2019 Curbside Weed Control

In the past, the city has hired vendors to spray herbicides along approximately 30 miles of curb lines of our downtown area streets, sidewalks and parking areas on or around the first week of June, July, August, and September.

Because a special “right of way” pesticide applicator license is needed for this job, we typically had few bids on this service. And despite the city making an effort to request organic and IPM options, the vendors made little attempt to submit appropriate bids for alternative methods.

But this year, things are different. No bid proposals were solicited at all. Why? Because Dover became the first city in the Northeast to purchase a steam weeding unit!

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 9.00.11 AM

No more glyphosate or diquat dibromide, no more gross dead brown weeds, no more runoff into our storm drains and watershed, and no need for special licenses because the only chemical being used is H2O, plain water.

The saturated steam from the machine essentially cooks the weed, speeding up the break down process meaning we won’t be looking at a mess like this for months after.


Another advantage of this new machine is that it can be used for more than just weed control. Cleaning gum, graffiti and sanitizing garbage and recycling bins are a couple of the extra features.

Who do we have to thank for this new purchase? Our Director of Community Services was the man who hosted a demo last fall, and his staff came up with and built an innovative mobile unit to use the machine on busy roads and protect the operator. We are grateful to them for this!

We are so excited to see the new machine out in use starting next month, be sure to keep an eye out and thank our Community Services staff for their forward thinking – Dover is leading the way on the Seacoast with sustainable weed control – this is something all of us can be proud of.

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3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Lawn Company

Finding a good organic lawn care company can be tough. Many companies offer organic programs – or even have the word organic in their name – but when you investigate further, you find they are anything but! What should we be looking for so we don’t get bamboozled by greenwashing?

Here are some basic questions to ask so you can make a good choice when looking for a lawn care company.

Do they use a soil based approach, or a product swap approach? A true organic program is a soil based approach that begins with a soil test, and then the program is built around cultural practices, fertilizer and amendments to improve its health. Sometimes organic compatible products to manage grubs or weeds are used if indicated, but this should not be the central framework of an organic lawn care program. A “product swap” approach is a program that has scheduled applications of organic weed and grub control products. These programs are typically more expensive and ineffective. When you hear people say, “organic is expensive and doesn’t work,” this is what they are referencing – not a true organic soil based approach.

Are the products and materials being used really organic? Organic land care standards have preferred, allowed, and prohibited substances. These standards are available online at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) website. One easy way to know if a product is organic is to look for Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certification. Some companies will use organic fertilizer and synthetic toxic pesticides while calling the program “organic.” Others will use fertilizer that’s prohibited by organic standards, like “biosolids” which is municipal sewage sludge. If a company is not up front about exactly the products and ingredients they will be using, and does not share this information with people inquiring about their services, this should be a red flag.

Are they accredited in organic land care? There are currently only two certifications for organic lawn care companies. AOLCP and OLCAP. These accreditations can be searched online on the NOFA organic land care website and Organic Landscape Association (OLA) website. This is how you know the person you are hiring has had proper training in organic practices.

See our Lawns page for info on DIY lawn care and more.

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Dover Continues With Toxic Turf Program

Just when things were looking so good.

There were two bid proposals* submitted for Organic Turf Services this season, with one exceedingly high at $232,629.56 and the other coming in at $99,305. 2019 B19043 Results 

The first bid was from the current turf vendor, and the second from an organic company. The second being the most realistic of the two, it should be noted that this is an initial price, and will continue to come down over time as the plan changes and the soil improves therefore needing less and less inputs.

The city has been used to paying unrealistically low prices for their conventional turf care over the years, so their sticker shock is perfectly understandable. But this is why the city has a consultant – so that we can adjust the program to fit the city’s budget. Unfortunately, rather than work on the program and stay true to our organic resolution, the city staff recommended to continue the toxic program outlined in last season’s proposal.


