago Park District and Park Ridge have been exploring greener lawn care methods with satisfactory success. By keeping grass blades at approximately 3 inches high, watering only when necessary, avoiding the use of chemical-based products, and informing the public of what they can expect to see is all a part of their model. For example, the presence of a few dandelions can actually be seen as a good thing. While dandelions were hailed as a maintenance taboo in acceptable lawn care, and in some ways it still is for many Americans, if the public can change their perceptions about dandelions to “chemical-free” instead of simply “bad lawn care”—then real progress can be made.
So what does this argument about dandelions mean for Willowbrook? Are you going to start seeing fields of dandelions all over town? To reassure Willowbrook residents about the new program, elements of traditional lawn care will still be used. Weeds will still be controlled with synthetic herbicide products and will be utilized when necessary. Understanding that while greener lawn care is the end goal for Willowbrook and its residents, a completely “green” lawn care program will not happen overnight. In the meantime, as Willowbrook makes its transition—start to expect that lawns will need time to adjust to the new program. Weeds like dandelions or the occasional patch of crabgrass may be expected. Willowbrook residents are advised that this is an attempt to see what more natural lawn care can (or cannot do) for us. So to test this out, Pure Prairie Organics has stepped forward.
Pure Prairie Organic’s program includes all Willowbrook parks, roadside rights of way, medians, and specified Willowbrook facilities like the Village Hall and Public Works facility. Lawns will be treated with six applications of a hybrid mixture of synthetic fertilizer and compost tea. In addition, crabgrass control and various other weed control products will still be used. Spot treatments will be used if deemed necessary. The applications of these mixtures will end in fall, spaced throughout the season at select times in order to avoid any potential conflicts with Willowbrook’s Parks and Recreation activities.
The most important element of this natural lawn care program concerns the special consideration of Borse Memmorial Community Park. Located at 208 Midway Drive, Borse Park is expected to serve as a variable park—or a “tester park.” In order to slowly transition Willowbrook into more sustainable lawn care practices, Borse will not have any chemical-based fertilizers or herbicides scheduled for application. Instead, Pure Prairie Organics will be able to care for and maintain the park with compost tea and withhold the application of all chemical products. By secluding this practice to a specified test site, both Willowbrook and Pure Prairie Organics will be able to determine if this new lawn care system can benefit the Village.
The total amount of serviceable lawn coverage under this program falls just below 70 acres. 8.8 acres will cover Borse, 32.4 acres for all other Village parks, and 28.34 acres for areas such as the roadways and specified facilities. While these are fairly sizeable lawn surfaces in need of maintenance, Willowbrook is confident in their newfound partnership with Pure Prairie Organics.
Based in Joliet and owned by Chris Burisek, Pure Prairie Organics is a natural lawn care company that specializes in the application of alternative methods of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Burisek has over twenty two years of experience in various lawn care methods. Having started his career in traditional and chemical-based lawn care, Chris switched his business focus to more sustainable methods once he became increasingly educated about the public health risks associated with traditional lawn care.
“Many times I relate the soil to our own bodies [and] the importance of living a healthy lifestyle…If we take care of our bodies, eat well and sleep enough we are typically healthy overall….It’s a very easy comparison to make and helps relate to organic/natural lawn care in a basic way.” –Chris Burisek, Pure Prairie Organics
Planning for a new lawn care contract began with staff attendance at the November 4, 2015 Midwest Grows Green Natural Lawn Care Conference. Hosted at Elmhurst College, this conference was sponsored by and partnered with local organizations such as the Midwest Pesticide Action Center and the University of Illinois Extension. Those in attendance at the conference were educated on various watering techniques, pH levels, beneficial microorganisms, natural foliage, and more. The various presentations, resources, services, and self-evaluations given to Willowbrook staff at the conference resulted in the current contract with Pure Prairie. With the new program, great things are to be expected for the Village and all of its residents. If you would like to know more about this topic, about this program or how to begin a program of your own, follow the links listed below: