#EcologyMatters Manifesto

Education – Answers – Honesty – Leadership

From all of us at Richard A. McCoy Horticultural Services, Inc. we thank you for visiting our official blog, #EcologyMatters. We hope that you will find it educational, thought-provoking, and beneficial to you.

The concept for #EcologyMatters is to provide a Land Stewardship Resource to educate both the general public and landscape, horticulture, and arboriculture professionals, also known as “the green industry” on cutting-edge organic, ecological, and overall best practices. We’ll discuss the shortfalls and outstanding examples of our industry.

By providing information on ecological landscape installation and maintenance, we hope to help shift the consciousness of our readers towards the vision of an ideal landscape as environmentally constructive. We hope that you will find value in our ability to provide practical, honest, and unbiased answers to questions asked by current and prospective clients, property owners, and landscape professionals.

First and foremost, we recognize that there are many talented, hardworking, ethical individuals and businesses in the green industry who operate with integrity, a vision for a better environment, and high standards of conduct and quality. Educational organizations like the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Organic Land Care Working Group, and ecologically-conscious businesses like Tech Terra Environmental, NJNLA (New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association), Pleasant Run, Sunset Farmstead and North Creek Nurseries, to name a few from our region, have stepped up to raise awareness of the organic practitioner’s code of ethics and ecological alternatives to detrimental conventional practices. We are proud to stand with them to lead the way towards a new philosophy for the industry.

However, for every Yin there is a Yang, and this is where our industry falls appallingly short. As customers shop for landscape designs, installations, maintenance, and lawn, tree, and shrub care, they are inundated with misinformation from visual examples of existing sub-par managed landscapes on their block and online, to chain stores and local nurseries that supply invasive plant species and improper planting instructions.  

Certainly not least on the list is the seemingly never-ending stream of dangerous synthetic chemicals that homeowners have been given the green light to apply to their properties at their leisure, in shorts, tee-shirt, sandals, with no eye protection or gloves. And since pesticides are purchasable over-the-counter, it’s fine to invite unsuspecting guests over for a backyard barbecue, or have a baseball catch in your weed-and-insect-free yard right after they’ve been applied, right?

Some businesses are uneducated on best practices regarding pesticides, while others willfully ignore safety and legality, neglecting proper training and use of protective gear for their employees, whether they’re applying synthetic or organic chemical products. (NOTE: It’s important to keep in mind that just because a product says organic this should not suggest that a product can’t be hazardous on some level. It is of vital importance to handle organic materials with the same safety standards and protocols as their synthetic counterparts.)

Somewhere along the line, the standard for land care fell to a low that, if applied to other common trades, would render a company valueless. Many conventional landscapers lack the skill sets to offer proper plants, plantings and/or hardscape installations to their customers, not to mention lacking appropriate licensing, insurance coverage and methods of hiring and pay. Of course, there is always some percentage working towards legal compliance, and a smaller percentage working towards environmentally-friendly practices, but regardless of these exceptions, the general trend proves the overwhelming need for upstanding professionalism and a general shift in philosophy. 

Herein lies the objective of #EcologyMatters: to bring to light a greater understanding of cutting-edge organic, ecological, and overall landscape best practices. Our posts are based on these principles:

  • Education:
    • Cutting-edge organic, ecological, and overall landscape best practices
    • Recommended reading 
    • Promotion of those who teach ecology, organic land care and land stewardship 
  • Answers:
    • Questions asked by current and prospective clientele and green industry pros to the best of our ability will be answered with unbiased and honest cited studies and observations from our work. 
  • Honesty:
    • Unbiased opinions and/or facts backed by cited works of others 
    • Unwavering dedication to the philosophy of organic land care, holding ourselves accountable to a higher standard of quality and ethical values 
  • Leadership:
    • Show and discuss examples of properly constructed landscape design, installation and maintenance
    • Make observations in the landscape and constructively criticize to improve the overall quality of our industry and raise awareness of sub-par workmanship
    • Plant a seed in the mind of others to consider the alternatives and transition to a more environmentally friendly way of viewing the landscape

A note to the green industry

Like it or not, we are approaching an ecological tipping point. We are in the midst of what scientists call the Sixth Great Extinction. At this time, it seems almost weekly a new study reveals that insects, the ecological keystone species, followed by upper-level plant and bird species are disappearing on a global scale at an alarming rate – a trend that will prove to be a detriment to the human race. If you are a skeptic, I submit to you that even if half the information that is reported is true, you would still have to admit we have major issues to overcome.

Our industry has a great environmental impact. We are the boots on the ground. Our signature is all over the current degradation of ecosystems we manage that support life on this planet and determine the viability of our environment for future generations. Our hands are closest to and have the greatest potential to improve our ecosystems.

Here are a few essential points starting from the ground up: 

  1. Soil biology affects us, and we can no longer destroy it with indiscriminate use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. We must rebuild and enhance soil biology to support the plants that support us. 
  2. Insect pollinators affect us. There must be a greater emphasis placed on the use of native plant species, which pollinators and other native creatures use for food, shelter, and as a means of pollination, which needless to say is essential for all natural growth, and eliminating the use of invasive plant species, which at best are merely ornamental, but can ultimately be devastating to biodiversity. 
  3. Proper plant placement and follow-up care must be observed, to ensure that plants’ needs regarding sun exposure, soil type, and growth range are met, and to minimize or eliminate the need for chemical applications and plant replacement. 

Every day, we make decisions regarding plant selection and chemical applications that have a far-reaching impact on our ecosystems. We can no longer approach the landscape with a short-term mindset. Our work, our stewardship of the land, is not for us, but for future generations. Sure we can gain immediate gratification from a job well done. Then will the Oak we planted provide shade for our grandchildren or theirs? Or will it expire before the ‘guarantee’ expires? 

As an industry, we manage millions of acres of commercial and residential land in this country alone. Most are currently being managed with antiquated landscape practices. Mixed collections of invasive plant species with little to no ecological benefit litter the landscape and perhaps, without intention, some native plant species.

Imagine the impact we could have if we would all observe nature, learn from and work with her. 

For businesses, the ecological transition is admittedly not an easy one. You must be clever about the moves you make. Diving all-in is not for everyone. Take your time and be well thought out, be aware of your strengths, weaknesses and your capacity to make changes in business and in yourself.  I can say without hesitation that those who dedicate themselves to the process will not be disappointed. Work will become more rewarding, enjoyable, motivating and you will have a greater sense of purpose in the work that you do. 

Feel free to reach us with questions by contacting us through our website, www.mccoyfinegardens.com, on our Facebook or my LinkedIn page, or by giving us a call at 1.866.MCCOY95. 

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Together, we can spread awareness to individuals in and out of the green industry for a better future for our children and our planet. Thank you.

Richard A. McCoy, 2019