August 15, 2012
By Phil Charal
LO President

phil charal My friend and fellow Landscape Ontario board member Alan White recently made front page news in the Globe and Mail ( with his passionate interview supporting turf in the landscape.

I loved it, and was so proud that Alan somehow managed to get some positive words out about the beauty and benefits of turf in the landscape.

For some time we have been reading about grass being out of fashion. Every article seems to have a negative theme about lawns. The articles tell us that turf is wasteful, sucking up fertilizers and water, polluting the earth and requiring harmful pesticides to keep it green.

Greenpeace says that “a lawn is an unnatural eco-system.” It advises that homeowners plant flowers, trees, bushes, ground covers and vegetables, instead of grass.

The Sierra Club posted statistics that show Americans use 100 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides each a year. It uses those statistics to tell people that the pesticides enter into the groundwater, pollute the air and gets into the skin and the mouths of our children, pets and everything else. For years powerful lobbyists have worked to convince the public to replace lawns with xeriscapes throughout Canada and the U.S.

With honesty and directness Alan’s support of turfgrass was so refreshing  and to the point. I particularly love the way he referred to grass as a “photosynthesizing, oxygen-producing, carbon-sequencing miracle.”

How can anyone possibly disagree with Alan’s comment that grass is a living, breathing organism that can help, not hurt the environment, as long as we learn to treat it right?
It is long overdue that the benefits of turf have been written about in a positive and supportive manner by the press.

Many of us in this industry know the benefits of turfgrass:
  • water retention
  • erosion control
  • filtering water
  • creates a cooler and cleaner environment
  • habitat and food supply for wildlife

Since the pesticide ban by Ontario’s Liberal government in 2009, parks, school yards and boulevards have turned into weed havens. Along with looking unsightly, these large areas of turf are losing most of the environmental benefits we once enjoyed.

Regardless of the pesticide ban, most grounds maintenance firms, golf courses and the like, have been and always will practise good IPM ideals.

Turf deserves respect for its great enhancement to the every-day landscape, and a tip of my hat to Alan for exposing the truth to the reading public of Canada through our national paper.

It is always disappointing, and quite surprising, that such small vocal groups have so much influence on the general public. These groups seem to excel at promoting and creating a negative slant towards their chosen target. In this case, it’s the demonization of a great symbol in the landscape world. Thanks to Alan White, some of that negative influence was weakened.
Phil Charal may be reached at