Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: That's a wrap

What a year it was...ouch!

Yet, here are some things, in retrospect, I found were pretty funny about the 2011 lawn care season.

Many people expressed out-right disgust at the way the Provincial Liberals dictated a pesticide ban yet they still got re-elected even if, in a small victory, his Minister of the Environment- John Wilkenson, didn'

I bought a brand spanking new spray tank for one of my trucks, yet I had not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 separate problems with it this year. Too bad Rittenhouse isn't in the political arena, with a track record like that they probably would have been re-elected too. Anyway, tanks for the

The PMRA took away an organic application from all lawn care companies, neem oil, a natural pesticide that people in India have used for years and even brush their teeth with it. This in a year where Chinch Bug ruined many a lawn...and why? Because it's not registered for use as an insecticide...lmfao

There are new products on the market to help combat the infestations we saw this year, yet like Fiesta, cost more and require higher rates of application than previous methods. Someone's making money, but it isn't the lawn care industry...rotfl

Every time I needed rain, even when it was forecast, I didn't get it.
Every time I needed dry weather, even when it was forecast, I didn't get it.
Good to know somethings never change when it comes to forecasting the weather...lmfao

OMG! Yet, with all this laughing, I still have to ask, why is it that I'm crying so much?

All the best in 2012...honestly, it couldn't be worse.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Now, here's a scary tale.

It's not even Halloween yet, but...

With a little over two months remaining in the calendar I've already posted more than any other year. I also realize much of what I posted has been of a negative nature...Sorry.

Really, I'm an easy going guy who tries to enjoy life, but if you're in the lawn care industry you must admit, this year, more than any other in recent memory has had its trials and tribulations.

The truth is, the products that were unceremoniously dumped to the curb back on Earth Day 2009 were all approved by Health Canada and the PMRA. Why you ask? Because those products went through rigorous testing and approval before being deemed safe for public use. That's why they were assigned PCP numbers in the first place.

So why the 180?

Really doesn't matter the horse is gone, you can close the barn doors if you want. It won't make a difference, especially with McGuinty tending the farm.

I, like you, was brainwashed into thinking this was all for the greater good until I learned it affected an industry responsible for approximately 4% of all pesticides used. That the golf courses and the food we eat were still susceptible to the old school treatments. Read some of my earlier posts and you'll see this to be true, but now...I'm just angry and burnt out.

This year we were really shown the results of not having the proper tools to deal with infestations. With very little left to fight Chinch Bug they thrived in the heat and destroyed many a lawn this summer...ask any company out there.

It seemed that alergies were much worse this year than they've ever been and if you could monitor it, you'd probably find more children are suffering the ill effects of playing on, playgrounds, parks and lawns that are bare,insect-infested, hard as concrete, or pollen farms over-run with thistles, burdock, and various broadleaf than prior to the bylaw when the surface was padded with green grass.

The natural predators like birds and bats were down which left raccoons and skunks digging the hell out of the turf for...insert your grub name here.

You can argue nematodes all you want as an effective control but the fact remains, there are a lot of variables involved in this application: Expiration date, must be kept refrigerated until use, 2 hours to use the concentrate once mixed, must be watered into the lawn for 3 days, must be applied in cloud, rain or late in the day. Plus Sod webworm, white grub and letherjackets all require a different strain of nematode for full effect.

I tell you, I feel more like a circus sideshow juggler than a lawn guy with the amount of multitasking and split decisions I have to make.

Now I'm hearing that the the Ministry of the Environment and the powers that be are starting to get tougher with the 250 golf courses in Ontario. Apparently they've been abusing their right to still use pesticides by applying more than is necessary. But golf is big money and for now, they just pay the fines and do what ever they please.

Perhaps the politicians and big business need to find their fairways infested with one problem, or another so they can rethink this whole issue?...then again no. It's hard for for elected officials to admit they made a mistake...gas-fired power plant in Mississauga anyone?

Yet one day, the golf industry might find itself in the same position many lawn care companies deal with daily- trying to hit the hole from a sand trap. Fore!

To all my golfing friends, if this happens: Say goodbye to absolutes and hello to what ifs and maybes because they're coming for you next buddy. Good luck. You're going to need it.

Hearing no, seeing no, speaking no evil still makes it evil none-the-less.

Monday, September 12, 2011

As the crane flies, or the chinch that stole business

As you can see I was a little torn between the best title to represent this year in lawn care, not just for me, but for everyone in the industry.

Surely the Apocalypse must be coming as we saw every infestation except locusts. With the drought in July how could we not?

I can't recall a year this bad for all manner of pests, Chinch Bug, Sod Webworm, Japanese Beetle, and now Crane Flies. You name it, I could point out damage somewhere. If you think,"well, it's just one of those years", think again especially next Spring when the Leatherjackets start feeding on your lawn courtesy of all the Crane Fly activity you are now seeing.

With few products available to treat this relentless attack, I'm finding more and more people I talk to, are bringing back a little something-something from state-side to try and save their property and maintain their curb appeal--- Carbaryl, 2-4-D, Mecaprop, Dicamba; garden centres south of the border must think they've died and gone to God's green acre.

Now, it's not that these people are criminal and thrive on administering forbidden chemical treatments to their turf--- quite the contrary. They are law-abiding citizens, who pay their taxes and are doing their best to get by. They are simply fed up with the decisions made for them by a chosen few to appease a chosen few and after all they are aware that it's not illegal to have the good stuff, just to use it.

