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".