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Finding Family-Safe Alternatives

A survey of low risk lawn care product availability.

Summary: Recommended Stores and Useful Products

This survey was completed in spring of 2000. This is a follow-up to previous surveys conducted in 1996 and 1998, by the Pesticide Alternatives Project, a coalition of community, environmental, conservation, and breast health groups -- coordinated by the Neighborhood Network -- dedicated to reducing the human health risks from exposure to toxins by encouraging a wider selection of alternatives to pesticides and making the public aware of where to purchase them.

Organic Practices Defined
Recommended Stores
Description of Products on the Survey
Press Release


Volunteers Wanted

The Neighborhood Network is again conducting our survey of Long Island lawn and garden stores, to provide Long Islanders with information on the best places to find products for safer, organic lawn and garden care. Would you like to contribute to the effort?

It only takes about 20 minutes to complete each survey form. If you would like to help by surveying your favorite source for organic lawn care and gardeing supplies, or other stores in your area, please contact us at:



Devotion to the suburban lawn is a strong tradition here on Long Island. It represents the American dream of each homeowner's small piece of the planet; open green space that many city-dwellers long for. Unfortunately, the chemical industry plays on that desire with an unrelenting barrage of advertisements which insist that ever homeowner has a responsibility to purchase and use chemical pesticides in order to meet the standard of an emerald green carpet of flawless turf. Long Island's lawn care supply stores promote the use of and sell thousands of pounds of chemical pesticides annually. (The total quantities are unknown, because the information is not tracked.) Most of these products are highly toxic; some are known or suspected carcinogens and/or neurotoxins. The objective of the Pesticide Alternatives Project is to counteract those enormous advertising budgets and get the word out to the public that there are effective alternatives to chemical pesticides. Additionally, it is our goal to increase the availability of non-chemical lawn care products while educating the public about where these products can be found. When people make statements like: "I don't want to use chemical pesticides around my house because of the environmental concerns and because of the health hazards. But what alternatives are there, and where can I find them?" this project's objective is to provide concrete answers to these questions. The Pesticide Alternatives Project's long term goal is to reduce toxic pesticide exposures and environmental contamination from the use of such chemicals by educating the public about alternative pest control methods, their proper use, and the locations where they are available. Safer pest control methods exist and are gaining increased acceptance around the Country. The survey was completed in response to growing concerns about the environmental and health risks of chemical pesticide use, and the increasing number of requests from members and the public for information on non-toxic pest control.

Organic Practices Defined

The term "organic" is currently in the process of being defined for food products by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, though it has not been officially applied to horticulture or lawn and tree care. It is clear that "organic" is meant to exclude the use of synthetic chemicals, both in common usage and also in terms of this report. Organic lawn care practices re-create, as closely as possible, the natural processes that occur in a healthy ecosystem; nourishing the soil and plants, while preserving populations of beneficial microorganisms, predatory insects, and spiders which control potential pest infestations. This management approach replaces the search for a chemical "magic bullet" to attempt to eradicate a pest. Under an organic lawn care program, the presence of pests in large enough numbers to cause damage or a nuisance is recognized as a symptom of an underlying problem or imbalance in the ecosystem which must be corrected. The techniques and materials used present very low risks or no risks at all to human health and the environment. They include changes in growing habits (proper watering, mowing, and fertilization; and the selection of grass seed and ornamental plants that are disease and drought resistant and appropriate for this part of the country); use of mechanical pest controls (weeding by hand, scraping egg sacks from trees); physical pest controls (barriers and traps); biological controls (natural predators, parasites and pathogens); and, to combat severe pest infestations, use of treatments that control pest populations by methods other than poisoning (such as diatomaceous earth, which desiccates pests, or horticultural oil, which suffocates insects). Obviously, changing to organic lawn care practices often requires the application of products which are not used in chemically dependent lawn and garden care. All of these organic products are widely available through mail order catalogs. However, these catalogs may prove inconvenient when bulky products are sought.