Honestly, putting the products back in the hands of the professionals at least, to me, makes sense and those who choose to treat their lawns could do so properly without injury to turf, or environment. They could make sure the applicators are licenced and regulated, not some student who could give a rat's ass about what he's applying to your lawn. I think this is fair.

Hey, this is just my opinion. I will abide by whatever law is set down...I couldn't afford the fine anyway.

But I'm concerned with the underground applications which now seem rampant, eventually more harm than good might come from the pesticide prohibition. I mean there are some still applying left over Diazanon, a pesticide that affects the nervous system.

Do you really want your neighbour applying this product to their lawn because they can't buy a reasonable alternative?

Yet, there is a provincial election coming up in October, so take a good long look at your lawn, at your neighbours lawn, at the lawns in your community and remember when you fill out your ballot who put these wheels in motion in the first place.

Normally I'd say this is none of my business, but it is my business- one which I want to keep and continue to the best of my ability. As it stands now, that is becoming extremely difficult to do.

Politicians will always be politicians, but you still have the power to send a message.

Make it loud and clear.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

See spot run

Hopefully with this weather we've been having you've still been watering the lawn- one deep watering a week is sufficient, or about 1" worth.

And I trust everyone has their mowing height at the highest possible setting if you're even cutting it at all? Three inches will keep your lawn drought tolerant and able to survive the dormancy that comes with the Summer heat and lack of rain.

If you haven't been doing this then you probably have seen the crabgrass encroaching, yet again, from the pavement and lawn edges where it oh-so loves the heat.

The bad news is there is nothing that can be done to control it at this time of the year. Dimension and Acclaim are no longer options and Corn Gluten?...well, you're asking a lot from an organic control in these you have crabgrass.

The good news is, crabgrass has a shallow root system, so it's easy to pull up when on the perimeter. However don't let it get to the point of germination, otherwise next year the problem could be a whole lot worse.

The next problem in the heat is Chinch Bug- a top feeding insect that sucks the juice out of your grass rendering it lifeless.

Chinch also love drought and can take out a lawn pretty quick if not dealt with. If you want to know whether you have Chinch, locate a patch of lawn where it is stressed, preferably before 10 AM, and use your fingers to rub the grass vigorously. Then peel back the grass blades to the soil and look if you can see either the nymphs, (black with red on their backs), or the adults, (black with white on their wings).

Ways to combat this insect are to keep the lawn watered and the thatch layer to a minimum (aerate/ rake). I would have said Neem Oil but....oh yeah that organic has now been banned by the PMRA.

Now are you ready for the catch 22 of this whole situation?

So you've been watering regularly, the grass is a decent length, there's no sign of Chinch and the crabgrass is minimal or non existent. You're pretty pleased with your effort until you see signs of Grub damage- a circular brown patch in the middle of the lawn that isn't responding to water and seems to come up like a carpet because the root system is gone.

The beetles have to lay their eggs somewhere and they'll have better success in a nice juicy lawn like yours over one that is burnt to a crisp, dry and hard like concrete.

Unfortunately the only options here are to watch your lawn disappear to an all you can eat grub Thanksgiving, or apply nematodes.

However, know this; the earliest an application can be done is mid August, it has to be performed in rainy/cloudy conditions, or at dusk because UV will kill the microscopic nematodes.

Oh, and you must, must, must water for three days following the application to effectively flush your nematodes into the root zone.

If you're going to do it yourself, be aware of expiration dates and the nematodes must remain refrigerated until, no wonder people tell me they don't work.

Do all this and grubs shouldn't be a problem and you won't have raccoons and skunks digging the hell out of your lawn either.

Yet, there is one way to help combat all this, but it will take time. Over seed every fall with an endophytic grass seed, preferably one that will establish a deep root system and is drought tolerant like Eco Lawn.

Even with all this there are no guarantees anymore. All it takes is one misstep and with Mother Nature tripping horribly over the last two years we might as well turn to Lady Luck after all it couldn't get any worse....right?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Say goodbye to it.

Are you kidding me? Neem oil has been banned?

Am I to believe now I can't even use organic products to keep a lawn healthy?

Wow! What a bunch of idiots!

But where to lay the imbecilic blame?

Could it be those lawn companies that were actually foolish enough to tout Neem oil as a Chinch Bug control in their promotional materials, when they knew it was not registered in Canada as anything but a foliage sheen?

Could it be some of the distributors who saw profits rise when the pesticide ban came in? Psst we have something for Chinch Bug. Meet me in the ally in five minutes.

Could it be the PMRA who wouldn't recognize this ORGANIC product for anything else than making your plants sparkle?

They're all to blame in my books.

Not once was I ever stupid enough to promote Neem for Chinch. Sure, I used it in my applications and labeled it as a foliage sheen to my customers. I knew I couldn't legally say it was an effective Chinch deterrent. Hell, I didn't even list it as a possible control when discussing Chinch on my website.

Yet, here we are and Neem is now off the table as an, someone in the government sure has a hard-on for the lawn care industry.

Why don't you dudes just show up at my house and put a bullet in my brain. It would be preferable to this slow death you're currently putting me through.

And mark my words, Fiesta will suffer the same fate one day. After all, it's an organic control too. When I see what the liquid iron is doing to my equipment, I wonder about all those companies out there applying blanket applications and the amount of product leaching into the ground. At least, for the most part I only do spot applications.

I can't help but think about a story I heard once concerning going green by getting more electric cars on the road. Then someone realized that all those electric batteries have to be replaced and discarded from time to time. Suddenly the idea didn't seem so green after all.

