How to pack the house while teaching organic lawn care


The DC Urban Gardeners were pleased as punch to find out that Paul Tukey himself will be our speaker –Paultukey
free to the public – at DC’s Historical Society this September.  (Here are the details for you locals.)  He’s the founder and main man at, a nonprofit that I frequently plug, as you may have noticed.  Here’s the promo for the talk:

Paul Tukey is on a mission – to reduce pesticide usage across the country,
one lawn and garden at a time.  Popular host of his own HGTV program, Paul is
also the publisher of People, Places &
magazine, the author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual and the
founder of the not-for-profit organization, 

Tukey,Americans are
spreading millions of tons of toxic materials on their lawns, all in the name of
having a beautiful lawn.  Our mission is to show people that you can have that
nice lawn without the toxic and wasteful side effects.” Tukey himself is a
former professional landscaper who switched from synthetic to organic methods
after becoming ill. Paul continues, “A report by the National Academy of
Sciences shows that the health of 1 in 7 people is negatively impacted in some
form by lawn pesticides. We want to do something about that.”

Invited to speak at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. by the DC Urban Gardeners, Paul will
present alternative solutions to chemically dependent lawns. 

He’s accepted a greatly reduced fee and is coming here from Maine on his own dime because: it’s DC, it’s a great venue, and we promised them we’d pack the house.  Or we’ll die trying, basically.

So here’s a question for Rant readers.  This is clearly information that average homeowners and even yardeners want and need, but will they recognize that it is from that description?  When we promote the talk to neighborhood associations, how can we appeal to people who don’t normally attend talks with environmental messages?

I’m hoping that if we DO manage to pack the house, Paul will forget I ever referred to him as The Blond One.  Not to mention "TV-cute." 


  1. This is a great cause. But I don’t know, maybe you have to start from the point-of-view of those fools still using pesticides. They want the lawn to look nice. They think this is the way that it’s done.

    How about, “Get that lush, beautiful lawn you’ve always dreamed about–and protect your family’s health at the same time.”?

  2. I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia and out city went pesticide free years ago. It is great! It is much better to garden organically, IMHO. More fun. Bigger plants. Better.

  3. I’m sure you’ve read through Tukey’s book a few times. One of the points he makes over and over is that an organic lawn has fewer inputs. In the landscape industry, we sell our clients on saving them time and saving them money. I have my doubts that a health/ “won’t someone PLEASE think of the children!” approach is going to attract the unconverted. A whole lot of folks seem to be of the mindset that if they can walk in and buy 2,4-D off the street then it must be ok- never mind what those eco-hippies are spouting off about. This world would be a much better place if everyone would objectively look at the info in front of them and decide to cause less harm. But that ain’t reality, so sometimes we have to make them save themselves by telling them they’re saving something they value more- like money or time on the links.

  4. Susan,

    Aim the message to the attendee. Sell the benefits–don’t just state the facts. Somebody else’s mission may not be an eye catcher.

    Here’s the way I would start: You too can have a safe lawn. Safe for you, your children, your pets, and for your local ecosystem. Many people think they have to use poisons in order to have a beautiful lawn, but you don’t.

    Just my two cents…

  5. Talk about the health of their kids. That’s the one thing that’s likely to grab them. Especially in this day and age with all the problems with fruits and vegetables.

    I saw Paul speaking on this topic at Garden in the Woods in Framingham MA last year. I bought his book and have totally changed my lawn care habits. He is a very effective speaker.

  6. I think some people are up for trying alternative lawn techniques and some people… well.. I think they won’t change unless they are made to. I guess that’s why there are laws (not that a rule equals compliance). I think a discussion one-on-one with folks is pretty essential. So is casual reinforcement- like when I see someone trying to do their part, acknowledge it in a fun, social way- kind of like making them feel more… attractive by choosing a green option.

    I also like to talk about WHY green lawn care is important- not generally, but something like “it screws up the Chesapeake Bay” (That usually is a good one for the D.C. Metro area).

  7. I think a lot of uninformed (but still highly intelligent) folks think organic is the domain of new agers. I agree that touting the money saving benefits of Paul’s methods is something that should be highlighted. And the “it’s safer for you and your family and pets, too” should be in there somewhere. The biggest message, though, is that you save money (and those of us in the know already know we don’t have to continue to worship at the Scott’s altar).

  8. Oh — I heard part of his interview on the Diane Rehm show a couple of weeks ago but missed his name and the name of his book, so I am very grateful to have that information!

    Yes — DC area gardeners are pretty receptive to anything that can help the Bay and, indeed, the Potomac. Also, it isn’t easy to grow a good lawn here — maybe you could stress that these methods will make it easier to get a green lawn with less trouble and for much less money. Most of us, too, struggle with more shade than is good for a lawn — could that be a selling point? None of us want to lose our wonderful trees, but we all love the look of shadows on the lawn and his book could help us to achieve that dreamy afternoon look of green flickering shade.

  9. Well, it seems everyone is interested in jumping on the ‘go green’ bandwagon these days, so why not play that up? Something like, “Wanna go green, but afraid if you do your lawn will go brown? No worries — TV host, author, etc. Paul Tukey, will show you how to go organic, save cash and have the best turf on the block.”

  10. Money. Talk about the money people will save. The people who have no interest in going organic will be lured by saving money. And when they are pleasantly surprised about how much better their less expensive, they will be hooked.

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