Program Course Descriptions 


Course Title: Organic Landscaping

‘How to Run an Organic Landscape / Lawn Service Business’ 

Day 1 

The first day of classes at The NTI Organic Lawn Care Institute revolve around the turf grass industry and the study of turf grass systems from an organic perspective.  In order to for the student to  be able to speak and act confidently regarding the care of turf organically he/she must understand not only the basics in turf and turf related issues but he/she must be able to speak fluently in strategies that have not generally been accepted up until very recently. With increasing legislation and demand for the reduction of pesticides and chemical fertilizers the majority of turf managers are unable to translate alternative strategies into visible results.

Introduction to the Turf Care Industry

Course Section Length – 2 hours

When we discuss how to implement an organic or alternative turf management strategy it is important to have a firm understanding of exactly what it is we are attempting to accomplish.  In the Introduction to the Turf Care Industry we will discuss the history of lawn care and why there is a need for modern turf managers to explore alternative strategies to ensure that we  are constantly keeping our health and the environment in mind.

Students will explore the various professions in the turf industry such as the lawn service industry, sports turf management, golf course superintendent, commercial grounds maintenance and sod farming.

Turf Care Basics

Course Section Length – 4 hours

In order to understand how to reduce and eliminate chemical inputs it becomes absolutely imperative that the turf manager understand with expertise turf types, weeds, insects, disease, cultural practices and the identification and management of all aspects of the turf system. This course will be broken up into five specific sections:

  1. Turf types
    • Identification of the most popular species of turf
    • What growth characteristics and maintenance characteristics define cool season, transition and warm season turf types?
  • The importance of turf grass blends and
  • Establishment of new turf
  • Renovation of existing turf systems 
  1. Weed Identification and Management
    • The definition of what constitutes a
    • Difference between annual and perennial weeds
    • How does climate, soil and cultural practices influence weed
    • Types of weeds
    • Control of weeds 
  • Insect Identification and Management
    • How do insects damage turf
    • General tools to manage insects
    • Characteristics and life cycles of insects
    • Insect identification 
  1. Disease Identification and Management
    • The disease triangle
    • Conditions and critical factors that favor turf disease
    • Cultural practices to reduce disease activity
    • Disease identification
    • Biological components to reduce disease activity
    • The danger of fungicides
  1. Cultural Practices
    • Mowing
    • Irrigating
    • Dethatching
    • Aeration
    • Over seeding
    • Seed selection 

Before moving onto the specifics of what goes into the implementation of an organic turf grass program it is important to understand why there is a need to do so in the first place. By  studying the toxic nature of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other chemicals that we find in our lives, we can more readily embrace the drive to replace them with more acceptable solutions. Since organic turf care is a very complicated undertaking, it is also important to review what has not been successful to date and why many turf managers are reluctant to

make the move. The goal is to have students become versed in a very cutting edge science that revolves around the soil food web.


History and Science of Lawn Care

Course Section Length – 2 hours 

Part I: This course covers the history of lawn care starting with the period before World War 11 and before the arrival of synthetic chemicals and pesticides. It discusses the various problem chemicals that were used over the past 60 years and subsequently banned. The course also outlines the continued overuse of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides today and the hazards to the environment and human health that they cause. Specific scientific journal studies on health hazards are reviewed.

Part II: Covers why the first generation of Organic products didn’t work well, or were too expensive, or not practical to scale up. It then discusses the new Organic product technologies available today that solves those issues. Specific detail is given to a novel six step Organic systems approach to lawn care.

Day 2 

During Day Two students focus on the importance of Soil and Tree Biology as well as the importance of organic Tree and Shrub programs.

The Soil Food Web

Course Section Length – 4 hours 

Understanding soil biology and the way it pertains to the living component of soil, how it contributes to agricultural productivity, and air and water quality is the cornerstone of understanding organic lawn care. This class includes units describing the soil food web and its relationship to soil health and units about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms.

  • The Soil Food Web
  • Nutrient cycling, nutrient retention, water holding capacity, disease suppression
  • Soil Health
  • Bacteria
  • Soil Fungi
  • Soil Protozoa
  • Nematodes
  • Arthropods
  • Earthworms

At the conclusion of this class all students will be significantly advanced in understanding the theory behind organic horticulture.


Organic Tree & Shrub Program

Course Section Length – 4 hours

This course teaches how to make servicing trees and shrubs an important part of your business. It includes, tree biology, plant installation tips, pricing guidelines, and trouble-shooting tips. In addition the course outlines a six step, organic maintenance program for plants and shrubs, without the need for synthetic chemicals.

The course discusses tree anatomy, tree morphology and tree physiology. The student will gain an understanding of photosynthesis and the role of enzymes, sugars and starch. Also covered are leaf structures, root systems and fertilization.


Day 3

In this next session of The NTI Organic Lawn Care Institute we move from theory to practice. Students will learn in detail the actual systems, processes and products that go into creating healthy landscapes without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.


The Organic Lawn Care Five Principled Approach

Course Section Length – 2 hours

This comprehensive course delves into the science of lawn care, starting with soil biology and the basics of turf grass nutrition. The course also highlights best horticultural practices that help to achieve a successful organic program. Included are details on how to control insects, weeds and fungal diseases with natural products and methods. The basis of this course is how to transition a lawn from synthetic to organic care seamlessly.