And this is no different. Every time there's one solution two new problems crop up in its place.

Just telling it like it is...because really, what else do I have left to lose...fertilizer?

Maybe I'm getting my panties in a knot over nothing? There will be another product to replace Neem down the line, but what about this heat...on lawns that are already drought stressed?

Sure you can water because the Chinch don't like well maintained lawns, but the municipalities want you to conserve the precious liquid.

Sure you can aerate to break up the thatch layer, but I'd rather run my machine over concrete than compacted, drought-stressed clay.

Sure you can over-seed with an endophyte enhanced grass seed like Eco-Lawn, but you'd have better results finding a brothel in the Vatican then getting seeds to germinate in this heat.

Get ready to raise the rent people, because the Chinch bugs are moving in.

The buffet just opened and it's on your lawn.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bite the hand that feeds

Last week I finished up the final Summer applications and was appalled to see the crabgrass starting on many of the lawns.

OK, crabgrass loves the heat and you usually see it at this time of the year, especially under these toasty conditions. The problem for me is, since crabgrass was also rampant last year I added pre-emergent treatments to all the programs this year in an attempt to avoid the same situation.

However, since the only tool I have to treat it is Corn Gluten, (an organic that is very hit and miss), I seemed to have dumped a ton of money into a product that doesn't work very well.

I did two separate applications; some got granular and some got liquid to the same result.

I'm sure my supplier will tell me that the product was not applied at the recommended rate and that's why it didn't work.

I can assure you, since I don't employee students and did many of the applications myself, it was correctly applied.

What we have is simply a product that doesn't work very well, yet costs twice as much and someone is making a lot of money off my back and your wallet.

But who has to field the complaints?....Moi!

It's the same deal I have with Fiesta, sometimes it works well and others I don't even want to talk about it (just look at your clover and chickweed this year and tell me what's wrong with this picture). Bad enough that the customer's confidence is already on the edge with this product because of Weed-B-Gone- a dumbed-down version of what I use. Thanks very much Scotts. I'll bet you're not hurting for money?

With grub season about to start I'm faced with the same issue in nematodes. Last year- one of the worst in some time- I did every single application myself. They were done in cloudy, or rainy conditions, they were watered in properly yet some of my customers still had grub problems come Spring. Thank you very much Environmental Factor. No wonder all the Dragons Den bought into your product....ka-ching!

Oh by the way that spray tank I bought back in the Spring is leaking somewhere else now. Thank you very much Rittenhouse.

Funny thing, I have a spray tank on one of my trucks that I paid $400 for, is God only knows how old and works without fail.

You'd think in the technological age we live in, someone would be able to deliver a better mouse trap, but not so. Products are not as good because there's no money to be made in stuff that lasts.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Dimension and no one had crabgrass and if they did I used Acclaim and wiped it out.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Merit and no one had grubs.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Par III and no one had weeds.

The customer was happy, I was happy. Now if you want to see what your lawn used to look like you have to play golf.

In fact, the only product that hasn't let me down is Eco-Lawn the low maintenance grass seed. Thank you very much Wildflower Farm, you guys still rock!

I guess it's evident that I'm pissed, but if you don't want to get called out as a company with inferior products then give me better stuff so I can do my job and keep my customers content at least. I'll happily pay for things that work properly, but when they don't, I feel it's my duty to inform others...and if you've read this you can consider yourself informed.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If it quacks like a duck

Breaking news: Pesticide ban lifted!

Oh, how I wish it were April 1st so this would actually make sense.

Seems the largest lawn care company is up to their old tricks again. The latest, in order to woo more customers, they are actually saying, "the Provincial Government has lifted the ban on pesticides for the control of weeds again."


Neither is the fact you have to take an entire program to get weed control (Fiesta), or your socks periodically escape from your dryer in an effort to challenge your pairing skills. You see, there's just not a lot of money to be made if they give you a one-off weed spray and these companies know that, hence the lies.

The problem is, there will always be people out there who are so fed up with the way their lawns look, they will want to believe and be drawn into this vortex of untruths.

Remember you can't spell "believe" with out the "lie".

Oh, how I wish I could write posts on lawn care instead of this dribble.

On Wednesday of last week I had the Ministry of the Environment here to inspect my premises- which I passed without any problem. When I asked them about some of the statements others have been making they told me, they have no jurisdiction and a company is allowed to market their programs and products in anyway they see fit- fibs included. That's why we have the Better Business Bureau, the Complaints Board and sites like Homestars, they told me, so the home owner, once duped and parted from their money have a forum from which to warn others.

However, not everyone has access to these tools, or thinks of researching the free-fall before they leap. So much for those poor sods I guess.

Yet the Ministry seemed less concerned with these developments and more intent on running scenarios by me like, if I spilled Fiesta and a duck swam by, drank it and got sick, what would I do....?


What do they think, I'm out there every morning dumping $180 bottles of concentrated Fiesta into the drain like ketchup on fries?

Isn't the Ministry of the Environment there to protect us from ourselves? Enforce the bylaws? Safe guard the environment?

If some companies are out there spreading propaganda that pesticides are back on the table for public consumption, isn't that a mixed message?

What we need is a consumer watchdog in place to not only protect, but call these companies on their misinformation. Educate the customer for godsake! Not someone more concerned about the possible upset stomach of aquatic water fowl.

The representative from the Ministry wouldn't even refer to Fiesta by name and kept calling it a pesticide as if to reinforce that her job had not become obsolete.

