Saturday, November 15, 2014

To bee or not to bee

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

This post isn't about lawn care as it is about another industry I've been hearing rumblings from. In fact all year. To the point that bees are dying at a drastic rate and neonicotinoids are being blamed. This issue is now before the courts and well...

Since it isn't my area of expertise let me post something from Robert Wager of the University of British Columbia that sums it up best in this article obtained from Force of Nature. He brings up some interesting points on the pro-neonic side.

And what was the problem according to PMRA? Dust from seeding. And what did they do? Add a lubricant and some equipment changes to seeding machinery to eliminate the problem. A couple of key points not covered. A couple of things to think about re: neonics: First the western provinces use plenty of neonics and have very little CCD, Australia uses lots of neonics and has zero CCD (also has zero Varroa mits, hmmm)

Second, what do people think was used on seeds before neonics? Perhaps people should look up the EIQ of those older compounds and see how they compare to neonics before they call for a ban on neonics. This exact experiment is going on in Europe right now as they banned neonics for two years.

This whole story about Bees is very emotional but emotions make for very bad decision making tools in science based public policy.

Has anyone every asked what has changed with bee husbandry in the past couple decades? Very interesting. In Canada, colonies used to be destroyed each fall and all the honey harvested. new bees were purchased from the US each spring. Then the vorroa mite arrived in NA. That effectively ended the cross border movement of bees. So now the colonies over-winter but ask how much of the honey is left for the bees and how much is replaced with sugar water (hardly a equitable swap)?

No one wants to see bees harmed and as long as people keep shouting to fix the wrong thing, the real problems with bees will continue. It is very true there are real issues with bees and CCD but knee jerk blaming of one pesticide when evidence shows several reasons why its not that simple will not solve the real problems.

And there you have it from point A to Bee...sorry again.

A great site to learn about bees is

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The song remains the same

I'm reminded of a story I once heard about Neil Peart the drummer for Rush and how, when they were recording new material, Neil would always start out with a full drum kit. Yet, with each pass he would be informed that a certain instrument- perhaps the cowbell, wasn't right for the song. So Neil would remove it from the kit and toss it in the corner.
With each repetition of the song the pile of discarded instruments would grow until the right percussive mix was established.

Where am I going with all this?

The lawn care industry is much the same way. Think of each season as a different song that needs the right mix of instruments. This year the song was exceptionally good but there was still a problem with the overall sound.

In the summer chinch bugs came in full force and caused damage, but one discouraging result I found, was most of the damage I saw revolved around my customers with Eco-Lawn- a grass seed that I was told, flat-out, by my supplier was an endophytic cultivar.

Simply, this means it is a grass type meant to withstand chinch bug and grub invasions. However, I witnessed many of my eco-lawns destroyed by chinch. In one case where we treat adjoining fronts of two lawns the feeding only took place on the Eco-Lawn side and stopped once it reached the more traditional blends of perennial ryes, fescue and blue grass.

That raises some serious questions not to mention my frustration.

Now not all my Eco-Lawns were affected, but I have now seen chinch and white grub dine heavily on this supposedly insect resistant grass. Since I too, have touted the insect resistant value of this seed, I must now remove that statement from my vocabulary.

Don't get me wrong, I still feel Eco-Lawn grass seed is a useful instrument in the right situations. However, for this year's song it ended up in the corner and with chinch bug becoming a frequent problem I can't see it returning to the kit anytime soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Witch hunt!

Recently, I was applying a fall fertilizer with Fiesta spot control when a woman went off on me about how I was poisoning her and defying the bylaw by spraying the lawn.
She was quite adamant and even had a flu mask pressed to her face as she yelled at me.

I made repeated attempts to explain Fiesta was a class 11 weed control approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, but she wouldn`t listen. She just kept going on about what I was involved in an illegal activity and backing away from me like I was ham at a Bar mitzvah.

The sad part, she's not the only one. At least once, or twice a day, mostly from May through June, I have watch-dogs asking me about what I'm spraying. Usually Fiesta (no smell), or Super Green 3 (eucalyptus), or a mix of them both.

