Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dallas firm gets into true spirit of the Xmas

DALLAS — Moore Lawn & Garden and Moore Tree Care employees organized a food drive to help the less fortunate here this Christmas.

“The economic downturn has affected many individuals and we wanted to assist those families in our area, ” said Brenda Scott, Garden Manager for Moore Lawn & Garden. Beginning December 8 employees delivered bags to every client, with each bag containing a letter explaining the food drive and that Moore would pick up the donations when the regular crew came by on the scheduled maintenance day.

“Our very generous clients and employees,” provided more than 950 lbs of non-perishable items such as canned meats, soups, cereals, instant breakfasts, rice and pasta, equaling 850 meals, said Ken Fischer, Director of Moore Lawn & Garden. Employees from Moore delivered the donations to a North Texas Food Bank.

Moore Lawn & Garden and Moore Tree Care have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex since 1962 and today are a division of Lambert Landscape Company.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ruppert Nurseries donates 5% of profits to charities

Ruppert Nurseries pledges to share at least 5% of the company’s budgeted profit, which is budgeted at $300,000 for 2008, with charitable causes in the community each year. A major recipient of donations this year was Easter Seals, but Ruppert has supported at least 50 nonprofit organizations with financial, in-kind or labor donations.

The Easter Seals’ Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring was the recipient of a $100,000 donation from Ruppert Nurseries in 2008. In addition to the financial support, Ruppert employees have helped landscape or spruce up various sites, made friends with Easter Seals clients and attended events in support of Easter Seals.

Other events and organizations that have been supported by Ruppert in 2008 include: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Home Health & Hospice, Becca’s Run, D.C. Students Construction Trade Foundation, Friends of the Patapsco, Lions Club Mulch Delivery, Capital Area Food Bank Drive, Waterford Park, American Diabetes Association and more.

Source: Dolan Media Newswire

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where consumers cut back during a recession

Many companies can anticipate the performance of their sectors in a recession. McKinsey research shows that during the 1990 – ‘91 and 2001 – ‘02 downturns, for example, U.S. consumers reprioritized their spending rather than cutting it across the board. Consumer spending dropped in discretionary categories like dining out, personal care products and charitable donations. But expenditures for groceries, reading materials, and other options that substitute for more expensive ones actually rose. So did outlays on insurance, health care, and, above all, education.

Average growth in U.S. consumer expenditures (1990-91 and 2001-02) compared with average growth for entire period (1984-2008); index: average growth for entire period = 0

Increased spending over period average

Education (eg. tuition, textbooks)....................90
Reading (eg. newspapers, magazines) ..............53
Personal insurance, pensions ..........................43
Health care (eg. health insurance, services)........29
Food at home 28

Decreased spending over period average

Entertainment (eg. tickets for events, trips).............-06
Tobacco products..............................................-13
Cash contributions.............................................-28
Apparel & service...............................................-45
Personal-care products & services.........................-78
Food away from home ......................................-110

Source: The McKinsey Quarterly (https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Am I missing something on this phosphorus issue?

Having lived literally within sight of the Great Lakes almost all of my life, I’ve seen what pollution can do to a body of water, especially Lake Erie, which now supplies my drinking and washing water, and provides me, my family and friends with excellent recreational opportunities.


I saw the lake covered with algae during the summers of the 1960s, and witnessed the decline of the sports fishing industry through 1970s. About that time the federal and state governments began taking serious action to reverse (slow is a more accurate word) the Lake’s decline. They forced communities within the Great Lakes watershed to upgrade their sewage treatment plants and they mandated the removal of phosphorus from laundry detergents, inasmuch as phosphorus promotes the growth of algae. This brings me closer to the point I want to make. And to a question for anyone reading this blog.

Why are some people in the lawn care business so opposed to legislation aimed at restricting the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus near streams, lakes and bays, especially when the legislation, on the surface, seems reasonable?


Let’s take a look at recent legislation in Annapolis, MD. That city regulates the use and sale of fertilizing containing phosphorus to limit runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. The law applies to home lawns, parks, cemeteries and golf courses. It also forbids the application of lawn fertilizer when the ground is frozen or where it will run onto any impervious surface, such as parking lots, sidewalks and roadways, and not be collected or applied to the turfgrass.

That said, there are exceptions that allow the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers:

— on turf or lawn areas where soil tests performed within the last three years confirm that the phosphorus levels are deficient
— on newly established turf or lawn areas during their first growing season.
— on gardens, including vegetable and flower, trees, shrubs, and indoor applications, including green houses.
— on yard waste compost or other similar materials that are primarily organic in nature and are applied to improve the physical condition of the soil


Lake Erie improved dramatically through the 1980s and 1990s because of the above-mentioned actions (and others). The recreational boating and sport fishing industries boomed as a result. Unfortunately, researchers and other knowledgeable experts are telling me the Lake is going back the other direction again.

I don’t know how large a role that lawn fertilizers are having on the quality of Lake Erie, not a clue. But it seems to me that limiting the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers on soils that are tested and already have sufficient phosphorus for plant health is reasonable and I don't see any reason to kick about it.

Now my question — Am I missing a key element of this issue, the reason why lawn care applicators sometimes oppose this type of legislation? — Ron Hall

Monday, December 15, 2008

How the Brits view the landscape biz in '09

Source: Horticulture Week, which covers the Green Industry in Great Britain

"It is hard to say exactly what the outlook is going to be for 2009 but if I'm honest I'd say there is going to be more of a slowdown.

"It is still busy at the moment but without a doubt there has been a slowdown in enquiry rates. A certain sector of the market in smaller projects has fallen away. The larger private contracts are still there but they are going to be hard-earned. I don't know whether projects like the Olympics will help.

"In a recession, people will spend more on their gardens - but the early part of the year will be difficult. January to March will see a big slowdown." - Robin Templar Williams, managing director, Robin Williams & Associates

"The recession is going to be worse than people think and next year will be tough. I think the outlook is pretty bleak.

"Housing is obviously the worst hit - it's fallen off a cliff. Commercial will be hit but not as hard, and grounds maintenance clients will be looking for savings, particularly in local authorities. I don't think the weaker companies will survive. I think it will be a short, sharp shock and by 2010 or 2011 we'll see recovery because there are major capital schemes that will boost the economy - roads, Crossrail, the Thames Gateway and the Olympics." - Neil Huck, senior contracts manager, Ground Control

"It is going to be tough for all sectors of the industry. But it is an opportunity for professional businesses to look at how they do business. It is about sharpening up and looking at systems of working and labour.

