Thursday, October 14, 2021

The difference in a year

 As the 2021 lawn season comes to an end, I find myself reflecting not only on the season's completion but the 2020 year as well.

Although the two are strikingly different---2020 had record breaking heat and drought. 2021 had excessive rain and frequent fluctuations between cool and heat---the fact remains, the two years were not so far apart by the end.

Crabgrass and chinch bugs were right on schedule, and although the levels of infestation were less in '21, they remained problematic all the same. The new product, Bio Titan for chinch, had little to no effect as a pre or post-emergent, and crabgrass?...It's the same old song and dance with that weed in the post pesticide era---wait for the fall and this annual dies-off then reseed the affected area (rinse, repeat every year.)

2021 also saw an increase in turf disease, most notably rust, due to the flip-flop between cool and humid temperatures, and all the rain made controlling weeds more difficult. 

I can't remember a year where so much work had to be moved to another day due to rain or heat. But this is lawncare. It is a profession that must adapt to the changing climate as much as the degree of difficulty in issues and the seemingly less effective products to address both.

The law of diminishing returns indeed!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The party's over

 


Actually, the party was over a year ago, but with COVID, it came and went without much fanfare. As we approach the 1st anniversary of the date, I would like to clue in those who don't know, to exactly what I'm talking about.

Up until the middle of last July, home owners who wanted Killex could order it online from Western Canada, and a nice, neat package would arrive at their door via Crown Corporation, Canada Post, no questions asked.

If you ever wondered how your neighbour kept their lawn weed-free, chances are he or she has a bottle or two of the concentrate stashed in the garage.

Granted this method wasn't cheap, but a loophole in the Ontario Pesticide Bylaw existed that made this possible same as those who brought back illegals from the States. 

You see, since many of the bigger industries---golf, sod, farming, government owned property, forestry and now cemeteries---were exempt under the bylaw, provisions had to be written into the act, were it wasn't illegal to have a product like Killex of Par III in your possession. You just couldn't use it or sell it without risking penalty unless you were exempt.

So when it became clear that the Ministry of the Environment couldn't police everyone, relying on whistle-blowers and public complaints, the abuse began, and over time increased until the Ontario Government finally went to the source and said "no more."

E-mails were sent to customers informing them, "As of July 2020, Killex was no longer available to customers in Ontario."

Problem solved, right?

Sure, until the Federal Border opens again, and 2 4 D flows across the 49th parallel like Duty Free booze and cigarettes. After all, the Feds don't care about Provincial Band-Aids, they're after bigger fish.

As for the mail-order route, I suppose if you have a friend or family member living out west, they could send it to you? And I'll bet money, Canada Post won't turn away the business.

* insert slow clap*

Well done Ministry . . . well done.

 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

To pee or not to pee?

 

I don't believe I'm actually doing a post about this subject, except I am.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it is increasingly hard to find a restroom when nature calls. Most places have strict toilet policies now, that is, if you are allowed to use them at all. And it has become increasingly difficult to relieve ones self in the midst of an eight-hour route.

So it comes as no surprise when the reason a customer cancels a lawn care company hinges more and more on hygienic practices than service.

Frequently, I hear from new customers, the reason they quit their previous provider was from finding a technician using the home owner's property as their own private urinal.

Sure, this is nothing new, and in my twenty years in this business, it is not the first time I've heard stories such as these.

However, the frequency has alarmingly increased. It also makes me question the intelligence of a worker who decides in this era of  ubiquitous visual home security, at a time when most people are home in lockdown, to empty a bladder next to a backyard bush.

Rest assured, that when I tell you your lawn needs a good deep watering once a week, it won't involve me urinating on it.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

2020: It's the gift that keeps on giving

 

It is not surprising, with the swarms of Japanese Beetle we saw last summer that we'd see an increase of grub activity in the fall, and now into the spring of 2021.

Normally, our spring aeration schedule is minimal as we have moved most to the fall for the betterment of the lawn. But not this year.

This year I'm seeing more devastation in need of recovery with aeration and seed. I'm seeing more raccoons and skunks digging. I'm seeing lawns in serious need of reclamation.

So, what to do about these turf-wreckers?

One way to deter further damage is to purchase Coyote Urine Pellets (raccoons) or Fox Urine Pellets (skunks) and trick your unwanted vermin into believing  a larger predator is near. Follow the label of the product for best results.

Once digging has ceased and reparation is underway, you might need to consider a grub application. There are two methods currently available: nematodes---best applied as a liquid application from mid August to mid October---or Grub Gone---applied as a granular end of May through July.

Which ever method you choose, be sure to consult the label before applying the product to your lawn.