An application made in June 2018 of 2,4-D, dicamba, dithiopyr, MCPA, chlorantraniliprole, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizer etc. at Henry Law Park.

What a monumental disappointment.

Did the city council stop to consider that perhaps the increased price of the program that was put together based on our soil tests is due to the fact that we need to repair the damage done by the last 15 plus years of toxic treatments?

Did the city council read the bid submission where the organic contractor offered alternate products to lower the price, presenting different options for that?

Why didn’t city staff work with them and with our consultant to adjust the program?

Why would the city vote unanimously for an organic policy just to violate it every year?

Are you sick of having our children and pets exposed to toxic chemicals in our parks and athletic fields?

Nearly 23 acres of toxic treatments will continue this season:

☠️ City Hall – 288 Central Avenue
☠️ Public Library – 73 Locust Street
☠️ Upper Henry Law Park – corner of Washington Street and Henry Law Avenue
☠️ Lower Henry Law Park – Pool Parking Lot to River St
☠️ Upper Square – (3) islands on Central Avenue between 2 and 3 Streets
☠️ Shaw’s Lane Athletic Fields – intersection of Back River Road / Garrison Road and off Shaw’s Lane
a. 2 softball fields
b. 3 full size soccer fields
c. 1 practice soccer / multi-purpose field
🌱 Woodman Park baseball field*
☠️ McConnell Center, 61 Locust St
☠️ Maglaras Park 2 ball field on Henry Law
a – Guppy Park ball field Portland Ave
b – Point Place, Applevale Ball Park
☠️ Sullivan Dr Ball Field
☠️ Longhill Multi Purpose field
☠️ Garrison park ball field
☠️ North End Fire Station 262 Sixth St

*ONLY WPS baseball field will be a true organic program.




*Referenced documents:

PJC Organic Proposal 2019 Bid

Green Grass Proposal 2019 Bid

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Dover’s School Athletic Fields: Triple the Price, Still Not Organic!

We received word from the school district’s Facilities Director recently that the subcontractor will be proceeding with their turf management program as illustrated in the document below.

It’s mostly organic this year, but mostly organic still isn’t organic! This isn’t a test site, this isn’t a pilot program, it is time to do this for real. We have had a policy in place since last year specifying organic land management practices.

2019 School Turf Program

Using a conventional grub control as a blanket preventative treatment is not only unnecessary and costs us more, but it also violates our city policy. In the past acelepryn was the designated product named by the city bid (meaning all vendors were required to use it as part of their contract) and told to the district to be used – but those days are over and we have an organic land management policy and plan now.

The school district has been given the exact same opportunity to work with the organic expert the city is, and to receive a free plan to follow, but they are eschewing this unlimited free technical assistance that we have as part of the Stonyfield #playfree initiative at Woodman Park School.

Being that it was violated on both city and school property last season, residents are within reason to expect adherence to the resolution this year, with no more excuses. The city has stepped up and turned things around with their purchase of steam weeding unit for curbside weed control (no more Roundup and Reward) and their new bid specifying a true organic program. They have demonstrated a real effort thus far this season.

Despite this, once again, as seen from the program outlined above, the school district’s management company and subcontractor intend to foist their own pretend version of “organic” upon us at three times the price.

Oh yes, you read that right, TRIPLE the price! Last season, the city put out a bid for the school sites and received two proposals from accredited organic vendors. Both of those bids were around $12,000. Last season’s invoices added up to $24,152 for the school district’s 6 athletic fields. This year we still have 6 fields, and the price has jumped up another $11,148.


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Totals from invoices obtained by 91-A request. In 2016 two fields were lost due to construction.


True organic programs are shown to come down in price over time, not increase. Since we are being given no choice but to pay such an exorbitant price, shouldn’t we at least expect that it not violate our city policy and actually be 100% organic as promised?

Share your thoughts with the Dover school board by clicking here.

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Rodent Family Planning

It’s spring and residents are seeing rats out and about in some Dover neighborhoods again. This is indicative of a large population, and clearly multiple measures will be needed to control the problem.