The scary reality Is, this is how your lawn care technician is perceived by some people - like Al-Qaida lurking in your bushes, or a drug dealer with the turf's next fix of illegal substances.

Has the government been that effective in their propaganda that they have tied all pesticides to environmental terrorism?...because that s how it feels to me. It has become a sad state of affairs when I have to endure verbal accusations while I'm trying to make an honest living.

For god's sake people! It's been 5 years since the law changed. Where the hell do you think I have access to stock piles of tri-kill?

I've done nothing to incur this behavior yet, I feel like I've been tied to the stake as the flames encroach ever higher. Persecution? Discrimination? They are two words I use mainly because two word expletives seem to fall on deaf ears. Maybe I just need to get out of Salem until some sanity is restored. I definitely need to grow some thicker skin.

On the bright least if the lawn care industry goes ass end up, I can always start pedaling meth. I'd probably come under less scrutiny.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bombs away!

 This happy little contraption is a Japanese Beetle trap and they have been appearing in gardens everywhere since the beginning of July. Yet, from what I've been hearing/ seeing, the numbers are far below previous years.

So, what this means is, grub damage is probably going to be minimal to non-existent this year. This is not to say, lay off the nematode application. It's always a good idea to do what you can especially when you only get 50% efficacy from these microscopic worms that attack grub larvae.

It is also recommended, you take a walk through your lawn to see if there is any white moth activity. I've been seeing a lot of it this year and it is an indication that sod webworm may be a problem on your lawn. 

Even though grubs look to be less of an issue this year, don't set off the fireworks yet. Chinch bug damage is approaching its peek and I'm starting to see a lot of stress out there despite the frequent rain and cooler temperatures. Unlike grubs, Chinch are harder to control with the products we still have on the menu, (the use of Sevin is not permitted under the bylaw). Still, your best defence is a healthy lawn able to withstand this sudden intrusion- endophytic grass comes to mind.

As mentioned in previous posts Chinch are an insect very active when it's hot and dry and can cause extreme damage in a short period of time.

To slow down feeding apply a mixture of dish soap and water to the affected area and reseed the damage near the end of August with a high quality, endophytic grass seed. Forget Met 52 EC, or nematodes for control, they simply do not work well enough to warrant your time and money.
It is also prudent to add annual aeration to your lawn regimen since these insects hide in bunkers of thatch much of the time where they are harder to control.

So, "bombs away people!" Just make sure you have the right ammunition.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anticipate the fall

Really the title of this post is a selfish shout-out to my buddies in the band Crawl who released a new CD of the same name over the past week. It can, however, also be the mantra of every lawn care professional at this time of the year.

Whether you cut, lay sod, or control weeds and insects like I do, all it takes is a few hot, humid days to see all your hard work from the spring vanish into a sea of dry dormant grass. Especially if you have a client who wants their lawn kept short and then doesn't water the turf. It's a recipe for disaster and many times you'll get the brunt of the frustration.

Ready or not here it comes. I'm sure you've noticed the emergence of crabgrass in the sunny hot areas of not only your lawn but others as well. For those of you who applied corn gluten way back when, you'll excuse the sarcasm but, that was money well spent. Yet, until we get a new control like Opportune, which may, or may not work, you are left with pulling the ubiquitous weed, just dealing with it until it dies in the fall, or killing everything with vinegar or Glyphosate. Not much in the options department if you ask me.

You really can't win with whatever weather you're dealt. If it's hot and dry, it favours the chinch bug and crabgrass camp, wetter...the grubs and turf diseases like brown patch.

Your lawn must seem like Switzerland between two warring insect nations and you can't win for losing.

So as many of you continue to enjoy the summer, I say bring on the fall when I can restore some lawn and order and repair the damage done.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weather, or not?

The pesky little yellow flowers you see along roadsides and boulevards is bird's-foot trefoil.

"That's swell," you say, but what does it all mean?

It's a sign from Mother Nature and it means the promiscuous hairy chinch bug is about to go full tilt into egg laying mode. So it is time for you, the home owner, to be vigilant and pay attention to any dead pockets of grass. Usually the damage will be around gardens and heavy sun-exposed areas.

Chinch love it dry and they love it hot. If we experience these conditions expect the most severe damage in about 3-4 weeks time.