A total of 119 different stores were surveyed; 128 surveys were completed because some stores were surveyed twice for quality control purposes. Stores were assigned scores according to the number of products offered for sale as a percentage of the total of 33 listed on the survey. If a store stocked 33 products that they offered for sale to their customers (such as Hicks, in Westbury), their score would be a 100%; if they offered 30 products (such as Abby's Parkside, in Wantagh) their score would be 91%, and so on. The overall average number of products carried by all stores surveyed was only 12.2, or 37%. Although this finding is disappointing, it represents a marginal improvement over the average total number of products found in stores in 1998, which was 8.3.
Hicks Nursery in Westbury was the only store surveyed which carried all 33 products. Of the three surveys conducted since 1996, this is the first store to score a 100%. One store, Marder's in Bridgehampton, carried only alternative, organic products, selling no synthetic chemical pesticides. This is also a first for Long Island.

In order to be listed as a "Recommended Store" a store  must offer 16 or more organic lawn products, or score approximately 50% of the total list of 33 products surveyed. In total, 36 of the stores surveyed (30%) scored high enough to be recommended.

Recommended Stores

(To find and contact a store near you see the list of Recommended Stores arranged by region, with phone numbers.)

Store Location Total %
Hicks Nursery 100 Jericho Trnpk., Westbury 33 100%
Main Street Nursery 475 W. Main St., Huntington 32 97%
Abby's Parkside 3333 Merrick Rd., Wantagh 30 91%
Lynch's Garden Center 175 North Sea Rd., Southampton 30 91%
Martin Viette 6050 Northern Blvd., East Norwich 30 91%
Atlantic Nursery & Hardware 250 Atlantic Ave., Freeport 28 85%
Father Nature's 2676 Sunrise Hwy., East Islip 27 82%
Agway Young Avenue, Southold 26 79%
Dees 69 Atlantic Ave., Oceanside 26 79%
Giordanos 295 Glen Cove Rd., Sea Cliff 26 79%
Marder's Snake Hollow Rd., Bridgehampton 26 79%
Goldberg and Rodler 216 E. Main Street, Huntington 25 76%
Agway Route 25A, Port Jefferson Station 24 73%
Bayles 88 S. Bayles St., Port  Washington 24 73%
Fort Hill Nurseries/Garden Ctr. 188 E. Main St., Huntington 24 73%
Dodds & Eder 221 South Street, Oyster Bay 23 70%
Home Depot 1881 Sunrise Highway, Bay Shore 23 70%
Olsen's Nursery 386 Lake Ave., Nesconsett 23 70%
Sag Harbor Garden Center 11 Spring St., Sag Harbor 23 70%
Agway 411 W. John St., Hicksville 22 67%
Carl's 1849 Old Country Rd., Riverhead 22 67%
Joseph A Hren Montauk Highway, East Hampton 22 67%
Paul's Nursery 841 Pulaski Rd., Greenlawn 22 67%
Agway Snake Hollow Rd., Bridgehampton 21 64%
Van Bourgondien 833 Deer Park Ave., Dix Hills 21 64%
Mohlenhoff's 33 West Rogues Path, Huntington 20 61%
Agway 1122 Osborne Ave., Riverhead 19 58%
Garden World 500 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square 19 58%
Di Stefano 1056 Northern Blvd., Roslyn 18 55%
Fort Pond Native Plants 26 South Embassy St., Montauk 18 55%
Franks 4067 Jericho Trnpk., East Northport 18 55%
Stables Garden Center 1141 Deer Park Ave., Kings Park 18 55%
Aspatuck 303 Montauk Highway, West Hampton 16 48%
Branching Out 175 Montauk Highway, Remsenberg 16 48%
Broadway Gardens 611 Broadway, Massapequa 16 48%
Cipriano's Nurs & Gardn 1660 Front, East Meadow 16 48%



