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."