What else can you do to prevent this insect from munching through your turf?

Sadly, not much.

Any one who sells you nematodes to fight chinch, you can be sure, are laughing hysterically once  you are out of ear-shot as they count your money. I have not seen one study where nematodes had any effect on this insect. Same goes for Met 52 EC mainly because there are too many variables involved with this product. It must make contact with the insect directly and if you have a heavy thatch layer...good luck controlling anything. Met 52 also has little residual effect and must be reapplied after 48 hours. Then there's Grandevo...can we even get this stuff yet?

And that's all folks. There are no more controls currently available to the non-golf course, non-farmer, non-sod grower sector like you and I.

However, if you keep your lawn hydrated, maybe spay a little liquid dish soap and water on those stressed areas and over-seed with endophytic grass seed, the damage, if any, may be less severe. Also it is a good idea to reduce thatch by aerating annually, or dethatching in the fall.

Much of course, will depend on the weather over the next few weeks and depending on what source you use for your info; Farmer's Almanac, long-range weather models, the local news, you may get three different results.

In the end, you may feel the same as getting caught in the middle of a field in a just have to roll into a tiny ball and hope for the best.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The first cut is the deepest...oh, and the cut after that

This is not meant to be a spanking so much as an education as we move through the season.
I really find it shocking, with most homeowners being so passionate about their lawns, I would find so much of this...why in the name of god would you cut your grass so short? Is the PGA Tour coming to your backyard?

Ok...ok...maybe it's not you? Someone cuts it for you?

I understand we all got a late start this year due to a slow warm up, but just because you're trying to get caught up with your customer base doesn't mean it's open season to scalp a lawn.

You're stressing the health of the lawn out by taking more than a third of the blade off the grass. And guess what? That's when weeds and insect problems appear, not to mention crab grass as we move into the hotter months.

Grass needs to be at a length between 2 1/2 to 3 inches to maintain a healthy disposition. Believe me, you'd be a much happier camper if you'd follow this simple protocol.

Also grass cycling is encouraged unless the turf is so long when you cut it, it leaves a sea of clippings that will smoother the lawn. Grass clippings are about 90 percent water by weight. Because they are high in protein they should be left on the lawn to decompose and return vital nutrients back to the soil. The average lawn produces clippings at a rate of about 200 pounds per square foot each year. For every 100 m² of lawn, consistent grass-cycling done for the entire season returns one ton of nutritious clippings to the soil. The use of a mulching type mower is ideal for grass-cycling as it results in a more uniform distribution of grass clippings, and allows for quicker decomposition.

Another trend I am seeing  a lot of is the rampant use of Round-up on home lawns. Look, I understand you're frustrated with Weed B Gon as a weed control alternative and Round-up reminds you of the good old days with its absolute kill, but there is a reason they make you sign the waiver not to use it on the lawn, people. Glyphosate kills everything and then you have turf that looks like it's been visited by tiny aliens in the night and there is an abundance of hay-coloured crop circles everywhere.

Finally, for some reason I have seen a few issues where the grass has reacted to a momentary brain-fart. Let me explain. If you are having new windows installed, make sure the old ones are not placed on your lawn with the full sun beating down. Same goes for pool covers and any other items that act as a magnifying glass. I have seen a fair-share of rectangular burns and discolouration this year for some reason.
Please remember that you, the home owner, are an important part in the health of your lawn and if you neglect or abuse your task it doesn't matter what I do. It will be an uphill battle.

Here endith the lesson.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Who to beLIEve?

Last week I saw something which I consider comedic gold in the lawn care industry. There was a lawn loaded with dandelions that had a Liberal election sign on it, Joe Dickson of Ajax I believe, and the home owner was bent over from the waist with a bottle of Weed B Gon in one hand spraying the hell out of the invasive yellow weeds. If only I could've taken a picture, but sadly, I was driving at the time.

With the election looming I thought it might be a good idea to explore the truths, twisted-truths and lies about the products and practices that encompass your lawn.

One thing I have come to know as the only absolute in the lawn care industry since the ban went into effect...oh so long ago, is you can't believe what anyone says.

