Monday, July 31, 2006

Turn down the flame . . . please

It's official. The average temperature for the continental United States from January through June 2006 was the warmest first half of any year since records betan in 1895, say scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. June was the second warmest on record.

The average Jun.-June temperature for the contilguuous United States was 51.8 F. or 3.4 F above the 20th century average. Five states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missoouri) experienced record warmth for the period. No state was near, or cooler, than average.

NOAA also reports that in June, 45% of the contiguuous U.S. was in moderate-to-extreme drought.

For the record — today in Cleveland, OH, (where I am writing this) the temperature is expected to top 95 F., tomorrow 97 F. I can hardly wait to climb into my car this afternoon after it's been sitting on a bubbling blacktop driveway all day. — Ron Hall

Friday, July 28, 2006

The most dangerous thing of all

More than 40,000 people in the U.S. die annually as the result of automobile accidents, yet many us accept bad and aggressive driving like it's a God-given right to endanger not only ourselves but anybody unlikely enough to get in our way.

Traveling our highways is dangerous business for sure, but who would think that you could get run over while operating a riding mower?

Leonardo Torres, 37, a crew leader for EnviroScapes in Nashville, TN, was struck and killed while mowing the grounds at an apartment complex recently. The operator of the car, a 53-year-old female, suffered minor injuries and is suspected of driving while on medication, according to news reports.

Torres worked for the Nashville company for five years. He leaves behind a wife and four children. — Ron Hall

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hazards of landscaping — grenades, lightning

Along with the usual hazards of the job (heat, working with whirring blades and big equipment, low-hanging branches) comes the hazard of digging up a live gernade with the pin pulled. A 23-year-old landscaper, digging outside a building housing an architecture firm in Elm Grove, WI, turned up the gernade, which was buried under about three inches of dirt.

A munitions expert says the gernade was one made after the Vietnam War. A bomb squad took the gernade to a safe place and detonated it, according to reports.

And while we're on the subject of hazards, the Times Ledger newspaper in Queens, NY, reports that a 36-year-old landscaper was struck by lightning in Glen Oaks, NY, July 20 as he was getting off of his mower. Å witness said he was thrown three or four feet from the mower. The landscaper, badly injured and missing several fingers in the mishap, was rushed to a local hospital, the newspaper reports. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Time to clone Fogarty?

This year's Renewal and Remembrance service project was huge, almost 300 volunteers working in Arlington National and Congressional Cemeteries in Washington D.C. Workers flooded in from just about every Green Industry service sector — landscapers, lawn care folks, irrigation pros, arborists., and lots of their family members, too. Every year more wives and sons and daughters show up to help out.

This was the 10th year for the event, sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network. The first year there were barely enough volunteers to make a softball team, but Phil Fogarty, the energetic lawn care company owner from Cleveland, OH, has never slowed down in his commitment to the one day event. I believe he's served as chairman/organizer of the event from the beginning.

This year the volunteers caught a break. The temperatures "only" climbed to the high 80s although there was plenty of humidity for everyone.

Apart from the usual equipment breakdowns (nothing major) and misplaced pallets of material, the work went smoothly.

Every year the volunteers take on more and more work at the cemeteries. This year, in addition to their usual tasks of liming and fertilizing the turfgrass, crews also braced and cabled some of the larger trees in the cemeteries and others planted what appeared to be 40 or 50 new trees donated by various suppliers and nurseries.

If the event gets any bigger, PLANET will have to clone Fogarty. It's going to take at least two of him to manage the big production.

One last comment, the presentation by ANLA's Bob Dolibois to get the workers in the right frame of mind before embarking on the day was pretty darn special. If I can get a copy from him I will post it here.  — Ron Hall

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

They want their MTV . . .erhh, make that pesticides

Now that Canada's Quebec Province has all but made the possession and use of lawn chemicals a capital offense (ok, so I'm exaggerating a bit), homeowners there have been heading to nearby Ontario Province to stock up on bug and weed killers. Government officials say there's no way to combat this heinous activity, and they're worried that stockpiles of what Quebec as has branded as lawn WMDs will fall into the hands of the wrong people — people that like attractive lawns and gardens. Now this is news —law-breaking lawn lovers are making desperate shopping forays into Ontario lawn & garden stores. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Seed prices going up

If buy perennial ryegrass or turf-type tall fescue seed, expect to pay more this year, as much as 20% more for perennial rye and the price of tall fescue is expected to be about 15% higher. Demand for seed was high this past spring and this year's crops are average, reports TMI Times, the weekly newsletter coming from Turf Merchants in the heart if Oregon's seed production region in the Willamette Valley. — Ron Hall

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Time to shrink your routes?

