Giving back to the community is as fundamental to Peter Sacchitelli as his green thumb.
It started in 2004, when his young son, Anthony, who suffered from a respiratory condition, had to be taken to the hospital on several occasions by the Green Knoll Rescue Squad. “I was impressed by their response time and professionalism. I wanted to do something to give back to them, but as a new small business owner, I didn’t have the time to volunteer on the squad,” says Sacchitelli, owner of Sacchitelli Landscape Concepts.
So, he decided to give as best he knew how: Offering to maintain the rescue squad’s lawn each week and provide spring and fall clean up for free. “This would allow them to use the money they might have spent on lawn care on life-saving equipment and other needs instead,” he explains. “These men and women are some of the most unselfish people you will ever meet and they deserve to be recognized for their amazing efforts. If others in the community have the means to help them in any way — no matter how small — they should.”
“Often the service the Green Knoll Rescue Squad provides goes unnoticed until its requested for someone in medical crisis,” says Mike Halperin, chief, Green Knoll Rescue Squad. “For 15 years, Peter has shown his appreciation of the service that we provide to residents by providing free lawn care to keep our grounds looking great.”
In the almost two decades since Sacchitelli started volunteering his services at the rescue squad, he has expanded his offer to provide free lawn care to the Green Knoll Fire Department since 2009, North Branch Fire Station since 2010, and to Vision and Pathways, an organization in Somerset County that helps abused, neglected and homeless youth.
“I learned about Vision and Pathways when I saw its booth at a county fair in 2005,” Sacchitelli says. “For a time, I lived in Arizona, where I volunteered at a crisis nursery that housed abandoned children. Since then, I’ve always wanted to help kids — and this is my way of doing that.”
Always a Green Thumb
Lawn care and taking care of neighbors has been in Sacchitelli’s blood since he was a child growing up in Tenafly. “I was the kid who would push my lawnmower up the street with a hand clipper and broom to cut the neighbors’ lawns,” he says. “As I got older, I pulled the mower behind my bike, and when I could drive I loaded it into the back of my father’s station wagon.” By the time he was in high school, he had 40 clients.
Even when Sacchitelli left to study architecture at college, lawn care filled his summers. The entrepreneur combined his business with those of two friends who also maintained lawns to serve more residents. “We used to joke with our clients how they had a burgeoning architect, oral surgeon and attorney cutting their lawns,” he says.
Although Sacchitelli earned a degree in architecture, he realized his love was in designing beautiful outdoor landscapes rather than buildings. Using his architectural education and artist’s eye, he launched Sacchitelli Landscape Concepts in 2001, which provides full-service landscape design and build projects for residential and commercial clients. To help clients visualize their outdoor living space, Sacchitelli creates a detailed, scaled landscape design and custom-made specification book with color photos and a complete descriptive proposal for every project.
And Anthony, now 17 years old, is an active part of the business, including maintaining the lawn of the rescue squad that saved his life.
Eco-Friendly Tips for a Healthy Lawn
In addition to volunteering in the community, Sacchitelli is a staunch believer in educating residents on how they can achieve beautiful lawns and be stewards of the environment.
He offers New Jersey residents the following advice for bringing lawns out of dormancy this spring and keeping them healthy year-round:
• Ditch the chemicals. “We try to educate people on how they can be better stewards of the earth and still have a lush, healthy lawn,” he says. “We favor organic products over chemicals because they have less of an impact on the earth. People want a beautiful-looking lawn with no weeds, but they don’t realize they can accomplish that without chemicals. The trick is to make your lawn healthy so that it crowds out the weeds. You’ll never completely get rid of the weeds, but when your lawn is healthy and thick, the weeds won’t be as obvious.”
• Focus on creating a thick lawn in April. “April is a great time to reseed your lawn because the temperatures are very accommodating for new seeds. There also is a lot of moisture in the air, which helps if you forget to water,” he says. “Consider that your lawn is composed of millions of blades of grass that start to die in the winter. The weeds take over in those spots. Replenishing seeds in the spring and in the fall with a good fertilizer and allowing it to grow with a sufficient amount of water will make the lawn thick and drown out the weeds. The type of seed you use depends on whether the grass will grow in shade or sun. We like to useHunterdon County seed mix, which has the different seeds of grass that are indigenous to this area.”
• Consider water as the magic seed-growing ingredient.“Most people seem to give up watering new seed after a few days. They are surprised when I tell them if they water seed every day for three weeks for five to 10 minutes in the morning and five to 10 minutes in the evening, they are guaranteed grass that will come in thick, full and beautiful,” he says. “Also, you don’t need to put down hay when you’re overseeing. If you continually water the lawn, the seed will work its way into the soil. It will not stay on top long enough for birds to get at it or for it to blow away.”
• Water new seed and established lawns correctly.“The biggest error homeowners make is under- or overwatering their lawns,” he says. “You should water a mature lawn for 30 minutes to one hour only once or twice a week if there is no rain. If you water briefly every other day, the roots of the grass will stay close to the surface and never dig down deep into the soil to find the water source. Then, the summer sun will beat onto the grass and burn it because the roots are too shallow. Monitor how much natural moisture your grass is getting from the rain and only water when needed.”