And perhaps she's right? I mean four years from now when they realize we've put a hell of a lot of iron into the soil the song and dance routine may change. Fiesta might even become the next outlaw with a picture at your local post office.

Seems the Ministry still likes to think they have teeth but when it comes to those operating a lawn care business they only bite down with toothless gums.

I guess the 2 bills I fork over every season for my operating license is just a cash grab too?

Forget the duck. You don't think I get an upset stomach from swallowing that every year?

Oh how I wish I had picked a different business to go into.

Monday, May 23, 2011

...Pants on fire

It truly is alarming to consider that very few in the lawn care industry seem to care about the customer anymore once the cheque is signed, or the Visa is swiped.

Sure, you can eventually get someone on the phone if you're mad as hell about something, but why get your customer to the brink in the first place?

Here are some lessons in the glowing examples of blatant lying in order to get the money and run.

Now take into consideration a few of these come through the words of others and are classified as here-say, yet you should know what is apparently going on out there.

Lesson #1: I find it troubling to see the ads on a few garden centres' readerboards touting the use of nematodes to get rid of your grubs. Yes nematodes do work provided they are applied in the right conditions, after being stored in the right conditions, with the faith that these microscopic worms are even in the package in the first place instead of baggy of vermiculite, or a sponge with a brown blob on it.

However, selling them at the end of May....really?

I guess they are counting on the average customer to be dumber than a sack of hammers and desperate to try anything.

I've even heard of a few retailers who don't even bother to refrigerate the little buggers.

Good luck getting those dead nematodes to work.

Yet, even the manufacturer, who is making money hand-over-fist, is stocking the shelves while they know the more effective time to apply is in mid August.

Oh well....they can sell them to you again in the summer.

Man, no wonder I have so many people telling me nematodes don't work.

Lesson #2: There are a few companies out there, that I covered in a previous post, who seem to have lying to customers as part of their mission statement, all in an effort to expand the coffers with the almighty buck.

It has been everything, from erroneous information about the current weed killer of choice, Fiesta, to the constant upsell of products your lawn probably doesn't need, to -egad!- faking your confirmation of service and billing you for unwanted applications.

And if you're OK with all that then I have some swamp land in Florida you might be interested in.

Lesson #3: This one comes from personal experience so I have no problem dropping the name of the company- Rittenhouse.

This year I spent over 4G's on a new spray tank for one of our trucks only to have it leak Fiesta all over the back of the flatbed in only the second day of use. On the third day the spray gun fell apart because they decided using a plastic connector between the gun and the hose would be more efficient than spending $3.00 more to put a brass one in.

Hey don't believe me....check out the pics.

All this in the middle of the busiest part of the season.

Now, they did send me a replacement piece for the tank and why not? A plumber friend of mine told me they had attached it too tight in the first place and cracked it.

But the spray gun? I was told the tank and gun are not suitable for organic products like Liquid Corn Gluten and Fiesta.

Hello! You do know there's a Provincial bylaw now? Have you even heard of the PMRA...Ministry of the Environment....are you even listening?

I have another used tank that I bought for $400, 3 years ago and other than replacing the odd hose, it has given me no trouble at all spraying organics.

So you can understand why I am royally pissed.

I guess no one ever told these idiots that happy customers are repeat customers and they'll just soldier on with their P.T. Barnum way of thinking and caveat emptor.

*clapping* Way to screw yourself out of the potentially thousands of future dollars I could have spent with your company...was it really worth it?

This is one former customer who has no problem posting his displeasure with extreme prejudice to a world wide audience.

Here ends the lesson.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I fought the lawn and the lawn won

You're mad, upset, frustrated, weed-infested and ready to pull out your turf as well as what's left of your hair and it isn't even the end of May.

I feel your pain brothers and sisters. You're not the first person to complain about weeds and threaten to pave over your grass with concrete and paint it green.

The good news is, it's never too late to start with a program and do something to improve the curb appeal that has abandoned you since the bylaw came into effect.

Depending on your situation this might mean a soil test. Understand what is going on in the soil and you can fix the problems. Many times I'll show up to assess a lawn and there is something going on in the soil that I can't see, but I know is wrong. A soil test will analyse the soil and take all the guess work out. It will let you know if the ph is too high, or low. It will register the amount of organic matter, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium in the soil and how to fix it.
Let science be your panacea for about $40.

Or perhaps your lawn isn't that far gone and you simply want to fight a decent fight?
There are products available to help you out whether you do it yourself, or call the professionals.

For the D.I.Y.s there's Weed-B-Gone a dumbed down version of the Fiesta the pros use. It does work provided you spray to the point of run-off on the target weed. Yet, be aware this product is not systemic and the weed will push through again. That's why it is important to spray twice within 30 days of application to get effective control. Unlike the old methods where you had to wait weeks before seeding, Fiesta allows you to do so a few days after application.

As far as grubs are concerned? Right now forget about it. They are done feeding and going into the instar phase. No more damage will be evident until late July, early August when the new eggs hatch and the grubs start to feed. Plus even if you were to put down your nematodes, the grubs are too big to control effectively at this time of the year. So seed the damaged areas and wait it out until August when you can ambush the new larvae.

A healthy, thick lawn is the best defense against all; grubs, weeds, turf disease, and over-seeding is your golden ticket to achieving this goal. However, be careful in the Spring if you are using Corn Gluten as a pre-emergent/ fertilizer. This application will help suppress crabgrass and new weeds but it also impedes good seed from germination.