"I think it will be short-term pain and long-term gain because it will get rid of a lot of the dross in our side of the industry. Contractors will have to be careful how much credit they give people and everyone will have to raise their game.

"For the past five years it has been too easy and, in this sharper market, to look at all your costs is a good thing." - Mark Gregory, director, Landform Consultants

"I think that, paradoxically, once people understand they are in a recession they are more likely to treat their house as a home and invest in enjoyment of that.

"That includes investing in their gardens rather than trying to sell their house.

"It can be hard as an individual garden designer to gauge how the industry is going to look next year but I have already had enquiries from landscapers looking for work to build my designs.

"They are obviously feeling the pinch in other areas - there is a seasonal aspect to that but it's clear they are nervous." - Peter Thomas, chairman, Society of Garden Designers.

Click on the headline to register and receive HortWeek's weekly enewsletter. It's a quick, informative read.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Cowboys stadium will be incredible!

How bot dem Cowboys, eh?

Apart from the New York Yankees, what other team is ready to plunk down a cool $1 billion for a new stadium, in this case $1.1 billion. For that price, the stadium better get lots of use, and it looks like it will. It's already being touted as perhaps "the most used stadium ever built." In addition to being the home field for the NFL Cowboys, the Stadium, designed by HKS Architects, is going to host the 2011 Super Bowl, the 2010 AT&T Cotton Bowl, the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, the 2014 NCAA men's Final Four basketball tournament, maybe even World Cup soccer and NCAA lacrosse.

The retractable roof stadium will have three different Matrix synthetic fields being installed by Hellas Construction, Austin, for three different sports -- one for the Cowboys, one for college football and one for soccer. The Matrix trademarked field is an advanced version of the RealGrass surface that the Cowboys have played on at Texas Stadium the past eight years.

"This is the only stadium in the NFL that has the option to have as many different kinds of fields as they want and can change out for every event," said Reed J. Seaton, CEO of Hellas Construction, which is installing the fields.

The new field is unique in several other ways, including its "roll-up" design. The field can be rolled up in strips and stored under staging areas along the sidelines at field level. In other words, one field can be rolled up and another laid down, reportedly within a day's time.

The Stadium, which will seat 80,000, with the possibility of expansion to 100,000, is to be done in August, and the Cowboys will play its first home game there in September. Although the Stadium is yet to sell naming rights, some folks are referring to it as "Jerry World," in reference to team owner Jerry Jones.

It replaces Texas Stadium, which opened in 1971, as the Cowboys home.

Click on the headline and see the video of the new stadium being built.....It will blow you away!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Can Canada's ag community stand by and watch?

OTTAWA, CANADA- Author and Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner was the guest speaker Wed., Dec. 3, at a national agricultural conference co-hosted by CropLife Canada and the Grain Growers of Canada.

Gardner, author of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, will talk about why - at a time when the world population is the healthiest and safest it has ever been - people worry about things they don't need to worry about and don't worry about the things they ought to. He will also talk about how that applies to chemicals and the huge gap between what chemical experts know and what the average person worries about.

"Mr. Gardner's book is very thought-provoking. As an industry that has been under attack recently, we thought our audience would be interested in hearing more about how fear can drive people to behave in ways that really don't make sense," Dr. Lorne Hepworth president of CropLife Canada said.

Following this year's keynote address, CropLife Canada will be commenting on draft regulations to ban the sale and use of some pesticides in Ontario. The association is highly critical of the government for failing to articulate scientific criteria, arguing that citizens are safer with science-based regulations.

"The agricultural community cannot stand by quietly as the Government of Ontario ignores the fact that these products are rigorously reviewed to ensure they will not harm people, animals or the environment before they are permitted for sale. It's a dangerous precedent that could have dire consequences for agriculture because it contributes to heighten and unmerited perceptions of risk."

CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations - pest control products and plant biotechnology - for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dallas plans first fully sustainable urban square block in U.S.

The City of Dallas will host a full-day "Design Charrette" Friday, Dec. 5, to examine the necessary framework and community impact of what will become the first fully sustainable, urban square block in the United States. The Charrette, attended by community design and urban planning experts from across the nation, will be held at City Hall from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm.

The outcome of the day will include a series of recommendations, which will in turn structure an international design competition to create the actual block. That competition, which kicks off in January 2009, will invite architects and planners from around the world to translate the needs of the Dallas Community into structural designs for the future city block.

"The goal is to create the first fully sustainable block downtown," said Brent Brown, Dallas architect and founder of the Building Community Workshop (http://www.bcworkshop.org). "And by sustainable, we mean a place that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy. We'll take the first step in that effort on Friday."

Hosted by the City of Dallas, San Francisco-based Urban Re:Vision (http://www.urbanrevision.com) and Dallas' Building Community Workshop, the Charrette will look at the common city block in an uncommon way, examining the impact of this particular city block's development on the City of Dallas and its surrounding area. In rethinking the city block, experts will re-assess the potential value of available resources like water, waste, and air and how to strike the delicate balance between economy and equality.

"Our job on December 5th is to explore how pivotal the city block is in the urban landscape, and how it can be used as a catalyst for a whole new way of living," said Stacey Frost (http://www.urbanrevision.com/biography/stacey-frost), Founder of Urban Re:Vision.

"This process is one that puts real people first and promotes sustainability." Potential requirements, barriers, and changes will be examined in an effort to pave the way for the implementation of the proposed site. This examination will also serve to aid both site-specific, and regional decision-making.

Topics will include: energy systems, transportation, the natural and developed environment, community, the economy and technology.

Additional groups involved include Downtown Dallas, The Real Estate Council, Central Dallas Ministries, The Institute for Urban Policy Planning, Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture, Enterprise Foundation, Fannie Mae Foundation, Vision North Texas and others. Participants from outside the Dallas area include representatives of the Biomimicry Institute, Architecture for Humanity, ARUP, Organic Architect, United States Green Building Council, and others.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Along comes a robotic mower that's also a security guard

OK, here’s a question for you — which will come first:

A robotic mower that can be used for daily commercial mowing?
We land a man on Mars?