  • Bio-Nutrition
  • Natural Sources Of Macro And Micro Nutrients
  • Use Of Bio-Stimulants
  • Chemical Free Pest Management
  • Information And Education

Implementing a Standard Six Step Organic Lawn Care Program

Course Section Length – 2 hours

Over the years organic and natural horticultural products have received a bad rap. Critics have cited limited effectiveness as the primary impediment to mainstream acceptance. By and large the problem with organic and natural programs to date has been they did not address soil biology. Ever since “Organic” became fashionable in the lawn care industry many companies have attempted and failed to implement a legitimate organic lawn care program. This was mainly because of the belief that one could simply substitute natural fertilizers for synthetic fertilizers and stop spraying weeds and treating for insects. The transition to a truly chemical free approach is far more than just a product substitution and this course will demonstrate the particulars from the first treatment in spring to a winterizing treatment in late.

Marketing Strategy

Course Section Length – 2 hours

This course studies marketing strategy, including the importance of differentiation and changing the rules of the game of how you compete. The course also talks about the benefits and power of branding. The focus of the course is to teach how being different and employing aggressive marketing techniques can help you rapidly grow your business.

  • Differentiation, changing the rules of the game
  • Benefits of branding: e.g. BeeSafe®
  • How to rapidly grow a business
  • Build a business that sells lawn services vs. just providing them
  • Setting up systems and procedures
  • Progressive vs. passive marketing
  • Event marketing and community sponsorship


Sales and Marketing

Course Section Length – 2 hours

This course teaches students the power and techniques of leveraging media and the use of marketing tools, such as websites, brochures, press releases, social media, etc. The course also describes details on how to create and manage sales leads and how to get old customers back and keep existing ones. Students will also receive specific instructions on prospecting methods and techniques, including door to door canvasing and how to get commercial business.

  • Leveraging the media
  • Website, Social Media
  • Marketing materials
  • Creating and managing leads
  • Prospecting techniques and tips
  • Phone contact with old and current customers
  • Door to door canvasing
  • Getting commercial business

Day 4

From theory to practice to actual hands on experience, Day 4 teaches the student what it is like to actually operate within the confines of an organic lawn care business. We will explore the actual “day in the life” scenario by introducing the student to the operational flow of an organic lawn care business and how to calibrate equipment and mix organic lawn care products. We  will finish the day working on actual organic lawn care accounts.


Lawn Care Operations

Course Section Length – 2 hours

Students will learn the details of how to run the day to day operations of a lawn service business. In order to be successful in the service industry, no matter what aspect of turf care the student will become involved in it is incredibly important to have a firm understanding of the language that used on a daily operational basis. Topics covered will include planning, budgeting, tracking in addition to sales, production and cash flow strategies.


Calibrating Organic Lawn Care Equipment, Mixing Organic Lawn Care Compounds

Course Section Length – 2 hours

The application of biologically active liquid products and granular organic fertilizers is at the core of any alternative and organic turf care program. Determining appropriate rates of inoculants, determining appropriate concentrations of bio-stimulants and determining appropriate pounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium per 1,000 square feet absolutely MUST be perfected prior to embarking upon any new organic project. Students will have the opportunity to gain hands on experience with actual organic lawn care equipment.

  • Mixing product in liquid application
  • Using math to determine appropriate rates and
  • How to spray turf with liquid application equipment
  • Calibrating granular spreader equipment
  • Determining granular spread rate
  • Operating granular spreader equipment


At the conclusion of this course all students should be completely prepared to mix and operate all organic lawn care application equipment.


Hands on Field Training

Course Section Length – 4 hours

Students will visit several “live” sites where they will learn how to operate organic lawn care application equipment including skid sprayer, spreaders, back pack sprayers and hand cans.

Students will also have the opportunity to identify and treat first hand all aspects of course up to this point. From weed and turf type identification to problem solving and upsell opportunities the student will gain real world experience under real life circumstances.

Sites to be visited, inspected and treated include residential home lawns, athletic fields, municipal turf sites and commercial turf areas. At the conclusion of the field training day all students should be prepared to operate all equipment independently and without supervision.


Day 5

During the final day of classes, students learn critical information on the day-to-day operations of a business in the Organic Lawn Care industry.


Starting a Landscape / Lawn Care

Course Section Length – 3 hours

This course teaches the basics of how to launch a new business; including a step by step guideline of how to set up a legal business entity and how to develop and write a business plan. Details of labor, materials and equipment needs are discussed. The course also covers creating basic financial projections and exploring financing options, as well as tips for getting started with customers.

  • Pros & Cons of owning a business
  • Consider specializing in Organic Lawn Care
  • Why Organics are good for the environment, people’s health and business
  • Choosing a name and location
  • How to develop a business plan and set up a business entity
  • Labor, materials and equipment
  • Financing Options
  • Getting started with first customers


Day to Day Lawn Service Business Operations

Course Section Length – 3 hours

This course covers the detail of how to run the day to day operations of a lawn service business. It includes information on hiring, training, scheduling and supervising staff. It also reviews how to project revenues, manage sales leads, lead sources and lead flow. Product services, pricing and up-sell strategies are discussed. The course also explores a customer management system and methods for handling cancels and customer complaints.

  • Hiring, training, scheduling and supervising staff
  • Managing sales leads, lead sources and lead flow
  • Services offered, Pricing
  • Up-Sell strategies
  • Projections, revenue per customer
  • Handling cancels, customer complaints
  • Customer Management System


Strategic Planning

Course Section Length – 2 hours

This course instructs students on the basics of small business accounting. It guides students through the process of making sales and expense projections and shows how to analyze cash flow requirements. The course also outlines a landscaping/lawn care business operational plan and demonstrates the importance of and how to conduct strategic planning for your business.

  • Small business accounting
  • Projections
  • Cash Flow Analysis
  • Landscaping/lawn care business operational plan
  • Strategic planning