My advice is to wait until the fall if you are using this product on your lawn, otherwise, you are not going to be able to seed again until the end of June and that could be a tough sell for any seed.

One further note about Corn Gluten: Think of this application (approx. 20lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.) as a shield on your lawn that will protect it when the dandelions go to seed. Whatever you do, don't aerate the lawn after you've applied the corn otherwise you punch holes in that shield and render the application useless. Wait until the Fall for your Core aeration and use it in conjunction with your seeding.

You may not win the war, but you can win a few battles.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Je ne sais quoi

"How come my neighbour's lawn looks so much better than mine when he does nothing to it?"

The answer is, "I don't know".

After all, you live next to your neighbour, I don't. Yet I am assuming you have a job and go to work everyday, you do social activities, go away for weekends/ holidays, have a life to live?

In other words you're not sitting in front of a window with a telescope pointed at your neighbour's lawn 24/7...or at least I hope you're not?

So how do you really know what your neighbour does to his, or her lawn?

Of course if they sneak back a little weed-and-feed, or grub killer over the border every year on that trip to Florida their lawn is going to look excellent. But are they honestly going to divulge they put a little something-something down when they know it's illegal?

I know this is going on a lot more than you think, because many people have told me they are doing it to keep their lawns under control. Is your neighbour one of them?

Again the answer is, "I don't know".

I do know the weed gnomes do not magically appear at three in the morning and haul away all the dandelions. And I also know a healthy green lawn doesn't get that way by itself- it takes some effort.

Look, I too, have a few neighbours who don't have lawn companies and who I never see working on their lawn other than cutting it. Yet both their lawns look as lush and green as mine...sometimes even better.

I fertilize, I aerate twice a year, I over-seed, I apply commercially mixed Fiesta for weed control and still they have no problem keeping up.

Understand this, the lawn care industry still has many tools to help your lawn get to where you want it- soil testing, low maintenance grass seeds like Eco-Lawn to name a few- it's just, without the old methods, it doesn't transform overnight. Yet, whether you use a razor or a butter knife you can still cut a rope and every year they are developing a better butter knife.

So back to your neighbour for a moment and his certain something.

Let me ask you this:

If your neighbour dances over the grey line to get a few bucks back on taxes does that bug you too?

Under the current bylaw there are only two paths to choose from here - play by the rules, or cheat. At fines that range to $200,000 a lawn I think I'll stay on the safer road.

Oh and BTW, the picture above is one of the lawns I take care of with a butter knife.

So, how come your neighbour's lawn looks so much better than yours when they do nothing to it?

The answer is, "I still don't know for sure, but I have my suspicions".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roll, roll, roll your lawn?

Judging from the number of people who ask me if I roll lawns, there seems to be a certain amount of misconception. Maybe it's hormonal? It seems every year men from all corners feel the need to get out there and work on the lawn and in many cases this includes the overwhelming desire to roll the grass.

You should only roll your lawn in the event it has been newly sodded or seeded. Rolling your lawn, much like aerating too early, can actually cause more damage than good. It compacts the soil sealing off the turfs ability to get precious oxygen, moisture and the nutrients it needs to remain thick, healthy and resistant to weeds as well as other turf diseases.

Compacting the soil squashes all the soil particles together.

This means that air spaces necessary for good root growth are eliminated. It also means that water can't penetrate the soil because there are no holes for it to move into. The bulk of the water runs off the lawn and never penetrates deep into the soil to the root zone level. This run off water takes the dissolving plant food with it so the spring feeding is washed down the sewer. In one fell swoop, rolling a lawn eliminates the necessary aeration, prevents water from entering and assists in the removal of spring applied fertilizer.

I can't think of an faster way to help put stress on a lawn than to roll the lawn first thing in the spring.

Sure I could roll lawns then turn around and tell the customer they now need an aeration while doubling my money in one fell swoop, but if you have read any of my previous posts you'll understand by now, that's not what I'm about.

Yet, those of you who golf will say, "the greens crews roll the green. What about that huh? I wish I had a putting green for a lawn."

Rolling a green is not the same as lawn rolling your home lawn. Your lawn sits on a mixture of soil types and these are easily compacted; a green sits on special sand chosen for its ability not to compact. Turf being grown for putting greens is one of the most intensively managed grass surfaces in the world. It is fed, watered and treated for disease on a regular basis exempt from pesticide bylaws. You and I, we don't have the luxury.

Even with the special sand bases, if the putting greens are rolled several times a week, they will usually have to be regularly "cored" to allow for expansion of the soil, and the introduction of water and air. The turf manager at a golf course is treading a thin line between optimum grass health and optimum playing surface. That is his specialty

What is critical to understand is that the soils on the green and your lawn can't be compared and so the lawn rolling practices will be different.

In any case, the next time you feel the urge to roll your lawn, roll, roll, roll the lawn roller into the neighbourhood garage sale instead because unless you want to produce concrete, you don't need it anymore.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Too much too soon

Spring is here, the birds are returning, the days are getting longer, the wind although still with a bite, is warming up and those dudes are pushing aerators from door to door.

I ask you, what would early April be if we didn't have those individuals moving like slugs, pushing their Ryans and Blue Birds of happiness up and down our streets.

However, the truth is, although aeration is a valuable tool in maintaining lawn health by opening up the root system and alleviating compaction, it's too soon to aerate your lawn. You can do far more damage instead of benefit at this point in the season. When I told this to the girl who huffed and puffed her way passed my house with her banged-up Ryan, she had no idea.