I hope in posting this I can perhaps shed a little light on certain cultural practices and products and dispel various myths about lawn care in general as we stand on the battlements trying to hold back the constant invasion of weeds and insects attacking the castle walls. it true , or is it false?

"Fiesta is a weed killer"- False - but Neudorff wouldn't sell so much Fiesta, nor Scott's Weed-B-Gon if people knew they were buying a control, not a killer. Fiesta kills only the top of the weed, the tap root remains unaffected. As everyone knows- if you don't get the root, you don't get the weed. So don't listen to that silly Scottish sod in the commercial.

Fortunately for these guys these products are the best controls available on the market currently and there's always corporate to hide behind when disgruntled customers come calling.

The only truth here is, any companies claiming they kill weeds should I put this...blatantly twisting the truth to their advantage.

"Nematodes can be applied as soon as the soil temperature reaches 12 Celsius"- True- but in the spring grubs are too big for nematodes to control effectively. You get 30% control, if you're lucky, when applied correctly.  I don't care what strain of nematode you are using the results are the same. So, chances are you'll be back in August to buy more. How convenient for the manufacturer.

This year I suspect grubs to be less of a problem due to the harsh winter, so save your money unless you are absolutely sure grubs are the issue.

"Corn Gluten prevents crab grass germination"- True, but only for 6 weeks when applied at 20lbs per 1,000 square feet and watered in to activate. Since you're putting it down in late April, early May, that takes you to about the end of June when the weather really starts to heat up and lo-and-behold you get crabgrass. That was money well spent especially when you are dealing with a commodity that is currently around $50 a bag. If I were you, I'd raise my mowing height to keep the soil temperature cooler and hold on until Opportune (the next crabgrass control) arrives on the market.

"Sodding is the way to go to repair a lawn"- True and False. If you want an instant fix and gratification, go for it. But be aware:
1) Sodding can be very expensive.
2) 90% of sod is made up of Kentucky Blue grass. Not really the grass for our climate. It doesn't have a deep root system and rings the dinner bell for insects. Grubs can move fast through KB and who knows, depending on where the rolls of sod are from, they may have already hitched a ride to your property.
3) If you don't baby the sod- water, water, water, and commit to an annual regimen of fall over-seeding, 2 years from now you'll probably be back at the same point of having to resod.

"Top soil and seeding is the better way to go"-  True, but this course is not without it's pitfalls.
1) Choose the best quality seed, or risk putting more weeds back into your lawn. Spend the money. Get endophytic seed that has been tested for weed seeds and contains diverse species of grasses- fescues and perennial ryes.
2) Get the best screened triple mix, or better yet, use compost and peat moss, or - once again- risk putting more weeds back into your lawn.

"Core aeration must be done on an annual basis"- True, if you want to do everything you can to contribute to the health of your lawn. However, I advocate fall aeration is the best way to go and I am trying to convert my customers to this way of thinking. Aerations done in the spring generally lead to an increase of weed cover. There are 150 weed seeds lying dormant per square foot and you've just pulled those cores up and exposed them to favourable elements. Enough said.

"My neighbour doesn't do anything to his grass and it's beautiful"-  False.  A lawn doesn't just look immaculate without paying some attention to it. The weed faeries don't show up in the middle of the night and hand pull.
My lawn looks fantastic, yet I don't have time to get out there and work on it daily. To some  this would mean I don't work on it at all.

That's not true. I fertilize regularly, I over-seed with endophytic Eco-Lawn grass seed in the fall so I don't have to water it as much. I aerate, (in the fall only to avoid excess weed growth in the spring), I keep my mower on the highest height and I keep on top of the weeds. When I see a weed, I spray it with Fiesta. Yet, if you were to see it up close, there are weeds in my lawn, but from the other side of the street...the grass is always greener right?

"If I try to bring back pesticides from the States they'll confiscate it at the border." -False. The border is Federal, the bylaw is Provincial- honestly, they don't care. They just want the duty if you have to pay it. Why even the bylaw states, "It's not illegal to have the product, just illegal to apply, or sell for ornamental purposes if you are not a golf course, or farmer, or sod grower, or.....