Bombs. Rockets. Air strikes. There's nothing more predictable than people killing each other in the Middle East. With the price of a barrel of crude oil topping $78 in reaction to the escalating violence, who isn't expecting the price of gasoline and diesel to break the $3-per-gallon barrier.

If you would have asked me a couple of years ago how Joe Citizen would react to $3 a gallon gasoline, I would have bet the farm they would have kicked up quite a huge fuss. . .then cut back on driving.


And wrong.

Even so, higher fuel costs are squeezing everybody, and the smart folks with lawn care and landscape maintenance businesses are weeding out unprofitable clients, including those that require too much drive time to service.

Brian Leu, who runs Perfection Lawn Management, near Wichita, KS, says it costs him $115 every two days to fuel his truck and mower. He has 30 clients but says he's shrinking his routes to stay profitable.

Read more about Brian by clicking on the headline above. -- Ron Hall

Friday, July 14, 2006

The LM 100 — Tell us what you really think

We get so many phone calls and e-mails about our annual LM 100 list. Some are good, some are bad and some are downright ugly. Seems there are some sharp opinions out there about the benchmarks that make a company a "good" company. We're not taking sides. Trust us, we know first hand that revenue is not the only indicator of a good company, and that plenty of giant companies aren't great, while plenty of smaller companies could use a boost.

But our list is popular. We get more positive comments than negative ones, which is a good message to us that the list needs to be here. But smaller companies, keep an eye on LM's pages: We've got lots of special articles planned just for you.

In the meantime, check out this year's list at and let us know your side of the matter by posting a comment here on our blog.
--Stephanie Ricca

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Landscaper says "yabba dabba do"

Carey Dix, owner of Dix Landscaping, Jupiter, FL, was reunited with his 10-foot statue of Yogi Bear this past week. It seems that someone "borrowed" Yogi for a beer party on a nearby sandbar over the July 4th holiday weekend. Yogi, who had standing outside Dix's business with a "Welcome to Jupiter" sign in one hand and an American flag in the other, mysteriously turned up at a local marina a week after he disappeared.

The returning Yogi sported a couple of new holes and contained six empty beer bottles., reported a local newspaper. — Ron Hall

Friday, July 07, 2006

Some good press for David J. Frank

David J. Frank jumped into the Green Industry as a 10-year-old with a gardening service on the east side of Milwaukee. In 1973 he moved his operation a short drive west to Germantown where property was less expensive. Good move David Frank. Thirty three years later he's running a $25 million landscape company and developing a 140-acre parcel of land in Washington County, WI. A plant nursery takes up 110 acres, and he's also putting up a new 12,000 sq. ft. storage facility and a 2,000 sq. ft. carpentry shop.

Frank says he's been successful because of the great people that stayed with his operation.

Greater Milwaukee Today picked up a nice article about Frank that appeared in the West Bend Daily newspaper on July 6. Click on the headline to read the article or you cut and paste the following Web site for the same article. Whichever is easier for you. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Post 4th exciting news

The fireworks are over, the barbeque grill is getting a much needed rest and the recycle container is filled with beer bottles (empty of course).

Here's some news that will keep the July 4th weekend excitement going.

(OK, maybe that's a bit over the top. But maybe you can use this next bit of information to win a bar bet, assuming the guy on the stool next to yours doesn't punch you in the eye for being a wise guy or something.)

Did you know that Minnesota is the fourth leading producer of turfgrass seed. The State has its own "grass belt" that extends across two counties — Lake of the Woods and Roseau. Minnesota's 22,000 acres produced 5.4 million lbs. of Kentucky bluegrass seed in 2002. In recent years farmers have increased production of perennial ryegrass seed, as well.

Only the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho produce for seed, reported the Duluth Superior News.

See what you miss when you ignore this blog. — Ron Hall

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hey, what's up with Mikulski's amendment?

Please, somebody speak up and let us know what's going on with the 3-year extension to the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the extension to Congress this past February and everybody got excited. In fact, many of us drafted letters and sent emails to Washington D.C., as the Senate yammered about immigration reform through most of April.

The extension, as far as we can determine, remains a part of the Senate's version of the immigration reform bill, which is about as likely as get through the House and approved as I am of winning the Mega Millions lottery.

Mikulski, indeed the entire group that was pushing for the extension that would allow returning H-2B workers not to be counted against the annual cap of 66,000 visas, is too quiet on the issue. I guess they're figuring everybody in the landscape business is too busy right now to notice.

Hey folks, if something doesn't happen with Mikulski's extension (the act she sponsored several years ago to expand the number of H-2 workers expires Sept. 30), a lot of landscape company owners are going to be SOL come next spring.

Somebody speak up and tell us everything is cool with the extension and that you've got a plan and that something is going to happen with it before Sept. 30. Why so mum? — Ron Hall