Yet, dollars to donuts say, the company who sent her out knows. They're in the lawn care industry how can they not? They just choose to ignore the obvious in order to take the money off the street.

As I've said before, I don't care if another company or individual does a lawn, I can't service them all and for some reason seem to be one of the few who realize this.

What I am concerned about is, the job is being performed incorrectly and the customer is the one who suffers in the long run.

If I spilled paint on some one's expensive drapes while painting their wall because I didn't follow the correct procedure of protecting the window covering before I started, I wouldn't expect that customer to enthusiastically call me back for more work, or refer me to others.

I feel for the girl, she's doing as directed by the company in order to make a living and I don't expect lawn care will be a vocation she readily follows into the future.

No one wants to aerate lawns the rest of their life and she will have most likely moved on by next season. Her current employer should may the customer.

Friday, April 1, 2011

True lies

As I await the start of the 2011 lawn season, I am appalled at some of the rumblings I am hearing concerning the lawn care industry.

A few posts back I noted the rampant slander present, as one company slags another in order to gain advantage in a competitive market place. Now I'm hearing the potential customers are not immune to the lies.

One company has been touting the return of chemical spraying for weeds, spray approved by the government. Another claims exclusive rights to a new German weed control no one else has. Yet another is proclaiming the use of a new weed control for 2011 and again...acting like they have exclusivity.

Most people don't know much about their lawn and when they are given this information they take it and run with it. However, be aware of the truth shrouded beneath a haze of misinformation.

These three separate companies from above are actually talking about the same product. That's right. It's the same weed control I've done a number of posts on already. This is because I, like pretty much every other company out there have been using it since May of 2010.

The product is called Fiesta. The active ingredient is iron and it is an organic control so it can be used under the pesticide bylaw. However, it is not a systemic control and must be applied in two applications not more than 30 days apart.

It's also very expensive.

So I ask, is this missinformation deliberate to try and woo/fleece customers back to the already untrustworthy, or is stupidity really that ubiquitous?

It's no different than the kerfuffle surrounding Sarritor a few years back when one company cornered the market on the only available weed control for use under the bylaw. Later the truth about the lack of effectiveness of Sarritor surfaced and that company is still putting out fires while trying to repair their damage credibility.

In revisiting the statements of the three companies in question; I guess because it's a concentrate and requires certain precautions when using it, it's the same process as when we had chemical control...but a true chemical weed control as you, the homeowner knew

It is manufactured by a German company called Neudorff who are California based, but Fiesta is not sold under the name German yes, but every lawn care operator with a licence has access to it, so

New weed control? well in the scheme of things I guess so, since it's still under a year old in the market place, but new as in, no one has used it Hell, you've probably purchased the diluted Scotts version of it called, "Weed-B-Gone".

You have to ask yourself, if these companies are lying to you about this product, what else are they twisting the truth on?

Don't be an April Fool. Recognize what you're being told for what it's worth: a clever marketing ploy and nothing more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vole position

Since I've been out assessing lawns for the 2011 season, one problem seems to be reoccurring this year; vole damage. I've seen it on new and established lawns alike--- one more middle finger from Mother Nature after last year when every problem known to lawn surfaced.

First of all if you don't know what a vole is, take a look at the little mouse-like critter on the top left. This my friends is the vermin that has created a highway of scribbled throughout your lawn. The one that is now visible with the spring thaw and could destroy your garden and trees if they are not dealt with. I say they because they are baby making machines and where there is one vole there are surely now others.

The last resort I would suggest would be using an anticoagulant bait like Warfarin besides voles quickly become bait shy when they realize you're trying to poison them. Plus you run the chance of affecting others, birds,cats, dogs....children and you don't want that.

I would also advise against putting down traps unless they capture humanely and you can catch and release.

Instead there are a few natural ways to deal with the scourge. People with outdoor cats do not seem to have this problem and why would they, the average cat catches three to four voles a day....but if you are short on Felines...

I have also heard that laying a stick of Juicy Fruit at the base of their runway can help dramatically. The little buggers apparently love the stuff and they can't digest the gum so, problem solved.

Repairing the damage: If it isn't extensive the lawn should repair itself once the season starts. Rake up the thatch lightly with a rake, (if it hurts your back, you're doing it too hard), and over-seed if you feel the area will not fill in quickly.

On larger damaged areas where the root system has been destroyed, clear away the debris---again lightly---with a rake and reseed the damaged area. All this is a pain in the ass--- I know, but a necessary evil if you want to keep the weeds from moving in and taking advantage of bare spots.

You've already given up the vole position, you don't want to find yourself the long-shot to having a winning lawn.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who needs who?

As the nice weather becomes more prevalent in the change from winter to spring, you might be considering a lawn maintenance company, or a lawn care company to help keep your turf's aesthetics in top condition.

When doing so, it is important that you treat the process as if you're interviewing a potential employee for a vacant position. Too many times it seems like the other way around where a company is coming in to assess a property and telling the home owner what they need.

Sure, you're calling in the first place because you need assistance, but don't forget who the boss is. You.

Here are some basic questions you should ask any lawn care provider before making the decision.

Although for many people price is an issue there is one of more significance; is the company licenced to perform the necessary applications?

In order to run a company, you must first have a Land Exterminator Licence, (not easy to get BTW) and an operating licence with the Ministry of the Environment.
Usually this is only a problem if the company is a smaller operation. However, be aware that the Exterminator Licence allows up to three non-licenced technicians to work under your licence. Ever wonder why there always seems to be students working on your lawn?