With Japanese Beetle, you can make nicotine tea by crumpling a pack of cigarettes into a pail of water to steep for a couple of hours. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply to all plants affected by Japanese Beetle, late June through July, or when the insect is active. The nicotine is a natural insect repellent.

Pheromone Traps  also work well to help cull the population of the destructive insect.

With everything these critters and insects have given you, isn't it time you gave some back?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Welcome to the annual egg hunt

 

I have always believed there are enough lawns out there for everyone, but that was before Covid and the hottest/driest summer in 70 years.

Now, it seems all companies are scrambling for the almighty dollar to feed their bottom lines, and willing to get down and dirty to make it happen.

Sure, we've lost our fair-share of customers (mostly new from 2020) who decided it was our fault for the weather, and what it did to the lawns last year. Yet, we've also gained a shit-ton as homeowners play Swing-your-partner in hope of a better alternative.

Still, the dark and devious behavior of some of our competitors has been  just short of abhorrent. 

We've had our service calls removed from a potential customer's mailbox and replaced by one from the offending company. We've had companies cold-call our customers pretending to be us and getting them to sign up for service with their lawn care instead. And we've had lawns poached by cancelled companies who went ahead and did the spring fertilizer on the property anyway.

This last trick has been going on for years, and you should be made aware of it. It is called negative billing.

In fine print on the invoice, the bigger lawn care providers have a statement declaring,  in one form or another "This is a continuous service." Unless you cancel by a designated date---usually sometime in October---you are automatically renewed for another season.

Sometimes they will show and do an application even when you have cancelled. This taking the money of the street is very effective as they know most people would rather pay the invoice instead of being threatened with legal action.

This is also something we have to be keenly aware of when we arrive at a new property in case it has already been fertilized.

I don't need to call these companies out by name for the way they conduct business because I suspect you are smart enough to figure out who they are.

I realize, as a business owner, you need to make money in order to keep your company afloat, but you also need to maintain a reasonable level of integrity---a lesson sadly lost on some of the big guys in the industry.

In my opinion it is the only way you are going to keep finding enough eggs and the chocolate within.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Smelling "the new."

 Spring, a time of new growth, of possibilities and a chance to begin again. It came on Saturday without bells and whistles. It arrived without much fanfare, or coverage other than a passing blurb "Spring is now here."

One year later after all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding Covid, we have a chance to set things right once again. We have the opportunity to pursue some normalcy and reclaim routine in Lawn Care.

Yet, there are the ugly whispers of 2020 that linger like a fart in the elevator, and brought us the perfect storm of a pandemic surrounded by the hottest and driest summer in seventy years. And with it infestations of chinch bugs, crabgrass and Japanese beetle we haven't seen in some time.

There are scars of it everywhere from large swaths of bare soil to acres of newly-sodded lawns seemingly ubiquitous.

The good news is, The Farmer's Almanac is calling for a more tame Mother Nature in the 2021 season. Combine that with proper mowing, watering and maintenance, and your grass should be much healthier and happier this year.

The one wild card in the deck, however, is the grub population. With the extent of the Japanese beetle reported over last summer, grubs could be problematic moving forward.

Watching for heavy digging activity from skunks and raccoons is key to early detection, and timely treatment before root systems are affected and Sod Growers have another banner year.

But for now, let's just embrace the feeling spring brings us and hope for the best.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hindsight is 20/20

 Forget Covid, forget the shutdowns and the physical distancing---yes, we all had to deal, and we still are dealing with it---but the true enemy this year for the Lawn Care Industry was the grass killer known as the month of July.

July was the hottest, driest month in our lifetime and it took no prisoners when it came to your grass. Within a few days lawns began to suffer. 

By the time August was in sight, the grass was reduced to a dormant carpet of straw, littered with weeds and crabgrass, infested with chinch bugs and grub larvae---a perfect storm of chaos in a market with little or no answers to challenge the tsunami of scourges.

Yet, there were lawns escaping the onslaught. They were the ones with adequate shade who followed proper watering and cutting practices, and survived to live another day. 

These truths are what we repeat, to the point of nauseum, with all: Leave your lawn at 3 1/2 inches going into the summer months, and deeply water your lawn once or twice weekly to maintain a strong and healthy root system.

Yes---we will lose customers because of July, but we are already seeing an influx of homeowners leaving other companies and flocking to us in record numbers because of the same month.

The bottom line is, this is a partnership, a team game, and without this arrangement, it doesn't matter what a lawn care provider does to your lawn, it will suffer in the elements we experienced this past July. The recovery will take longer, and the road back to health will be long traveled.


With the homeowner by our side doing their part and timely applications on ours we can limit future damage and not have to rely on Mother Nature as the third leg of our stool. Because as we've too painfully seen, she has no empathy.