We ask that because we’ve seen or read about more than a dozen units designed and built by university students over the years, mostly in competitions. And we’ve also seen several attempts at producing and marketing robotic mowers that can be used by commercial cutters. But all have fallen far short of exciting grounds professionals or landscape maintenance companies. Yes, there are several neat little robotic mowers that would probably do quite well for a homeowner, although even these look more like novelties than work machines.

Now comes two students at Louisiana State University’s department of computer science with their AgBot, a prototype robot that can be used for multiple tasks, such as mowing, seeding, fertilizing, and since it’s also equipped with a night vision camera positioned atop a 360-degree swivel, a high-frequency alarm system and a motion sensor it can double as a night watchman.

Click on the headline to see the students putting the AgBot through its paces.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big Canadian retailer to stop selling "cosmetic pesticides"

Rona Inc., a big Canadian retailer that sells home improvement and garden products, says it will quit selling cosmetic pesticides (pesticides used on home landscapes and lawns) by next July, reports CBC News.

Taking these products off its shelves will cost it $20 million in annual sales, out of total revenues exceeding $6.3 billion (Canadian) at nearly 700 stores, including about 75 big-box stores.

The use of pesticides on home lawns and common properties, which started out with the small community of Hudson in Quebec Province winning a 10-year legal battle to institute a pesticide ban in 2001, has blossomed into a national issue.

Here’s a rundown from the CBC of what’s happening within provinces where cosmetic pesticides have become an issue:

— British Columbia: 22 communities have introduced controls on pesticides.

— Ontario: In April 2008, Ontario announced plans to ban more than 300 pesticides by 2009, but will allow them to be used to control pests in farming and forestry.

— New Brunswick: The communities of Shediac, Caraquet, Sackville and St. Andrews have outlawed cosmetic pesticides.

— Nova Scotia: The Halifax Regional Municipality is the only region to have issued a ban on cosmetic pesticides in the province.

— Prince Edward Island: The province is considering introducing a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides.

— Quebec: In April 2006, Quebec introduced a province-wide ban on the sale and use of pesticides on public, private and commercial land. The ban does not apply to golf courses and farmlands.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Leaves raked onto curbs adds to phosphorus loading

Below is some timely information that appeared in a recent enewsletter from the Cornell University turfgrass team. In light of the actions by some communities to ban the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus, regardless of what soil tests reveal, we thought it was interesting. Phosphorus runoff, of course, promotes algae and plant growth in streams, rivers and lakes, and none of us wants to do anything to degrade the environment.

The Cost and Waste of Leaf Collecton

Many communities throughout the Northeast and Midwest spend enormous amounts of tax dollars on the collection of fallen leaves. In fact some communities around New York City such as Scarsdale will spend in excess of $1.25 million dollars annually on leaf collection. In these challenging economic times one might consider better use for this money and the science is there on several fronts to support alternatives.

First and foremost bringing the leaves to the curb increases the risk of phosphorus contamination of surface water bodies. Several monitoring studies have found that P loading of lakes and streams peaks during periods of leaf drop suggesting that the leaves are releasing the P as they degrade. Bringing the leaves to the curb awaiting collection is simply increasing the P pollution problems as much as depositing P fertilizer on paved surface essentially bypassing the natural filtration capacity of turfgrass areas.

Of course the regulating of P-based fertilizer is well known and yet there is little discussion of this existing practices effect on water quality. So, if we do not collect the leaves and bring them to the curb what should we do with them?

More than a decades worth of research consistently shows that mulching the leaves effectively into the turf canopy so that they are not in clumps on the surface has no negative effect on turfgrass performance.

Furthermore there is some evidence that leaf mulching can reduce weed problems such as dandelion (see ShortCUTT Week 29; September 29, 2008). While the mechanism of this is not completely understood I suspect of we continue to study this issue more benefits will come to light. In the end, simply mulching the tree leaves into the turf is the most cost effective and environmentally friendly practice to implement at this time of year.

Source: Cornell Turfgrass Short CUTT, Week 32......click on the headline, which will take you to the Cornell Web site where you can sign up for Short CUTT. It's a great source of information about turfgrass in the Northeast and New England.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Maybe we should ban deer

Here's a quote for you. It came from the Edmonton, Canada, Journal newspaper. The object of the article is weed & feed, you know that combination of fertilizer and weed killer that many of us have been using on our home lawns for decades.

See if you think this sentence in the article is a bit — just a wee bit — over the top:

"The problems associated with the spreading of weed-and-feed granules are well- documented, encouraging gross over-application of pesticides containing a nightmare of toxins linked to a long list of terrible ailments affecting humans and wildlife alike."

OK, so this isn't related, but I thought it was interesting anyway: Last year car-animal collisions (mostly deer) killed 223 motorists or their passengers in the United States. Where's the "ban the deer" movement?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Having won the lawn care fight, is foresty & ag next?

In spite of rigorous pesticide testing procedures by the Canadian government (among the most rigorous in the world), Ontario Province will almost certainly pass a province-wide ban on the use of almost all commercially available chemical lawn care pest controls this coming spring.

Jeffrey Lowes, Director of Government & Industrial Relations, M-REP Communications, says a recent survey suggests that when the ban is implemented it could cost the Province anywhere from 3800 to 9100 jobs.

Says Lowes: “The Ontario Government is unable to recognize their policy is based on the false claims of the activists. The same activists are now in the process of targeting the agricultural sector . . . They have already held planning meetings on how to target the forestry industry. Given their success and support by the Liberal’s, the damages caused by these groups will continue.”

Click on the headline to view a recent conference focusing on the use of pesticides in agriculture, sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

North Georgia: more menacing, but it gets less mention

You can't help wondering about life's ironic twists, even the small ones.

For example Anaheim, CA, averages a mere 14 inches of rainfall annually. Anaheim was the site of the Irrigation Association Conference and Exhibition this past Nov. 2-4. To everyone's surprise, two of the three mornings of the event, it rained at the Convention Center there.

Meanwhile, I'm talking with Ed Klaas, president of the Georgia Irrigation Association at the event, and he's telling me that Atlanta and the rest of north Georgia, which averages more than 50 inches of rain annually, is still in a drought. In fact, Lake Lanier, the manmade reservoir northeast of Atlanta and the city's primary source of drinking water, is at a record low. It's lower in fact than last December when the local news media was writing almost daily about the lingering dry spell and its affect on the region, and especially on the Green Industry there.

