Thursday, June 28, 2007

The 'Kings' digs come under attack

For some reason I find the following new product pitch amusing. Flashback to a Monty Python skit? The part about the Elvis home in Palm Springs being such a tourist attraction . . . still? (Or ever, for that matter. Folks, maybe it's time to get over this, right?

Or maybe it's the idea of sprinkling squirrels and rabbits every time they show up to take breakfast on the property's landscape plants. Hey, I don't doubt that it works; I just get this image of Mr.Rabbit and Mr. Squirrel in an animated discussion trading thoughts about why every time they hop into Elvis's yard they get doused with water.

Or maybe, it's me; I watched too many Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. Should I seek help? — Ron Hall

Victoria, BC (June 28, 2007).  Elvis Presley’s Palm Springs, California estate has found an effective high-tech solution to protect the historic property from some unwanted, four-legged tourists.  The first home purchased by newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla Presley, the estate is now the number one tourist attraction in Palm Springs with hundreds of visitors each week.  It was at this house that Elvis planned his ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ concert, recorded eight songs for RCA in the living room in 1973, and where he spent his last birthday.

Purchased in 2003 by Reno and Laura Fontana, the new owners and caretakers quickly set to work revitalizing the grounds of the estate with almost $9000 worth of new plants and landscaping.  However, soon after they were finished they noticed a large number of squirrels and rabbits had appeared on the property.  At first they were thrilled to have some new four-legged tourists, but the novelty soon wore off when their hard work and plants started disappearing by the mouthful.  The cute critters they had enjoyed the first couple of days soon became their furry adversaries.  While they didn’t want to harm the animals, they also didn’t want their hard work to become a daily dining spot for local wildlife.

After calling nurseries around the United States in search of a humane solution to control the problem, they discovered the ScareCrow® motion-activated sprinkler.  Used extensively by gardeners to protect their plants and ponds from deer, heron, dogs, cats and raccoons, the ScareCrow is manufactured by Contech Electronics ( The Fontanas noticed results immediately, “The ScareCrow is a landscape lifesaver!  It’s done a great job of keeping out the critters.  And not just the little ones; it also keeps out the larger animals that are out for a daily walk with their owners.” Now, after two months of use, the gardens of the estate are free of rabbits, squirrels and other wandering animals. Laura added, “Elvis would have loved it.”

For more information and to view photos of Elvis Presley’s Palm Springs Estate visit For more on safe and effective animal deterrents, visit

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fidel Castro nabbed with stolen lawn care booty in car

“It gets worse in America everyday. We can’t even deport Fidel Castro.” That’s what one reader wrote on the Naple News Web site in response to an article about Fidel Castro getting a judicial hand slap after being discovered with a load of stolen lawn care booty in his car.
OK, this is not THE Fidel Castro, and he’s not knocking on death’s door like the Cuban dictator. But this Fidel, a 23-year-old American citizen was born in Cuba, information that prompted another reader to comment: “Fidel Castro? Sounds like his mother was doing some really, REALLY good drugs when he was born and needed a name.”
The article in the Naples, FL, newspaper, said that police stopped Fidel the evening of March 21 because he was driving without his headlights on. When they looked into the car they saw a bunch of lawn care stuff that had been stolen from Wizzard Lake Nursery, Crawford Landscaping and Davey Tree.
The court cut a deal with Fidel and put him on three years probation after he claimed that he was just helping out his brother-in-law and was unaware that the equipment had been burglarized. And, also, that he would testify against his brother-in-law. (Uh oh, If he thought he had in-law problems before . . .;.)
Click on the headline to read the article in the Naples News. — Ron Hall

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tractor ejects, lands on NY grounds worker

Henry Williams, 63, died Tuesday, June 19, when the tractor he was operating fell down a 70-ft. hill and eventually landed on top of him. Williams was towing a mower behind the tractor on the grounds of Farmingdale State University when he apparently lost control of the tractor on a dirt road adjacent to a large field he was preparing to mow, reported the Wednesday edition of the Long Island (NY) Press. — Ron Hall

Here are 10 tractor safety commandments, courtesy of Kubota Tractor:

1. Know your tractor, its implements and how they work. Please read and understand the operator’s manual(s) before operating the equipment. Also, keep our equipment in good condition.
2. Use ROPS and seat belt whenever and wherever applicable. If your tractor has a foldable ROPs, fold it down only when absolutely necessary and fold it back up and lock it again as soon as possible. Do not wear the seat belt when the ROPS is folded. Most tractor fatalities are caused by overturns.
3. Be familiar with your terrain and work area. Walk the area first to be sure and drive safely. Use special caution on slopes, slow down for all t urns and stay off the highway whenever possible.
4. Never start an engine in a closed shed or garage. Exhaust gas contains carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless — and deadly.
5. Always keep your PTO properly shield. Make it a habit to walk about your tractor and PTO-driven implement — never over, through or between the tractor and implement, particularly if either is running. The PTO rotates with enough speed and strength to kill you.
6. Keep your hitches low and always on the drawbar. Otherwise, your tractor might flip over backwards.
7. Never get off a moving tractor or leave it with its engine running. Shut it down before leaving the seat. A runaway tractor can be extremely dangerous.
8. Never refuel while the engine is running or hot. Additionally, do not add coolant to the radiator while the engine is hot; hot coolant can erupt and scald.
9. Keep all children off and away from your tractor and its implements at all times.
10. Never be in a hurry or take chances about anything you do with your tractor. Think safety first, then take your time and do it right.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Read about Arlington National Cemetery in National Geographic

If you want to know why members of the Professional Landcare Network keep going back to Arlington National and Old Congressional cemeteries in Washington D.C. summer after summer, please read the article about Arlington National Cemetery in the June 2007 issue of the National Geographic.

