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Accredited Organic Land Care Professional, 2010
By Kathy Litchfield
HERNDON, Va. – Cell phone in hand, AOLCP Matt Kucik was having a busy Wednesday, driving to check on a residential client’s front walkway. His four-year-old business, Meridian Landscape, had its best year ever in 2009 and was busier than usual in August 2010.
“I think the economy is definitely turning, people seem to be fixing up their houses and doing this year, what they perhaps had put off last year,” said Kucik, who took the 5-day Accreditation course in January 2010. “The bottom line is the economy is improving.”
While not to the degree it has become popular in New England, Kucik said organic land care is “absolutely” catching on in northern/central Virginia, where he cares for commercial and residential properties offering design/build and maintenance services.
Kucik and Meridian ran an extensive organic lawn fertilization pilot program, following the 5-day Accreditation course and Chip Osborne’s two-day organic lawn seminar last winter, and said he’ll launch it officially in Spring 2011.
“At least one local town, Reston, Va., has outlawed the use of phosphorus for commercial fertilizer applicators,” he said, thanks largely to work by the Reston Association, a large homeowners’ group.
“People know that chemicals are bad, and what catches their attention is that we don’t use chemicals on lawn care,” he said. “Most people look to us to help them better understand organic programs so I explain soil health and the ‘right plant, right place’ concept.”
Kucik also recently hired a landscape designer with a marketing background. They plan to re-design the company website and update their Google analytics to integrate the organic lawn care program.
“I haven’t marketed myself as ‘organic’ yet but we understand that this is the direction of the landscape industry,” he said.
Kucik has always been leery of chemicals. “We’ve always used a lot of compost to amend the soil. We’re using ‘right plant, right place’ and we’re using more native plants that are appropriate for this region,” he said. “With one commercial client, over the last couple of years, we’ve been able to plant perennials and native plants, where before we had annuals. I’m not sure what the company’s incentive is (aside from going ‘greener,’) but they’re trying to change their landscaping budget to include perennials rather than annuals, which makes much more sense and saves time, energy and effort.”
Partnering with SAI Contractors, a LEED certified contractor, Kucik has also installed several permeable driveways and a bio-retention pond.
He has found success approaching clients with new ideas and suggests landscapers “not be afraid to try new things” with customers. “More often than not, what you want to try works and has positive results,” said Kucik, who maintains a simple philosophy that guides his work:
“From a professional perspective, people see us as the experts so we need to be responsible and accountable for our actions and for what we’re recommending to our clients. On a personal level, we have to take care of the resources we have and it’s just the right thing to do.”