The Atlanta drought, which continues, is now old news. Even the media says so in a recent article in the local press. Click on the headline for the latest on the drought. — Ron Hall

Monday, November 03, 2008

Long arm of the law nabs long-ago lawn offender

If you don’t mow your lawn, the long arm of the law will track you down and put you in jail, which begs the question: Is there a statute of limitations for not mowing your lawn?

MyFox Atlanta reports Amy Parker, a resident of Gainesville, GA, was arrested this past Friday because of a complaint and a fine arising from not mowing her yard four years ago. Apparently a neighbor complained, resulting in the violation.

Parker, according to the article, still owed $35 (apparently an “office fee”) after paying the $290 fine for not keeping her lawn mowed. She paid the fine but says she didn’t know about the “office fee.”

The law certainly hadn’t forgotten. And, counting up penalties, that fee had risen 10-fold to $325, and a judge (and this is tough for me to believe) signed a warrant for her arrest.

Parker ended up spending four days in jail until her husband could pay the fine, said Fox News

Reminds me of the parking ticket I failed to pay in Fremont, OH, back in the day (way back in the day). I forgot about the ticket, which I think was just a dollar or two. I might have tossed it or I might have forgotten to pay it; I don’t remember.

But I do remember that I had forgotten about it until weeks later when a deputy sheriff came knocking on my apartment door with a warrant.

That one unpaid parking ticket cost me a morning in court, a day of work and a $16 fine, which was a lot of money for me then. (After reading about Amy Parker, I now consider myself pretty darn lucky I didn’t get some serious jail time.)

Click on the headline to see a video of Amy Parker, who seems like a nice person, in her own defense.

— Ron Hall

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Huge new source of fresh water discovered in Oregon mountains

While the U.S. Southwest looks to a future of continued population growth and development but no substantial increase in fresh water supplies — indeed projections are for a reduced supply of fresh water due to climate change — a huge underground reservoir of fresh water has been discovered in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

The stockpile stores close to seven years’ worth of Oregon rain and snow and is like to become increasingly precious, given the West’s continued growth.

The U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University say the water has been collecting in cracks and fissures in the young (less than 1 million years old) volcanic rock in a large swath of Oregon and northern California.

The cache of water is being described as “one of the biggest groundwater known in a mountainous region anywhere on the planet” — in effect a huge sponge.

Click on the headline to read more about the underground discovery courtesy of oregonlive.com.

Plant breeder Crystal Rose-Fricker gets props from the Crop Science Society of America

If you plant turfgrass, renovate it, fertilize it or mow it, you owe the small fraternity of U.S. turfgrass breeders a big thanks. These are the folks that love working and improving the most valuable landscape plant in the United States. Without them, you’d be out of a job.

Mitch Lies, a reporter who often writes about turfgrass for the Capital Press in Salem, OR, in the heart of the nation’s turfgrass production region, wrote a recent excellent article focusing on Crystal Rose-Fricker, plant breeder and president of Pure-Seed Testing.

In the article she points to the development of Aurora Gold, a turftype tall fescue with natural tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate, as one of her most gratifying projects. Not only is she talented, she’s persistent. It took her 10 years to develop Aurora Gold.

Click on the headline to read about Crystal Rose-Fricker’s work and the well-deserved recognition she recently received at the recent Crop Science Society of America meeting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How do you steal 120 tons of road salt?

Tovar Snow Professionals, headquartered in the west Chicago suburb of Elgin, IL, recently discovered that somebody made off with 120 tons of road salt from its Aurora storage facility, according to the Chicago Tribune. That's enough salt to fill six semi-trucks. The salt, as any snow management professional will tell you, has become an expensive commodity. The value of the stolen salt was listed at $32,000, according to the article, which is available by clicking on the headline above.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Florida landscaper decides to grow his own fuel

Tired of those high prices at the pump? Brian Shank, president of Clermont Scapes, a landscape company based in Groveland, FL, was.

He says he's planting a 22-acre crop of a desert-native plant known as jatropha to make biofuel for his equipment.

According to an article posted at gas2.org, he figures he can get about 1,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per harvest from the jatropha, which offers significantly more energy bang for the buck than the same amount acreage planted in corn.

Click on the headline for the article and the comments it generated.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The unexpected kindness of strangers

Just about the time you’re thinking that everybody is out for themselves and don’t give a crap about anybody else, something happens to recharge your faith in people’s kindness and generosity.

An article on tampabay.com by talented reporter Erin Sullivan brightened our day recently.

Briefly: Joseph Prudente, a 66-year-old grandfather, was jailed without bail on Friday Oct. 10 because he wasn’t keeping his lawn in good shape. Apparently it was brown and not being taken care of, which didn’t sit well with the homeowners’ association where it was located. It seems Prudente had fallen on hard times and didn’t have the money to care for the lawn.

The next morning Andy Law, who lived in a nearby community, read about Prudente being hauled off to the slammer, and it really ticked him off. He rounded up some equipment, and other folks, including a Pasco County commissioner, started showing up and fixing the lawn. By 6 p.m. the volunteers had replaced the brown grass, fixed the sprinkler system and planted flowers.

The next day, the sheriff, after a brief court hearing in which a representative from the homeowners’ association confirmed the lawn had been improved, let Prudente out of jail.

Click on the headline for Erin Sullivan’s article. It will gladden your day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cry for universal lawn care raised again during campaign

Columnist and University of North Carolina professor Mike Adams says that in spite of candidates' promises, preventative lawn care remains out of reach for most American families.

Will the winner of the approaching presidential election finally initiate a plan to make lawn care universally available? he asks.

In part he writes:

"Well we can't afford another disappointing charade in 2008 and 2009 and 2010. It's not only tiresome, it's wrong. Wrong when a home-owner cannot hire the child next door because he cannot afford the bill that comes with it. Wrong when 46 million Americans have no lawn care at all. In a country that spends more on lawn care than any other nation on Earth, it's just wrong.
And we can do something about it.

"In recent years, what's caught the attention of those who haven't always been in favor of reform is the realization that this crisis isn't just morally offensive, it's economically untenable. For years, the can't-do crowd has scared the American people into believing that universal lawn care would mean socialized lawn care, burdensome taxes, rationing - that we should just stay out of the way, let the market do what it will, and tinker at the margins."