This wonderfully written article by Rick Atkinson (the photography is stunning) tells it all.

PLANET's Arlington event had its genesis 11 years ago. Cleveland-area lawn care pro Phil Fogarty did most of the legwork for that first event sponsored by the then Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA). A tiny group of lawn care pros spent most of that day applying fertilizer to turfgrass at the cemetery.

The event grew, the idea fueled mostly by Fogarty's enthusiasm. By the time that PLCAA merged with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) several years ago to form PLANET, more than a hundred lawn care pros were participating, most of them coming back year after yea.

Now the event is under PLANET's umbrella and more landscapers, irrigation experts and tree care folks are participating. Many owners work elbow-to-elbow with their families (spouses and children) or they bring their crews to help them out. The annual REnewal and Remembrance event has gotten to be one helluva big event, too big actually for Fogarty to do on his own anymore, and some of his friends are now taking the lead now.

Many of the industry's supplier companies help out with product, too. Everything is donated — labor, materials, a desire to make a difference.

This year's Renewal and Remembrance Day is July 17. Several hundred Green Industry professionals will work from early morning into the afternoon beautifying Arlington National Cemetery and Old Congressional Cemetery.

I don't know if it's too late to register or not, but you can get the details by going to the PLANET Web site at

And please pick up a copy of the June issue of National Geographic whether you are going or not. You'll gain a deeper appreciation for Arlington National Cemetery. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who says young folks lack drive ...

Jaskaran Heir has been mowing lawns for the past six years and has done quite well at it, according to an article in the online site He gets customers the old fashion way, going door to door fliers in hand — and doing what he promises to do.

This week he is receiving the 2007 Ernst & Young Youth Entrepreneur of the Year for the Lake Michigan region. In the fall he will be attending the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. His goal is become a mutual or hedge fund manager.

He says the most important thing he's learned while running his lawn maintenance is time management.

"Mowing grass is only one aspect of my life. I need time to do schoolwork, hang out with my friends and play sports. Mowing grass has taught me how to manage my time effectively so that I can get everything done," he says.

Jaskaran, 19, graduated from high school this week. Sounds like he's already got a pretty darn good handle on what it takes to succeed in the business world.

To read the online interview at, just click on the headline. — Ron Hall

Monday, June 18, 2007

Right (Write) on, Mark Kramer

Mark Kramer, president of JBK Landscape in Aurora, CO, perfectly described the employment issues so many companies are having — not being able to find decent workers — in an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News:

"Thirty years ago, hippies like Jim and me wanted to get dirty in the sun, grass and weeds. Americans don't today. When JBK Landscape advertises for laborers like Ricardo, we get just a trickle of applicants. It's not the money. We pay $14 an hour for skilled foremen and $25 an hour for snow removal. But these are outdoor jobs, in the sun, snow and sleet. My college-graduate son would rather work for $7 an hour as an assistant radio and television producer in Los Angeles.

So every year, JBK Landscape hires 45 of its 100 employees through the H-2B guest worker program. Without this program, we couldn't run our $5.2 million business."

Mark is absolutely right. Comprehensive immigration reform is a national priority, but both parties would rather bicker about the issue until it dies rather than actually making some tough decisions. If only half of Congress weren’t busy running for president right now, maybe we’d be able to get something actually done.

Read the rest of Mark’s editorial here. — Mike Seuffert

Get back inside

In Landscape Management, we’ve written a lot about the trend of outdoor rooms being a huge component of landscape design/build. But according to this article from the Providence (RI) Journal, some people are finding the extra work associated with the outdoor areas not worth the effort.

“The backyard misery has been a boon for exterminators and repair shops. Fire ants nest in speakers and televisions. (They’re attracted to the hum and vibration.) Squirrels chew on the arms of teak furniture and on speaker wires. When expensive electronics come into contact with water, dust, pollen and heat, burnouts and other problems can occur.”

Worse yet, even after spending in the six digits to create an outdoor paradise, some of the areas are going unused.

“A study published in the March edition of the Journal of Family and Economic Issues suggests it isn’t uncommon for families to abandon their decked-out yards. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles tracked the activities of 24 middle-class L.A. households. They found that though the backyards were equipped with pools, patios, grills and, in one case, a skateboard ramp, children spent little time playing in them and adults rarely used them.” 

So are outdoor rooms dying. Hardly. But this article maybe makes me feel a little better about the fact that I couldn’t afford to even clean one of these outdoor areas, let alone build one.

— Mike Seuffert

Friday, June 01, 2007

Add-on Biz?

East Cleveland, OH Mayor Eric Brewer has asked city firefighters to start cutting grass and perform other jobs during their down time. The firefighters, naturally, are concerned about their ability to respond to emergencies if they're sitting on a mower in the middle of a field.

Brewer enacted a provision from World War II, when many of the men that did this work were busy overseas. The law gve the mayor the power to order workers to handle duties outside their regular job description. It may save the city money in the short run. We just wonder what's going to happen the first time someone is injured because it took a few extra minutes for the fire fighters to respond.

For the full story from The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer please
click here.