Soil Enhancers

  • Organic Compost - Adds organic matter and beneficial micro-organisms to the soil, feeding plants and restoring a healthy soil environment. Compost is absolutely critical to establishing an organic program.
  • Compost tea / liquid compost - Has many of the benefits of compost and the convenience that it can be sprayed.
  • Organic fertilizer - Feed lawns slowly and enrich the soil. Synthetic fertilizers decrease biological activity in soil.
  • Gypsum - Improves calcium deficient lawns and may fight grubs.
  • Rock dust minerals - Provide important mineral micro-nutrients to turf grass and other plants.
  • Organica lawn products [Lawn Booster, Kelp Booster, Dethatcher, Soil Conditioner] - Organica packages lawn care products in an easy-to-use 4 step system.
  • Physical / Mechanical Controls

  • Copper slug barriers - Flexible copper strips, which slugs will not cross, that can be placed around plant beds.
  • Coconut oil slug barrier [such as Concern Slug Barrier] - Applied around gardens or potted plants to protect plants.
  • Netting - Keeps bird pests off plants.
  • Sticky barriers - Applied around tree trunks to prevent gypsy moth caterpillars and other crawling pests.
  • Gypsy moth traps
  • Japanese beetle traps
  • Hornet & Wasp traps - A multitude of pests can be lured and trapped. Traps are used to monitor and in some cases limit pest populations.
  • Biological Controls

  • Beneficial nematodes - Microscopic unsegmented worms, that are harmless to plants but prey on pest insects.
  • Bt for caterpillars
  • Bt for mosquitoes [such as Mosquito Dunks] - Bacteria that attack the digestive systems of certain types of pest insects, but are harmless to mammals and beneficial insects.
  • Earth worms - Called the gardener's best ally and "nature's plow," earthworms aerate and soften soil. They help to break down thatch. Their waste, or castings provide nutrients that would be otherwise unavailable to plants.
  • Milky spore - A bacteria which is virulent to Japanese beetle grubs and and several other grubs, but is harmless to other organisms. It may take a season or two before you see a noticeable impact.
  • Ladybugs
  • Praying mantises
  • Lacewings - These "beneficial insects" prey on pests such as aphids, scales, mealybugs, white flies, & mites.
  • Alternative Pest Control Treatments

  • Citrus insect killer (Limonene) - An extract of citrus peels which is effective against a number of insect pests, with very low toxicity to mammals.
  • Corn gluten - A corn protein applied to lawns in early spring to inhibit weed germination. It also provides nitrogen.
  • Diatomaceous earth - Microscopic fossilized shells of algae with sharp edges that pierce the insect bodies causing them to dehydrate. Apply to lawns; paths used by pets; dog runs to control fleas and ticks; and used around flower beds to discourage slugs and snails.
  • Dried blood - Provides nitrogen for plants and also repels deer.
  • Garlic oil insect repellent [such as Garlic Barrier] - Repels a wide variety of pests from your lawn and garden, including mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. (Approved by the EPA in 1999)
  • Herbicidal soaps (potassium salts) - Kills weeds and fungus by dehydration.
  • Hot pepper repellent - Repels insects from vegetables, shrubs and flowers.
  • Insecticidal soap (potassium salts) - Solutions of fatty acids and potassium salts that disrupt cell membranes of sucking insects and soft bodied mites.
  • Lemon & vinegar herbicide [such as Nature's Glory] - An effective weed killer using lemon and vinegar as the active ingredients is now on the market.
  • Neem oil - An extract of the tropical neem tree, which kills many pest insects, and has very low toxicity to mammals.
  • Predator urines - Repels deer, rabbits, and other mammal pests.
  • Sulfur fungicide - An elemental substance that disrupts the metabolic processes of fungi; sulfur can also control mites.
  • Vegetable-based horticultural oil/dormant oil [such as canola oil] - Suffocates pests instead of poisoning them.
  • Composting Aids / Activators

  • Microbial compost innoculant [compost activator] - microbes which break down organic matter and accelerate the process of making backyard compost.

  • The Pesticide Alternative Project is funded by a grant from the Long Island Community Foundationand is administered by the Neighborhood Network Research Center.

    For a copy of the full report, or for printed lists of recommended stores and products call the Long Island Neighborhood Network at 631-963-5454,
    or email:

Neighborhood Network
7180 Republic Airport, East Farmingdale, NY 11735 Tel: (631) 963-5454
Advocates for Long Island's Environment