Weigh in and support our drive to provide affordable, universival lawn care for U.S. homeowners.

Click on the headline and let Adams know that you're with us 100%.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bird feed could be spreading noxious weeds

Lots of Americas like to put out bird feed to attract song birds. What they probably don't realize is that they could be helping to spread noxious weeds. No kidding. The Weed Science Society of America issued the news release below.

In studies at Oregon State University, scientists examined 10 brands of wild bird feed commonly sold in retail stores. The samples contained seeds from more than 50 weed species – including 10 ranked among Oregon’s most noxious weeds. Each brand tested contained weed seeds, with six different weed species found in half or more of the samples.

“Once a weed seed drops from the feeder to the ground and sprouts, it has the potential to flower and spread,” said Dr. Jed Colquhoun, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, formerly with Oregon State University. “In fact, when we informally questioned landowners and farmers to investigate the spread of a relatively new weed in the Pacific Northwest – velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) – we found it is growing in the soil beneath backyard bird feeders.”

In a short-term study of what happens when stray bird feed drops to the soil, about 30 weed species sprouted in just 28 days. Between three and 17 weed species grew from each of the 10 brands of feed tested.

So how can you minimize the spread of new or invasive weeds that originate in bird feed? There are several simple strategies to consider:

Use a tray attachment under your feeder to keep seeds off the ground.
Select foods that won’t sprout, such as sunflower hearts, peanuts, peanut butter, raisins, mealworms and plain suet cakes.
Look for treated wild bird food mixtures. Many manufacturers are now baking their products to kill weed seeds, using guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So read product labels carefully to make certain you buy a treated brand.
Keep an eye out for weeds under your feeder and pull them before they can flower and spread.
If you use a wild bird food blend that contains a variety of seeds, contact the producer or talk to your local retailer to discuss what measures are taken to ensure the product is free of invasive weed seeds.
Jed Colquhoun was lead researcher for the bird feed study in cooperation with Carol Mallory-Smith, a professor at Oregon State University. The Agricultural Research Foundation at Oregon State University funded the work.

Ten Noxious Weeds Found in the Bird Seed Evaluated in the Oregon Study:

Buffalobur (Solanum rostratum Dunal)
Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Dodder (Cuscuta spp.)
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Jointed goatgrass (Aegilops cylindrica)
Kochia (Kochia scoparia)
Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris)
Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Americans entitled to government-funded lawn care?

Jon Delaney of Springfield, VA, in a recent letter to the Culpeper Star Exponent newspaper asked our national leaders in this election season to do something about the disgraceful situation of Americans being forced to provide their own lawn care.

In part he wrote:

"It is my belief that everyone who must perform lawn care should have this basic need fulfilled. Some argue that it is the homeowner’s choice to live where lawn care is required. The argument follows that if one does not want to be bothered by lawn care, one should not buy a house.

"Surely it is a patriotic duty to pay more taxes to help our brothers and sisters maintain their lawns as there are millions of Americans afflicted by this abandonment by their government."

We think he has a great idea (wink, wink) , but tell us what you think.

Read the letter (and the responses it got) by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Spring-Green reaching clients with podcasts

Spring-Green, the Illinois-based, lawn care franchisor, is now offering podcasts containing information about seasonal landscape care — watering, mowing, raking leaves, shrub care, you name it.

The most recent "Lawn Talk" podcast (click on the headline), features Harold Enger, the company's director of training and support, offering autumn tree and lawn care advice. Enger has more than 30 years in the business so he knows what he is talking about.

We think this is a neat way to provide information to consumers. Way to go Spring-Green.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What are neighbors for. . . .?

More than two years have passed since the city of London, in Canada’s Ontario Province, passed a bylaw to outlaw lawn pesticides. Several local professional lawn care service providers vigorously defended their right to use chemical products in this city of about 350,000 people that is located midway between Detroit and Toronto. In the end they lost that battle.

Now the city says it's time to begin enforcing the ban and it looks like it will rely upon neighbors squealing upon each other. Not only will neighbors be expected to rat out neighbors,they’ll also be asked if they’re willing to testify if the matter ends up in a court, according to an article (click on the headline) in the Sept. 22 issue of the London Free Press newspaper.

If that weren’t enough, the city could even go to the lengths of testing the suspected malefactor’s lawn for evidence of pesticide use, which could cost the property owner (the squealee) several hundred dollars.

Wow, talk about putting some extra excitement into neighborhood block parties.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NOXFOX tees up its mower emissions fix

The recently announced U.S. EPA rules to reduce emissions from small gasoline engines (under 25-hp) don't go into effect until 2011 for lawn and garden equipment, but at least one company has already stepped forward to address the problem. Mempro Ceramics Corporation, based in Akron, OH, says its "revolutionary brand of catalytic filters" destroys pollutants emitted by small gasoline engines. The brand name of the filters is NOXFOX.

We're not experts on emission controls so we'll let the following description from the company's Web site explain how NOXFOX does it:

"The NOXFOX brand incorporates patented nanotechnology in the form of ceramic fibers with diameters averaging one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair. The high-surface-area ceramic nanofibers hold nanoparticles of platinum, palladium, rhodium, and other catalysts, which are instrumental in the destruction of NOx, CO, and HC. Since the catalyzed ceramic nanofibers provide large catalytic surface area, there is maximum catalyst-exhaust contact and minimum exhaust resistance."

The company says it will have a booth at the GIE+Expo in Louisville, Oct. 23-25. If you're interested in learning more about the product, click on the headline.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stricter emission standards will raise costs of mowers

Expect to pay 18% more for your mowers once the new U.S. EPA emission rule for mowers with gasoline-powered engines under 25-hp takes effect in 2011, predicts the California Air Resources Board. That’s in addition to inflation, of course.
The EPA announced earlier this month that all lawn and garden equipment of less than 25 hp must reduce emissions by 35% by 2011. It’s likely manufacturers will have to equip mowers and other gasoline-engine lawn equipment with catalytic converters to meet EPA’s new emission rule.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

For sale: The White House Lawn on eBay

Want to buy a piece of the White House lawn? You can on eBay. A 1'-1' parcel costs $10. You can buy larger parcels, up to and including a 10'x 10' square. That will set you back $1,000.