Insurance/ business liability?

Again the bigger guys- not usually an issue. However if someone punctures a sprinkler line with an aerator, or burns the hell out of your lawn, are they covered to replace the damage?


You wouldn't hire a dude to work on your kitchen, or build a deck without seeing previous work would you? Your lawn company should be no different. Usually you can get a feel from the website, but remember it's easy to load a page with stock photos. Sadly I've seen it done.

Do you need to be called prior?

Do you have children, pets, allergies? Do you really want someone coming a day before the big B.B.Q. to do an aeration? Make sure you are called the night before an application so if there's a problem you can let the company know and they can reschedule your application.

What do you get for your buck?

How many applications? What do they include? Is there an extra charge for return visits between scheduled applications.

Some people like my buddy Dave at the Gardener do lawn maintenance and cutting during the season. He also does snow removal in the winter, some don't. Be aware of your needs.

Are there any hidden provisions in the contract? i.e. renewal stipulations. Some companies will automatically renew your contract without your say-so for "your convenience" just like a gym membership.

Ask yourself if you're not happy with the work, do you really want them to keep coming back year to year because of the fine print?

Take back the control. After all it is your lawn and on your lawn they work for you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Win, place, or show?

First off, congratulations to Mrs. D. Heller of Ajax who won her lawn services for the year, Miss K. Varlow of Courtice and Mr. B. Parker of Whitby who both won Eco Lawn over seeding in our home show giveaway.

Which brings me to my next thought: Home shows- are they worth doing?

For three years now we have been present at the Oshawa Home Show and for three years we have watched a dwindling attendance where at times there were more vendors than potential customers to talk with.

A sad fact and one that has us questioning our involvement in future home shows.

It's not like we're a big ticket service like landscaping, or renovations where one job is the difference in success and failure. We have to explore the bigger picture of residual income where we do our best to create a happy customer who becomes a repeat customer.

Don't get me wrong, we did well enough selling Eco-Lawn and lawn care programs to cover our costs and time. We even have some promising leads that will be the difference down the line.

Yet, when the result doesn't out weight the desire and effort you have to ask some hard questions. Do we win when we place at the show?

Right now an affirmative response would have to come with a twisted arm.

Next year...who knows. we'll cross that bridge when we get there provided my sore feet recover.

Truth or consequences

Really I should be spending more time on telling you about dos and don'ts concerning your turf as the Spring season fast approaches. Instead I find myself wondering why there are so many idiots out there in the lawn care industry slandering the crap out of each other. There are enough lawns for everyone guys!

Yes, I admit there are those, who by their own actions, deserve a good tongue lashing now and again for their lack of integrity, but even in my most ruthless moments I never name the offending company or owner (in print)...let them dig their own grave, the customer isn't as stupid as they'd like to believe.

It's a competitive business, I understand that, but I have always tried to help those who I felt were reputable in this business when they sought my advice and visa-versa.

However, of late, I seem to be hearing from my alliances and customers alike that even I am not immune from attack after several reports of slander and lies against me surfaced from rival companies.

At first I was surprised until I discovered the source of the untruths that reeked more of desperation, greed and petty jealousy--- asinine comments that were more laughable than palpable.

Personally I am here to do a job to the best of my ability, provide knowledge to the homeowner about their lawn which includes what to watch for when others are doing the applications. It's the same advice I'd hope someone would tell me if they saw me pouring gasoline on a fire. I feel it's a public service and if I were an offending party I wouldn't expect a happy customer nor a loyal one...are some of you lawn boys listening?

So hopefully this will be the last post about this subject and I can get back to telling you how to have a green lawn instead of worrying about those green with envy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

I thought I might take the opportunity to tell you a few horror stories I have witnessed first hand from working in the lawn care industry.

I have seen a lawn fertilized against a customer's wishes. I have noticed an application performed on a wrong house. I have been there when a newly seeded lawn was sprayed with chemical weed control. I have seen an aerator take out a shed. I also saw one puncture a sprinkler line, destroy a fence, damage a newly sodded lawn. I've witnessed a ramp fly off a truck on the DVP and subsequently get run over by several vehicles. I have noticed directives from a lawn care company to disregard the pesticide bylaw and spray Killex anyway.

Right place at the wrong time perhaps? No. I have seen these things happen because I was the culprit, ignorant of proper procedures and protocols.

All these mishaps took place when I worked for one of the bigger lawn companies in an industry I knew nothing about when I started.

How is it possible that I should now run a successful lawn care business with asinine mistakes such as these?

First let me tell you, that all I have done was early in my first year and the product of one day training. That's right! One day of training until I was given my own truck and told to go hone my skills on your lawn --- to make mistakes on your lawn. And no one checked up on the work I was doing.

However, I learned from my mistakes. I listened to the veterans around me in an attempt to gain knowledge and I took an interest in doing the job correctly with moral obligations. I wrote for my licence and passed top of my class. I worked with pride and efficiency until I was counted as one of the top technicians in the company. Someone able to train others guessed day of my undivided attention before we cut the poor bastards loose.

To my knowledge, this is the way things are still done by the big guys. After all, time is money. Unfortunate for the home owner mostly, but sadly, for the technician too. I have viewed the results of lawns burned by the wrong applications and far too much product after it was discovered the technician had mixed up his valves and was spraying Merit (for grubs) to control weeds and Par III (for weeds) to kill grubs, for over a month before anyone caught on. He was a nice enough guy, but after a mistake like that was fired on the spot. Another victim of the one day train.

