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Business wants to grow ‘greener’ lawns organically

For those individuals interested in doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint, Fred “Max” Maxwell has a new company in Jackson offering a product that can help do just that, and without having to leave home. The veteran turf man’s new company, Nature’s Remedy, is up and running, and Maxwell is now looking to get the word out that there is an organic way to grow a greener, healthier yard that at the same time requires less maintenance.

“Establishing and maintaining great looking turf can be done with more environmentally-friendly products and practices. And on top of that, it costs less, too,” Maxwell said.

From links to lawns

Maxwell has extensive experience creating healthier turf. Born in Vicksburg, he went on to Mississippi State University to study agronomy/turfgrass management. After his studies, he launched a 25-year career in golf course maintenance and management, 10 of those with the Jackson Country Club.

“For years now, golf courses have used organics to propagate microorganisms in the soil,” he said. He added that professionals with proper training and experience manage the state’s golf courses, and they understand that the objective is not to feed the grass, but the soil underneath. Creating and maintaining a healthy soil is the key to healthy, green grass.

However, his journey to form Nature’s Remedy started with a seemingly throwaway conversation with one of his children. The daughter was concerned with reducing carbon impact. What could folks do to improve the environment? It got Maxwell’s wheels spinning.

The concept solidified when he subsequently helped a nature-conscious friend fertilize her yard. Shopping at a home improvement store, the only organic turf builder available was manure based. Maxwell said he knew the fertilizer was safe, but he still had qualms about spreading a manure-based product where children and pets played, and the smell was not pleasant. He figured there had to be a better organic product out there.

Maxwell’s research turned up fish- and blood-based products, but they offered little or no advantage over manure-based fertilizers. Finally, he found a soy-based organic fertilizer, and this answered all of his concerns. To him, “soy” just sounded green, and the product produced less odor. The smell that was emitted was akin to animal feed, which, in essence, is what the product is.

With that, Nature’s Remedy, a name chosen by his daughter, was born.

“To my knowledge, there is no other company in Mississippi that specializes in caring for turf organically, so this is really a no-brainer for me,” Maxwell said.

Keeping the wallet ‘green’

According to Maxwell, changing turf-building practices and techniques would make a significant impact on reducing carbon. Citing NASA research, Maxwell said there are 31.63 million, or nearly 50,000 square miles, of turf in the U.S. Thus, the way these areas are cared for can dramatically impact the carbon footprint, positively or negatively.

Maxwell said the biggest problem he sees in traditional turf-growing practices and techniques is that users are feeding the grass, but not the underlying soil. Rather than focusing on the blades, he said the concentration should be on the roots. Healthy soil should be the objective, which provides the proper foundation for healthy grass.

“We’re in a drought now,” Maxwell said. “If you ride around town, a lot of those brown yards would probably be much greener if the owners were feeding the soil and not just the grass.”

A second problem is grass-growing products and application techniques. Chemicals are much harder to distribute properly, even for professionals, and the non-organic chemicals are not people-, plant- or animal-friendly. Runoff and pollution are concerns.

And the concerns do not stop there. Maxwell said it is much easier to go organic if one is starting from scratch. He said too many lawns are “junkies,” hooked on chemicals.

“If you use chemicals on your yard, the more chemicals it takes to maintain it. It’s like the yard is addicted to chemicals,” Maxwell said.

Not only can doing one’s part to improve the environment be rewarding to the users of organic fertilizer, they can also reap a financial reward. Soils enhanced with organic fertilizers grow grass that requires less watering, and users will not have to crank up their lawnmower as often, an environmental benefit itself.

With his product in hand, Maxwell is now looking to get the word out not only about Nature’s Remedy, but environmentally-friendly practices and techniques in general. A former president of the Mississippi Turfgrass Association, Maxwell said he plans on leading seminars and programs designed to educate attendees on proper turf-building methods that are also “green.” He also plans to market his product to homebuilders and landscapers, and was quick to add that his product and services are not limited to residential property. Maxwell has his eyes set on businesses and municipalities, as well.

He also has designs on more than just grass. He said replacing large areas of turf with wildflowers offers a further reduction in carbon. And wildflowers provide a eye-pleasing environment for plants and wildlife, too.

Long term, he envisions small stores offering his products.

“Nature’s Remedy is leading Mississippi to a greener place, one yard at a time,” he said.

To learn more about Nature’s Remedy, visit www.natureslawnandgardenremedy.com.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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