Hey I can be fined heavily for using it but what a customer does on his or her lawn when I'm not there is not my concern. Even the Ministry has told me they have no jurisdiction over what companies can tell their current or potential customer base, so have at it, if that what turns your crank?

Do I know if someone is cheating? weeds is a good tip-off...lawns I work on have far reduced weed cover, but no weeds...these days that's unheard of with out a little chemical help from the black market.

So that is the truth as I see it and maybe I've cleared up a few things for you? Unless you don't believe this Blog? Then I have nothing more to say.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Welcome to our world.

With Earth Day just around the corner, I always look for something interesting and insightful to post.
Then I came across this article on Force of Nature's website and thought it might be a good choice with a touch of deja vu of Earth Day's past.

Seems Manitoba is now going through what the Liberals introduced and eventually brought into law in Ontario.

Opposition to the NDP's plan to outlaw cosmetic lawn-care pesticides appears to be mounting, led by groups who claim the government has snubbed science in favour of a feel-good political hit.

They also say Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh's planned ban of the chemicals has caused needless confusion for lawn-care company customers and appears to be based more on pressure from activist groups than reason.
Mackintosh said Friday the province is simply following the lead of other provinces and that any ban — details are to be announced this spring — will be phased in over a one- to two-year period and will be accompanied by a public education campaign on what safer alternatives are available to treat lawn weeds.

"There is a blossoming market of what is called bio-pesticides," Mackintosh said. "Clearly, the market is changing very rapidly. It is no longer a choice between conventional pesticides and a dandelion."

Lobby groups such as the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers say they question how much public support there actually is for such action, spokesman Draper Houston said.
"We're encouraging everybody to think about it from a scientific perspective rather than an emotional response," Houston said. "The scientific evidence backing up the bans just isn't there.

"The pesticides that are in question go through rigorous testing from Health Canada and we want to make sure that that's part of the decision, which it doesn't seem to be right now."

The push-back against the province's ban came after a poll released last month said 71 per cent of Manitobans supported a law phasing out the use and sale of lawn and garden chemicals. It also said rural, urban and suburban residents agreed (at 86 per cent, 72 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively) that chemical weed killers should be barred from use and sale.

The poll was released by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Manitoba's Green Action Centre.
Dave Hinton of Weed Man said if the province was truly interested in protecting Manitobans from exposure to chemicals it would also address what people add to their hot tubs and swimming pools or use to preserve their wood decks.

"If these products are dangerous, why is the government allowing us to put them on our food?" Hinton said. "Why are they allowed on our golf courses?"

Hinton also said Health Canada reported in 2008 only 1.6 per cent of non-agriculture pesticides were used on turf grass. He said pesticides used in Canada for non-agriculture purposes are "for water treatment in swimming pools and in wood preservatives. That's where most of it's being used."

"They are pushing this through without any justification. They never specify which pesticides are bad. They just say all pesticides, but we hardly use any."
Mackintosh said health experts, such as the Canadian Cancer Society, say government should focus most on reducing exposure to pesticides where these products are needed least.

"That is where there's been a focus on the cosmetic use of pesticides," he said. "We know that there are alternatives."

Hinton added the province will be hard-pressed to administrate its ban without adding to its bureaucracy.
Nutri Lawn's Brent Kapusta said he's already been treating lawns with natural weed-control product Fiesta for almost three years. Fiesta is used in other provinces that have already restricted lawn care pesticides.
Letter to Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh from the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers
Dear Minister,
A large coalition of Manitoba citizens, organizations and businesses are deeply concerned with both your comments to the Winnipeg Free Press on Feb. 27, 2013, and your seeming determination to implement an Ontario-style pesticide ban across Manitoba. We believe that before you go down this road, you owe Manitobans much more open dialogue and information than you have provided to date.
We have three questions to which we believe Manitobans deserve answers:

1. On Feb. 27 you told the Winnipeg Free Press that, "Just in the last few months we're seeing red flags from the science community on the health impacts, in particularly affecting children." We are not aware of any new peer-reviewed science on this subject. Just what are the new studies to which you refer?