Not that FedEx or UPS is going to showi up at your front door with a box of sod even after you finish your transaction on PayPal. You will be buying virtual lawn and not the real stuff. But the sale will be real in the sense that you'll be paying (or donating if that sounds better) real money. After you purchase your piece of the White House lawn you will be expected to give it back to the American people to be converted to a new food garden in 2009.

The Great White House Lawn Sale is the idea Roger Doiron of an organization known as Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI). Doiron, on KGI's Web site, describes himself as “Compost-Pile-Turner-in-Chief”.

KGI is a 501c3 non-profit founded in Maine with more than 7000 gardeners in 100 countries. Its mission is to empower individuals, families and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home cooking and sustainable local food systems.

“A purchase of the First Lawn with proceeds going to a global gardening charity makes a unique gift. Donors/buyers will receive a weblink to a ‘certificate of ownership' that they can download and customize in a friend or loved one's name,” according to KGI's Web site.

The KGI is promoting its sale of the White House lawn in hopes of convincing the next U.S. President to remove some of the White House lawn and converting it to a food garden to promote the idea of home gardens and locally grown produce.

If you're interested in buying a virtual chunk of the White House lawn, click on the headline for the eBay listing.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Brickman Group, others fix up Ohio VFW landscape

The following article appeared in the Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram on Aug. 31.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 received an overdue landscape upgrade from the Brickman Groups’ Cleveland West office in Avon, a project employees completed as the company’s annual Founders Day Project.

Post Commander Gene O’Quinn reached out to Brickman, and employees responded in a big way by cleaning up the area, which was sparsely landscaped with a few overgrown shrubs and empty beds full of weeds. With donations from Kurtz Brothers, Alpha Lawn Care, Worchesters Sales and Service, Best Truck Equipment, Willoway Nurseries, Davis Tree Farm and Pinehaven Greenhouses, Brickman installed a whole new landscape.

“We really felt strongly about, knowing we are helping those who have given so much in serving our country,” said Project Manager Ryan Marhefka of Brickman.

“Most of our guys had fathers and grandfathers who have served overseas, and this was something we could all stand behind and be proud showing how much we appreciated their sacrifice,” Branch Manager Matt Krems said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mosquitoes unfazed by non-treatments

If you’re a business owner and you see an attractive, confident young lady dressed in business attire purposefully striding your way with tv cameraman in tow, that’s probably not good news.

That’s what the management of a New York lawn and tree company discovered when television reporter Tappy Phillips showed up.

It seems the owner of a nice home in Long Island had hired the company for three “Skeeter d’feater” treatments. But even after the treatments the owner complained the mosquitoes were still biting him.

It turns out with good reason.

Security cameras looking over the homeowner’s front and back yards revealed that the lawn care company’s spray technician on the final of the three treatments on Aug. 6 merely got out of his service truck and planted a couple of yard markers indicating that the property had been treated for mosquitoes. Then he got back into the truck and drove away without so much as touching the spray equipment.

The local ABC affiliate aired Tappy Phillip's report, which turned out to be three minutes of bad publicity for the local lawn care company. The company refunded the property owner's payment of $263 for the non-treatment.

Click on the headline to see Tappy Phillips' interview with the property owner and one of the managers of the lawn care company on 7online.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Neat blog in Spanish by a Puerto Rican pro

Raul Feliciano,CLM, is a landscape pro in Puerto Rico that knows his stuff. A college graduate, he has a certificate in Commercial Horticulture/Landscape Management from the NY Botanical Garden.

He's also the author of the only blog on his lovely island that's devoted to horticulture. (At least the only one we're aware of, that is.)

While it's been 40 years since I spent a year studying and teaching English in Bogota, Colombia, and my Castellano is admittedly weak, I could still understand enough of Feliciano's Spanish-language blog to recommend it to your Spanish-speaking workers. I think they would enjoy it and learn something too.

If the link above doesn't work (click on the headline), here's the url for the blog — endemismotrasnochado.blogspot.com. I know that works because I've tried it a couple of times.

— Ron Hall

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cacti rustlers target Palm Desert, CA

Cactus rustling isn’t new to the arid Southwest. Folks have been lifting beautiful specimen plants from public lands for a long, long time, and it's very difficult to control. Recently it’s been making news in upscale Palm Desert, CA. Thieves are targeting cacti planted on city properties, in resorts, on golf courses and just about anywhere they’re planted. It seems the cactus of choice is the golden barrel cactus, according to a recent article by the Associated Press.
The problem has gotten so bad that people are installing surveillance cameras to deter thieves. Apparently some cacti are also being implanted with microchips with barcodes that can be scanned, says the AP.
Other popular desert plants being targeted by thieves include agaves and Mexican fan palms.
To get an idea of the scale of the thievery click on the headline and read the recent Associated Press article. You’ll be surprised by the boldness of the cacti rustlers.
After I posted this I noticed I've written several blogs recently about the theft of landscape plants. I think I'll look for more positive news to post here for a while.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Murray's blog tells how he built the Olympic baseball fields

Murray Cook has one of the most interesting jobs in the world. He travels the globe installing baseball fields and teaching other people how to install and maintain baseball fields. This year he's been spending a lot of his time in Beijing. When you watch the Olympic baseball competition you will be seeing Cook's handiwork — the baseball fields. He had a similar role at the Melbourne Australia and the Athens Greece games.

Murray runs the Sports Turf Division of The Brickman Company. He also works for MLB Commissioner's Office as a field and stadium consultant. He has been taking care of baseball fields since 1974.

In recent years he has been averaging 300,000 air miles annually, traveling to exotic locations to build baseball fields.

If you want to get a flavor for what Murray does and see some fascinating images of the Olympics, check out Murray's blog at — groundskeeper.mlbblogs.com.

Murray's favorite hobby? According to his blog it's "staying at home."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thievery is always a concern in this business

The Kitsap (WA) Sun newspaper reported on a strange theft the other day. A landscaper there reported that the 50 two-gallon barberry plants he installed on a property on Aug. 4 were dug up and stolen by the next day.

Shortly after replanting them he discovered that 40 of that second batch of shrubs had been stolen, as well. It seems the thief (or thieves) damaged some of the property's irrigation during the heist.

Plant thefts aren't that uncommon, but much more common is the theft of landscape equipment, especially trailers containing mowers, trimmers and other power equipment. Chains and locks aren't much of a deterrent to knowledgeable and determined thieves.

