Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Can you legislate professional behavior?

How would you like me, an editor, to put together licensing legislation for landscape contractors in my home state of Ohio? Not a good idea? Hey, I’ve been a part of the landscape industry for more than 20 years, albeit as a reporter and editor; cut me some slack.
OK, I don’t have 20 years “practical” experience as a landscaper, not like Tom Castronovo. Castronovo is the publisher “of New Jersey-based “Gardener News,” a nice little monthly publication that provides good information on everything from turfgrass to pumpkins. He’s also the author of legislation to license landscapers in his home state of New Jersey.
The aim of the bill, which may be considered by state legislators when they reconvene in November, is to “elevate” the profession of landscaping by weeding out low-ballers, fly-by-nighters and so forth.
If enacted it would require all owners of landscape businesses, and one in 10 employees, to be licensed. It also establishes an continuing education component.
Friends in the landscape business in New Jersey are divided on the need for yet another licensing requirement.
One told me he feels the state already has plenty of licensing requirements — for pesticide applicators, irrigation contractors and home improvers. As a certified landscape technician and a card-carrying member of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association, he isn’t looking forward to having to get another license and paying more fees, which he sees as just another complication.
Others seem to feel the legislation, if enacted and enforced, will cut down on the number of “gypsy” landscapers that undercut their prices and do sub-standard work.
The basic question is: Can you legislate professional behavior?
Proponents of licensing for landscapers say their efforts will help bring the industry’s image on a par with other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers. Hey, I know doctors and lawyers that I don’t think are professional, at all. On the other hand,I have to confess, I've never met a lawyer or doctor that low-balled another lawyer or doctor, and we've got plenty of both in my neighborhood. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Teresa Mello and Dreamscape Designs — nice job!

My wife of 38-plus years, Vicky, keeps reminding me: “If you have your hand closed tight, you can’t receive anything.” I take that to mean that you have to give before you can get.. I think the same thing applies to the human heart.
What I really want to say is that I’m always impressed when I see somebody, with little regard for their own gain, do something to make something a little bit nicer or prettier, even as simple as picking up a piece of scrap paper on an office floor or a city street.
That’s why I’m so proud of the people I meet in the Green Industry. Apart from attempting to build their businesses and provide for themselves and their families, just about every one of them opens their hands and hearts when the situation requires.
Here’s the latest incident I learned about:
Teresa Mello, Dreamscape Designs, LLC, New Britain, CT., took it upon herself recently to beautify the 15-by-20-ft. entrance to Martha Hart Park in that city. According to an article in the New Britain Herald, Mello often drives by the park. Apparently, the lack of color there got to her and she volunteered to fix it up and maintain it.
“I love things to look nice and well cared for,” Mellos said in the article. Typically, she does some work at the park before heading out for her “paying” jobs.
“It is very nice of her to do that,” said Parks Department Director Bill DeMaio. “She is going to add perennials, shrubs and mulch, and she is going to; maintain it throughout the year. She has the skills and wants to give back to the community.”
Nice going Teresa Mello. You sound like the kind of neighbor and business person that would be a credit to any community.
Click on the headline for the complete article.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Folks are drilling backyard wells to save their grass

I flew into Charlotte, NC, today after having spent a couple of days in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, VA, and the only kind of grass I’ve seen this week in the Southeast has been brown grass.
Not fescue. Not bermudagrass. Not centipedegrass. Not St. Augustinegrass.
Brown grass. Dried up grass. Ugly grass.
And things are pretty much the same all over the Southeast — in fact, worse in some parts — friends in the landscape and lawn care businesses tell me. They also tell me that it's going to be a long, unhappy winter (for them at least) if the rain doesn't start falling soon.
So, what do I see when I check into a hotel in Charlotte — a front page article in The Charlotte Observer about how homeowners there are hiring well drilling companies like crazy just so they can water the grass and plants on their properties. The region has gotten precious little rain for more than two months now.
Many property owners figure the $5,000 or so cost to have a well drilled is money spent considering the $600 and up monthly water bills they’ve paying to keep their landscapes alive using water supplied by a utility. And they were racking up those big irrigation bills even as they follow the county’s recommendation that they just water twice a week.
How long the folks in and around Charlotte will be allowed to draw groundwater from their wells for irrigation is problematical because some political jurisdictions are concerned that they’re taking too much from the region’s aquifers.
Click on the headline for a copy of the article on Charlotte.com. — Ron Hall

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lawnmower bike

The Web site Treehugger.com has pulled together a feature on lawnmower bikes. Perfect for either bike enthusiasts, environmentalists or that ever-growing population of bike enthusiast environmentalists. I honestly can't imagine that these bikes do even a half-way decent job, but I wanted to pass along the link.
— Mike Seuffert

Friday, October 05, 2007

Llama love

Proving there is no end to notion that truth is stranger than fiction, we shouldn't have been surprised when we read the headline on the New Jersey Business (NJBiz) Web site.

It was the first thing to catch your eye — "Local Landscaper Finds Black Gold," but this was no "Beverly Hillbillies" story of sudden riches from hidden oil deposits. No, it was more of a Peruvian poop, kinda story. Yeah, that's right poop, as in the stuff that comes out of the nether end of llamas.

According to the story, Robert Schucker, the owner of a R&S Landscaping, was hiking in the highlands of Peru when he happened across the creatures. He has since added llama pellets fertilizer to his organic landscaping offerings.

For the complete story click here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What — turfgrass pests that oink!!?

Pigs generally aren’t considered turfgrass pests. But, at least in one recent incident in East Lyme, CT, they did more damage to a homeowner’s lawn and garden than any number of grubs or cinch bugs could do. But, what makes the story even better is what happened afterwards — several Green Industry companies (and their family members) repaired the property for free.
I came across the tale at theday.com. (Click on the headline for the complete story and an image of the volunteers making the repairs.)
According to reporter Tim Martin, 18 pigs escaped from a farm in nearby Waterford and found their way to the home of Raul and Cheryl Valdez where they tore into (and destroyed) the family’s lawn and garden.
But this past Sunday, Sept. 30, several Green Industry companies — Green Acres Inc. lawn care, Jordan Brook Lawn Care and Cranberry Meadow Farm joined with Rick Taylor, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspections — renovated the lawn.
With so many hands at work, and using a John Deere tractor, the volunteers had given the Valdez family a new lawn before noon that same day.
How did they all celebrate?
When they finished they joined voices in singing a chorus of “Green Acres” and put down an application to kill the grubs, which apparently attracted the pigs in the first place.

The Latina perspective

Landscapers around the country (along with a number of other industries) consider their next moves now that the provision for U.S. legislators have failed to renew the H2B Cap extension. Already the cap has been reached for the first have of 2008, according to news reports. (For more about that, click here.)

Trade associations are scrambling to contact their congressmen and contractors are considering their options. Curiously absent from the debate (at least I've yet to hear much about it) is the perspective of the visiting worker. Obviously, they want to be here or there wouldn't be much of an issue, but at least one source has placed the blame squarely on our shoulders.

The article on Latina Lista, which bills itself as "A viewpoint on anything and everything from a Latina perspective," begins with the illegal immigration debate, but smoothly transitions to the guest worker program. (For the full commentary, click here.)