2. Canadians have the ability to request that Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency conduct a Special Review on any product currently approved for use in Canada if issues are identified. Have you provided the data referenced above to Health Canada and requested such a review on any pesticide? If so, what were the results? If not, why have you not done so, given your stated concerns?

3. On Feb. 27 you spoke with approval to the Winnipeg Free Press of a poll of fewer than 500 Manitobans, conducted by an environmental activist group, and inferred that this was justification for moving forward on a pesticide ban. Does your government regard polls of this nature as being appropriate proxies for developing safety policy for Manitobans, or should peer-reviewed science be the deciding factor?
We believe that these questions need to be answered before, not after, your government introduces legislation.
The preservation of green space in Manitoba on both public and private lands deserves at least that much consideration.
Yours sincerely,
Don Pincock, interim president & CEO

Good luck Manitoba, but I'm pretty sure how this story ends. On the bright side, your residents will be traveling more in years to come...south of the 49th parallel. Just ask any home owner in Ontario with a weed-free lawn...not that they'll admit it.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Silent sorrow in empty trucks

Believe me, it's not too often I feel sorry for the big three in the lawn care industry, but as we still wait for the beginning of the 2014 lawn season I can't help but wonder the problems Mother Nature's temper tantrum have caused.
First of all let's do the math; you have a fleet of 40-or-so trucks doing 30 plus applications a day each...that's 1,280 customers, give or take, you will have to pick-up with every day lost.

Seems Steve Stronge who spends much of his time now apologizing to Weedman customers on Homestars might have a few additions to that list?

Because it is such a game of numbers with the bigger companies they are usually out no later than the end of March letting the fertilizer fly. With the winter we've had such a thing is not possible even mid-way into April. Now add in the massive clean up from the ice storm. Many properties are still littered with the shrapnel of fallen tree branches.
Do you really want a lawn tech playing hopscotch with a 80lb hopper of fertilizer around all of it? Yet, mark my words, in a day-or-two it is exactly what you'll see.

I've already witnessed Property Stars out aerating lawns as of April 7th. One lawn had a mound of snow and ice on it and they simply aerated around it.
A fool and his money I guess?

Please people! Understand, if your lawn is too soggy, or too frozen, aeration is going to be ineffective and cause more damage than benefit.
I'm not saying this for my own gain, this is aeration 101 if you care to do some research. Most of our aerations are performed in the fall because in spring, I'm just pulling up cores packed with weed-seeds and exposing them to the elements making them ripe for germination.

As a business owner I understand the issues with keeping a customer base happy when playing catch-up, but as a consumer, when I pay for a service I am trusting someone to do it correctly.

In the new era of "organic only" lawn care, customer service is key. Otherwise, one day there may not be enough lawns for everyone. The big guys should take note: with social media front and foremost, there are only so many suckers out there ripe for the picking.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ice, ice, baby

Spring has arrived, although it doesn't look much like it.
I tried to do some assessments this week with out much luck due to the white blankets that still cover most lawns.

With most properties now seeing 75 plus days of ice on their turf there is cause for concern. Snow as an insullator is one thing, ice is quite another and can cause serious damage to grass on a cellular level if it remains too long.

Some golf courses had aerators out on the ice in a panic to try and break things up.

Is your sky falling yet?

Look, we just went through the worst winter in twenty years and sure, there's ice below the snow and frozen soil beneath that, but we've been through extreme weather before.

The Guelph Turfgrass Institute didn't seemed overly concerned when I read their blog. They noted there was no detectable smell when they chiselled through the ice, but it was still too early to determine the effect of winter hardiness on fescue and perennial rye grasses.

Truth is, until we finally see what the damage is, no one should join the line of lemmings running periously toward the precipice. Grass is a resiliant beast and bare areas can be reseeded, so chill pun intended.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's not too cold for cold calling

Are you thinking about your lawn under all that snow and ice? To tell you the truth, neither am I. However, don't be surprised if there's a knock at the door soon- if it hasn't happened already- and you open it to find some doe-eyed, high school student with rosy cheeks and a fluorescent vest, asking you if you'd like a free quote for lawn care.

I don't begrudge someone of the younger generation trying to make a buck. Au contraire, I applaud their fortitude to be out in these temperatures hoofing it from to door to door. That's a tough job for little pay.