I've also heard of thefts of equipment from trade shows, generally as the equipment is parked waiting to be unloaded onto a trade show floor. Thieves know when trade shows are starting and they're ready to lift and drive away with any equipment that isn't being tended.  — Ron Hall

Thursday, July 31, 2008

One very expensive mowing lesson

While I enjoy playing 9 holes from time to time, I’m not a good golfer. I usually play at a local municipal course. My favorite hole is #5, a long par-5 with an expansive fairway that’s pretty difficult to miss. Even by me.

But I miss it on occasion nevertheless, and, a couple of years ago, darn near took out the windshield of an approaching Buick with a wicked slice. The driver of the car, I’m pretty sure, never realized what a close call he had. Now I wait until no cars or trucks are approaching before I tee off on #5.

That memory came to mind as I read a recent article in the Vineland (NJ) Daily Journal.

The article reported on the $725,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by a motorist who was injured when a golf ball flew through his car window. The ball was launched not by a golfer but by a commercial mower during the routine maintenance of a nearby residential lawn.

The court ruled that the homeowner and the mowing company shared some of the blame for the plaintiff’s injuries because they should have surveyed the lawn and removed the ball before allowing the mowing. They were ordered to pay $37,500 each. The golf and country club got rocked for $650,000 because it did not have netting in place to keep golf balls from leaving its property.

Click on the headline to read the article. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reel Earth-friendly mowing

Despite relocating their business from Seattle to Meridian, Idaho, a couple of teenage boys are finding success with an environmentally friendly landscape company. From the Idaho Statesman:
Last year, while living in Seattle, Blake, 17, and Brandon Skenandore, 16, started Join Earth Green, a zero-emission lawn care business, which is green-speak for "people-powered push reel lawn mower."
"We call it the bad haircut that saves the planet," said Blake. A push reel mower may not give a golf course-worthy trim, but it is better for the lawn, the environment and the pocketbook.
In their first year of business the brothers picked up more than two dozen clients. "A gas mower creates as much pollution as running eight cars. We saved 22,000 car miles in pollution in our first year," Brandon said.
Since moving to Meridian five months ago, the brothers have been looking for new clients, not only to earn money, but also to do their part to improve air quality and the environment.
— Mike Seuffert

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brickman employees die in bus accident

Two Brickman employees died in a freak accident on a sightseeing bus on July 11. The Loudon Times reported the story:

Josh Stoll, 24, of Sterling, and Mike Feiock, 35, of Centreville, struck a metal rod under the 11th Street overpass as the sightseeing bus headed down Dwight D. Eisenhower Freeway from a tailgating party at RFK to Nationals Stadium for a baseball game.

"I was right next to them on the bus," said Sheila Christensen, an administrator at landscaping firm Brickman Group, where the two men also worked. "We had gone through two other underpasses and they had reached up with their arms extended and touched the underpass. That's why we didn't know there was any danger, because we had already gone under two and there was plenty of room. When they saw the bridge coming, they didn't duck because it was the same height as the other two."

Christensen said that the 11th Street underpass, however, had a "steel pole" that was not immediately visible and apparently protruded from under the underpass ceiling.

Our sympathies to the victims' personal and professional families. — LM Staff

Fert prices going higher, higher

I hope that Wayne Horman of Scotts Turf-Seed is wrong but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Horman was quoted in The Capital Times newspaper (Madison, WI) as predicting that the price of fertilizer is going to skyrocket.
He said that urea has gone from costing $200 a ton last year to $790 a ton., and it may approach as much as $1,000 a ton.

Is the lawn care industry as we’ve come to know it going, going, gone?

It’s time to reinvent the lawn care business model.

Click on the headline for the article in The Capital Times. — Ron Hall

Thursday, July 03, 2008

More good deeds

I don't think this industry get's enough credit for all the good work it does. Not only do landscapers and lawn care operators keep our lawns looking beautiful, but the people who make up this industry continue to be extremely generous. There's Green Care for Troops, our recent post about Hope In Bloom, and now this from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Scott Reinblatt, founder of Big Blue Sky Landscaping, is behind the all-day landscaping event in which his company will mow, trim, edge, and organically fertilize a lawn for $125, money that will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Homeowners will also receive a landscape management care guide, sponsors say."
The event will take place on July 12. The goal is to raise $2,500 for breast cancer research. Think about helping out or holding a similar event in your community. Not only is it good for some PR, but it's good for the soul.
— Mike Seuffert

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hope in Bloom for cancer patients

Here's an article featuring a landscape professional with a heart of gold. It appeared in the Monday, June 23, issue of the Norwood, MA, Daily News Transcript.

WALPOLE — Brenda Cooke is helping to change the landscape for local cancer patients - literally.

She is a landscaper who has donated her time to a nonprofit organization called Hope In Bloom that plants gardens in the yards of people fighting cancer.

Friday, Cooke, a Walpole resident herself, replanted gardens around the pool of breast cancer patient Lynne Bean of Ponderosa Lane in Walpole.

Cooke said the flowers serve as powerful symbolic inspiration. The perennials that are planted show cancer patients that they, like the new flowers in their yard, can bloom again. They encourage people to stick it out through difficult times, as the flowers do in winter, because spring is inevitable.

"Fresh cut flowers are an expression of love," she said. "It's a gift of life."

Bean was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2005. While she was being treated, a former co-worker told Hope In Bloom about Bean.

She said she is "deeply grateful for (Cooke's) willingness to donate her time."

Bean calls herself a survivor, but she said she still needs to make regular visits to the hospital for treatment. The new garden, she said, will surely help her continued recovery.

Cooke met with Bean about a month ago to discuss themes for the garden. After looking at catalogs and various sketches, Bean decided on a beach theme with a pink and lime green color scheme.

Cooke then went to work finding flowers and tall grasses to make the vision a reality.

Her work doesn't stop with planting flowers.

By weeding, clearing out space in the garden, tending to window boxes, rearranging furniture and building a lattice to hide pool equipment, Cooke worked to create a "clean, brightened space to enjoy" as well.

"Plants are very therapeutic," Cooke explained. "When the landscaping goes astray, it affects you emotionally and psychologically."

Straightening out a yard, she added, brings a patient "back into emotional balance."

A yard can fall into disorder because keeping it neat is not a priority for a patient undergoing treatment.