First and foremost, removing sources of food, water and shelter are imperative. More detail on those steps can be found in a prior blog post, Rodent Problems Must Be Managed Responsibly.

An innovative tool to reduce rat populations is now available – rat birth control!

baby rats

Senestech makes a product called ContraPest that comes in the form of a bait station. It inhibits breeding, thereby reducing the rat population long term. It will not poison the rat, or any animal who may catch and consume the rat. The active ingredient is a low dose suitable for a rat, and will not accumulate in the bodies of predators. It has a short half life and should not be able to affect the fertility of any animal who catches and consumes the rat.

This product has just become registered for general use in the state of New Hampshire, which means that it is legal for people to use according to label directions on their private property. The product may be ordered through distributors, or direct from the company.

Other safer rodent control products include:

A24 Automatic Rat and Mouse Trap

Terad3 AG Blox is the only rodenticide registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production. There is no danger of secondary wildlife poisoning. These should be used in tamper-resistant bait stations.

In combination with exclusion, sanitation and trapping, these products give us safer tools to help get the rat population in check for the long term without harming wild predators or domestic animals.

Learn more about safe rodent control strategies from Safe Rodent Control Resource Center.

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Dover School District Disappoints Us Once Again

The city of Dover is doing an amazing job getting everything in place to implement our organic policy this year.  They are working with Chip Osborne and the non profit group Beyond Pesticides who are helping them with a free multi year plan for all turf sites, they are putting out a new bid to hire a company to follow that plan, Woodman Park School ball field was chosen as part of a Stonyfield program to convert athletic fields to organic, and they even just purchased a brand new steam weeding unit to use for curbside weed control. This is incredible progress by the city and we could not be prouder of these accomplishments. On the city side of things, it couldn’t look any better.

But what about the school district?

Sadly, as we have documented here before, the Dover school district is ignoring opportunities to not only protect children’s health and comply with city policy,  but to save money on their athletic field management as well.


We recently learned that the school district did have a meeting scheduled with Mr. Osborne several months ago, but that meeting was canceled at the last minute and has yet to be rescheduled. All inquiries by residents to date have gone unanswered. Spring is rapidly approaching, and time is running out for the district to get their act together.

What reason could they possibly have to outright ignore city policy, and eschew free help from one of the top organic turf experts in the country? The school district’s own policy states that,

“Decisions about which products to use for turf management, and pest control, and weed control will be made with the best interest of the student’s health and well-being, and keeping the health of our environment in mind. The City and Schools will regularly review pest management techniques in keeping with best practices in the turf management industry. In fulfilling their obligation to ensure safe and useable public green spaces around the city and schools, the City and School Department will continue to seek the safest and most cost-effective means for turf treatments…”

How is it that the district is fulfilling this obligation when they turn their noses up at the free resources and help being offered to them, and ignore the bids that the city solicits?

Please contact the school board and let them know that it’s time to reschedule the meeting with Chip Osborne, stop ignoring city policy, save money and protect our kids!


Post Script:

While going through our records we just noticed that the invoices for athletic field maintenance from the Dover school district contractor added up to $24,152 for last season.

Boston Co. Invoices 2018

The bids submitted by the vendor last spring were for $16,662 for “standard” and $23,982 for “organic”. (The program implemented was not an organic soil based approach despite claiming to be.)


The total on the two organic accredited vendor’s bids were $13,284 and $11,952.

By not using the bid the city solicited, the Dover NH School District/SAU 11 missed an opportunity to save a lot more than what was estimated by us before. Instead of about $5k it was $12,200.

That’s a significant amount of money. Especially when you multiply it by 3 years for a grand total of $36,600. That’s over 2x the amount we had initially assumed.

In May of last year, we were told that “The school district did not enter into an agreement from the bid that the City solicited. The school district will continue its services with Boston Company with plans to go to 100% organic in the 2019 season. Boston Company is the vendor that has been taking care of the schools since 2008…”

Will the school district ignore the new bid the city is putting out this spring? So far, it sure looks like they intend to. We sincerely hope that changes soon.