Perhaps that's part of the initial sell- making you feel sorry for some kid shivering and freezing in the cold trying to make quota?

I am also not trying to tell you who should step foot on your lawn if you want a particular service...there are plenty of lawns out there for, whatever turns your crank.

I do however, like to educate those willing to listen. I have worked for the big guys so I speak from experience when I say, I have witnessed the deception and empty promises first-hand.
The best advice I can pass along is: be aware of what is involved when you sign on the dotted.
Understand what you are getting into before you get into it...or in other words do your homework.

It's quite simple really. A few minutes on the web checking sites like Homestars, or the Better Business Bureau website can save you a pounding, financial headache somewhere in the not-to-distant future. There are great reviews revolving around both positive and negative experiences with most companies that can help you decide your course of action.

If you don't have access to a computer then ask around. Talk to neighbours and let them weigh in before you decide.

Remember not all companies operate in an underhanded way and with a little investigation you can uncover those who put customers ahead of the cold-call bottom line.

Don't fall victim to a numbers game that many of the bigger companies play and protect yourself first.

Otherwise your, "yes" to a free quote, may become, "yes" to a quota, where service/billing will begin in late March despite your protest.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A lawn time coming

This year's IPM Symposium captured my attention...which is saying quite a lot since past years have seen me nod off repeatedly.

So what was the difference?

The 2014 offering had information I felt was useful. I actually left with a feeling of hope for the lawn care industry.

Yet, the symposium also had a few Debbie Downer moments as well. So, here are the good, bad and ugly of the day in question.

The good:

The news of new bio-pesticides and herbicides either already approved by the PMRA or pending, was plentiful and as long as they perform to their fanfare things are looking up in an otherwise bleak industry.

Although we've heard this before...dare I say Fiesta and *gulp* Sarritor, the Phoma Macrostoma that we've waited for, what seems like eons, is finally in production mode as a granular. The spray is still in development and not ready for commercial launch, but hell...I'll take whatever.

I am also told, the product can be applied as a post, or pre-emergent, does not prevent grass seed growth, and when applied as a pre-emergent it works for the season with 80-100% control of broad leaf weeds. Those are pretty favourable numbers close to the effectiveness of the 2-4-D days...if it works?

However, let us not go cutting the cake just yet and licking the icing off our fingers. There was no idea of a launch date, or price point and the ugly little whispers I heard were that Scotts, who own the rights, were interested in a domestic release only and not a commercial grade product for us working stiffs.

Other inspirations came from a product called Opportune. Up to now we've had very little success controlling crabgrass, so this pre-emergent bio-herbicide would be welcomed if it has suitable suppression of the weed. It too, carries the 2014 launch date, but I can't be more specific than that at this time.

For grubs we are waiting for Phyllom Grub Gone granular and there is also enhanced bio-insecticide seed coatings being tossed about. As long as I can replace nematodes some where down the line I don't care what the product is. I also need a high efficacy rate for this pest and not the 50% control we hope for now.

The bad:

The Met 52 EC we had such high hopes for with chinch bug control didn't impress in the least. In fact this fungus comes across as a rich man's nematode and nothing more. There are just too many variables; product must make contact with the host, timing is temperature sensitive and only 50% mortality in the first 48 hours. After that it drops off dramatically.

Guess we play the waiting game once again and see what Bioceres has to offer when that little piggy comes to market.

You must also keep in mind that the release information is sparse at best and there is no idea if these products will be cost prohibitive, like Fiesta was, when they hit the market.

The ugly:

It always seems to come from the Ministry of the Environment, who in their infinite wisdom are considering retesting all licenced applicators every 5 years. Great! Like I don't have enough on my plate, I have to acquiesce to another cash grab and that test was not easy to pass in the first place. Any more news like this from M.O.E. and I'll expect Larry and Curly to accompany these stooges at next year's IPM Symposium.

My advice? With the various classes of licences out there, this is not a smart idea. DON'T DO IT.

In all, This year's IPM was an upbeat day. However, looks like we'll have to hang on a little longer to see if the results will match the fanfare and weather it will be "live lawn and prosper", or "so long profits."