Yet others I knew filled out invoices, but failed to complete any work and were rewarded. After all, they were returning at the end of the day with forty plus work orders done. What company is going to question a work ethic like that?...until the customer calls to complain that his grass is still full of weeds.

Look, I'm not trying to tell you what to do with your hard earned money and I'm not painting all in the lawn care industry with one brush. There are reputable lawn care providers out there who take the time to train their staff properly. I'm simply pointing out the shortfalls in a flawed system too many still use. You as a home owner paying for a service, should be aware of the possibilities.

Is your lawn company sending out a technician with little training to learn on your lawn?

Do you want to put your money down on the roulette wheel?

Personally, I'd rather let them try, try again on someone else's property.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Keep your friends close and your know the rest

The other day something strange happened. An alliance of mine from another lawn company approached me and asked me who I had "pissed off?"

When I asked him what he meant he told me he'd been down at the franchise show and had been accosted by several people from another franchise asking all kinds of questions about my business-"Who are they?","Do you know them?", etc.

I can only imagine this is due to the fact many of their customers have come knocking on our door, dissatisfied with their previous lawn care provider. From the way they make us sound, We must seem like Mosses thundering, "Let my people go!" and then leading a mass exodus through the desert to the promised land.

The truth is, before I started this little venture, some four seasons ago, I worked for one of the larger companies. From watching the day-to-day operations and listening to disgruntled customers moan about the companies short-falls, I believed I could do a better job simply by being everything the bigger company was not.

I also did, what is called, a S.W.O.T. analysis. By understand strengths, weaknesses and opportunities I crafted a business model I felt would be successful.

We have had substantial growth in every season since we started. Sure we lose a customer every once in a while -they move, they die, they can't afford it, but we always do our best to resolve any issues our customers might have.

So, to the other company- sorry we're taking your customers, but perhaps it's time you went back to basics and did your own S.W.O.T. Because eventually if you let your ship drift aimlessly you're going to find yourself hitting the rocks and sinking fast.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saying a whole lot of nothing

So...the IPM Symposium for 2011. If I don't type another word you already know all you need to.

Perhaps it was the smaller atmosphere of last year in Barrie, but this year's, all-in-one extravaganza in Toronto was nowhere near as informative, or interesting.

Most of the yawns came, as per usual, from the Ministry of the Environment-they never fail to disappoint.

A Study on leaching chemicals into the ground water, although of interest, I found more amusing as they were hard pressed to find waterways and tributaries in Ontario that didn't snake through farm land and golf courses. The result of lower contaminants in ground water stirred a "well duh" moment and not a true reflection on what's really happening out there unless you factor in the wasteful expenditure of tax payer's money.

Even the information on Fiesta just reiterated what I already knew: Two applications 30 days apart for effective control, the product is not systemic, applications over 30 degrees is a no-no and the product is outrageously priced. I was however, told to wait until next year for more results while further tests were conducted.

You think with the outlaw of adequate controls there might be a little urgency to develop more reliable organic controls. Yet the Lawn Care Industry only accounted for 4% of all pesticide use, so what's the rush right?

Perhaps if I had walked away with one of the door prizes I might have felt my time was better served, but all I see when I look at my IPM certification is no answers and a whole lot of nothing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One man's solution is anothers poison

So, it's been a while since I last posted something and I trust everyone had an exceptional holiday season. I hate to jump into the deep end right off the start but...

I came across a very interesting blog about Fiesta the other day and I thought I'd share it with you. After all, Fiesta is the best of a bad lot on the market when it comes to legal control for weeds.

I understand this is a new product that no one has had for a full season yet, but I'm already seeing cracks in the armour.

From my experience and my opinion this product is nothing more than a cash grab for Scotts and Neudorff given the price of the product and the ratio at which it must be applied for effective control. It's a feeding frenzy taking advantage of an industry desperate for reliable products and a consumer fed up with regulations in his own backyard.

But try making profit on a blanket application of this product when your cost for an average size lawn is already $50.00 and I'm being conservative. That's at least 31x higher than the old tri-kill.

Man! Someone's making a lot of money, but it isn't me.

So, let us examine the shortfalls of Fiesta other than price.

Ever hear the expression, "too much of a good thing"? With Fiesta it's hard to claim Organic and environmentally sound when we're talking extremely high volumes of active ingredient,(hydroxyethylenediaminetriacetic acid ( HEDTA ) to form FeHEDTA.)

In fact, the minimum dose is over 700ml of product per 1000 square feet of lawn. By comparison the old methods- you know, the products that will kill your pets and eat your children- was 56ml. Just sayin'.

Also of note, Fiesta is not a systemic control, which is to say, if you don't spray those little buggers twice in a 30 day time frame, your weeds just come right back for the smile and wave photo opp. With the recommendation, you only spray twice per season, pick Spring, or Fall for your tea party. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

The label will tell you not to apply Fiesta when temperatures reach 30c. What the label doesn't tell you is you have to factor in humidity to the equation. I'm thinking there were some burnt lawns last year.

Yet, for an organic product I have some questions as to why more protective clothing is needed when mixing and applying a weed control with low toxicity? Fiesta has an Oral LD50 greater than 5000 mg per kg. Wait a minute! That's the same as Killex.

After all I've said, I'll still continue to use this product- mainly because my options are slim and none, and slim just left town. But I might just go back to pulling more weeds until I can see what Phoma Macrostoma can do in 2012.