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Portsmouth Synthetic Turf Field Safety Testing Methods In Question

In response to the city of Dover considering a synthetic turf field at Dover high school, our founder placed an information request to learn about a nearby field. Portsmouth has a synthetic turf football field at their high school. This seemed like a close enough comparison to get an idea of some of the maintenance and other details involved with a synthetic field.

Tom Daubney field at Portsmouth high school had synthetic turf with crumb rubber infill installed approximately 9-10 years ago. Documents received from the city of Portsmouth indicate that this was a Duraspine field by Field Turf. If this particular brand name sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same that is being litigated for fraud across the country.

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Most alarming however, were the results of the last three years of hardness testing on the PHS field. A letter was sent to Portsmouth city officials on Monday, February 4th, 2019 regarding this serious situation that all parents, coaches and players need to pay close attention to.

Taken at face value, the documents received from the city of Portsmouth show that the synthetic turf field at PHS has failed hardness safety testing for the last three seasons.

Documents indicate that he school district contractor and subcontractor have been wrongly using one scale to measure field hardness, and another higher scale as a standard to assess safety once per year. What this means is that while the numbers make the field appear to be within the safe impact range, in reality the field would have been well in excess of the highest cut off point for Gmax for at least three years, probably more.

This would mean that anyone playing on this field has been put at risk of severe or even life-threatening head injury from impact with the field surface.

As soon as it was understood what was happening, and a request for more testing background info yielded no responsive documents so we had verified that all testing results available were accounted for, we alerted city officials. We now await their response to this serious situation.



According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission a value greater than 200 risks life threatening head injuries. The Synthetic Turf Council recommends a more protective limit of below 165 Gmax using the F355 scale. The NFL uses a different testing tool (Clegg) with a lower scale and sets their limit at about 100 Gmax and test prior to each game. 135 Clegg = 200 F355.

Natural grass fields typically measure 42 Clegg or 85 F355 units.

For full details read the letter sent to Portsmouth officials PHS Football Field Letter

View the hardness testing documents

Portsmouth High Clegg Test 2016

Portsmouth High Clegg Test 2017

Portsmouth High Clegg Test 2018


Update 2/11/19

We were advised by email that the School Department followed up with the contractor responsible for field maintenance, who in turn followed up with its subcontractor responsible for the testing to investigate.

They state that “the testing results that were shared with School Department and later produced as public records inaccurately identified the measure, “Clegg” versus “F355″ format.  …  The School Department has arranged to have an independent third party test the field to be able to provide full assurances of field safety, but initial investigation suggests that this was a reporting error.”

A request has been made for the Clegg measurements taken, and the date of the independent testing, and who will be conducting it.

Without the original Clegg measurements, it is impossible to know whether the conversions were correct, and if the field is indeed in compliance with even the lenient hardness standards of 200/135. The lack of proper record keeping and oversight in this situation is astoundingly poor. 

How are we to trust the shoddy record keeping from a subcontractor who has been fined in the past by the state of Maine for dishonest business practices?

“The state Board of Pesticides Control says Purely Organic Lawncare (now called Organic First) of York Harbor violated pesticides laws and regulations by applying chemical pesticides at Colby College in Waterville and the Wainwright Recreation Complex in South Portland.”

“Based on the above evidence,” the proposed agreement says, “it was determined that Purely Organic engaged in fraudulent business practices in the application of pesticides at the South Portland Wainwright Recreation Complex.”

In addition to this violation, the company was fined for a multitude of others, including a “Failure to maintain complete and up to date commercial pesticide application records/Submitting false and fraudulent Commercial Applicator Annual Summary Reports.”

View subcontractor letter here: Clegg Letter to Pioneer

We await the results of the independent testing to put this unnecessary issue to rest.

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