Survival was the top-priority when Bean was diagnosed with cancer, she said. She only attended to the "bare necessities" of life.

Along with being weak with illness, a cancer patient tends to spend time with family and devotes financial resources to children and costly treatments.

"It's a family situation," Cooke said. "It's a home situation."

As a cancer patient, you don't "have time to enjoy your landscaping, let alone make it enjoyable."

Bean is married with three children - Lauren, 9, Danny, 11, and Steven, 13.

Hope In Bloom has given her more than just a landscaper. Bean has found a confidant in Cooke.

The landscaper became involved with Hope in Bloom after losing her mother to breast cancer. Her mother, she said, taught her everything she knew about gardening. Cooke said it was an especially difficult time toward the end as the two looked out the window to a yard that had fallen into disarray since they had last devoted time together gardening it.

Cooke's father is also currently in a battle with cancer.

She also started a company, Gardens With Spirit (gardenswithspirit.com), that creates gardens with the aim of cultivating the mind and the soul.

Roberta Herson started Hope In Bloom last year when she lost her best friend, also a gardener, to breast cancer.

Three dozen gardens have been installed, but there are more than 100 requests from all over Massachusetts to attend to.

Today, Cooke and others in the organization are looking for volunteers, especially men, to help with the landscaping and for donations to purchase flowers and plants from nurseries. Donations can be made by consulting the group's Web site, hopeinbloom.org.

"People need to know they can make an impact," Cooke said. The impact they make is personal as well. Money isn't being given to a faceless organization. Like helping the Beans in East Walpole, she said, one would be "making a donation to your neighbor."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Congo put down after one attack too many

Congo the German shepherd made one attack too many — this one injuring and sending the 75-year-old mother of its owner to a hospital.

Congo, of course, is the big dog that chewed up 42-year-old landscape worker, Giovanni Rivera, almost exactly a year ago. He and four other workers came to work on the property of Guy and Elizabeth James in Princeton Township, NJ, that morning when he was attacked by the dog and several of its offspring. Rivera required surgery to patch up his wounds and eventually ended up with a $250,000 settlement.

When the judge hearing the case against Congo last summer, ruled that the dog was a “vicious” dog and should be put down, thousands of Congo’s supporters weighed in to save his life, many claiming that the dog was just protecting its owner from a perceived threat.

Take your pick — either Congo was, in fact, a vicious dog or he perceived that the 75-year-old mother of its owner, Elizabeth James, was a threat when he attacked her.

The family had the dog and his three offspring euthanized this week. According to news reports of the dogs’ death (there were many), their owner Guy Games denied the dogs attacked his mother-in-law. He insisted that they jumped on her “in play.” — Ron Hall

Monday, June 16, 2008

A lighter look at water shortages

Last week California's Governator declared the state was in an official drought and ordered water be transported to the driest areas.

This is a very serious problem and could have a major impact on landscapers and others in the Green Industry. With that in mind, my favorite fake-news source, The Onion, provided a list of ways for California to conserve water, including:

  • Gardeners must haul their own water from Mexico

  • Upon the conclusion of each Shamu Show at San Diego's SeaWorld, all persons seated in the Splash Zone must wring out their wet clothes over the lip of the orca tank

  • Wildfires only allowed to rage out of control on odd-numbered days

  • Top scientific minds will be summoned to see if they can somehow utilize the immense body of water immediately to the state's left

  • Click here to see the whole list.

    — Mike Seuffert

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    J-1 visas and student workers just don't cut it

    I read with great interest a recent article in the Vineland (MA) Gazette that told how businesses on Martha’s Vineyard are surviving in spite of not getting all the H-2B seasonal guest workers they wanted.

    The headline suggested that the businesses have been able to hire enough employees for the tourist season in spite of failure of Congress to expand the H=2B program. And in spite of a chamber of commerce official saying that local businesses were anticipating a shortage of about 1,200 workers this summer.

    Martha’s Vineyard, of course, is one of America’s busiest and most popular summer resorts.

    As I scanned the headline I wondered, wow, am I missing something here? Could my landscape friends be overstating their need for seasonal workers? Could it be that the H-2B program, as some its critics whine, takes jobs away from our young people and other U.S. citizens desiring employment?

    Nobody wants to see that, right?

    As it turns out, neither is the case. And, the H-2B critics are, in fact, just whining.

    The article described how some of the island businesses acquired workers through J-1 visas that allow foreign students to work seasonally in the United States. Others hired local students (mostly high schoolers) for jobs such as bussing tables, cleaning guest rooms, etc.

    We’ve talked to a lot of landscape business owners these past few years and while many are doing fine with local help, many others have had little or no success attracting reliable local workers, students or otherwise. Often, again in the face of criticism of the H-2B program, at wages considerably better than those at a fast food joint.

    Let me just state — the J-1 program doesn't work for landscape production because these foreign students generally take off in September or October, just when most landscape companies have recovered their costs and are ready to burn rubber in hopes of making their profit for the season.

    Local high students, you say? How many do you know that aren’t involved with summer sports, band or working in internships? Darn few are willing to work five or six long hot days in a row through the course of a season. That’s what I’m told.

    The J-1 program works fine for amusement parks and tee-shirt shacks that are busy during the relatively short summer season. After Labor Day these businesses generally don’t need as much help so they don’t mind if these workers take off.

    The landscape business is a longer, harder pull. It takes a tougher worker, and a worker that shows up long before the summer tourists arrive and is still producing through most of the fall.

    The H-2B seasonal guest worker program remains one of the few programs instituted and administered by our federal government that actually works just as intended. Too bad it isn’t being expanded. — Ron Hall

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Sticking to his guns on an unpopular issue

    Dan Gardner is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. To my knowledge Dan’s salary is not tied in any way to the agrichemical industry, and I suspect that the newspaper he works for is not dependent upon that same industry for advertising revenue. I can’t say that’s the case categorically since I don’t read the Ottawa Citizen.

    Several weeks ago Gardner wrote a column essentially saying that he was satisfied with the findings of a Health Canada review finding that “ there is reasonable certainty that no harm to human health, future generations or the environment will result from use of exposure” to 2,4-D. That herbicide, of course, has been subjected to more studies than just about any other chemical product you can think of the past 60 years or so since it’s discovery.

    Gardner’s column apparently prompted a “deluge” of emails, from people opposed to the use of pesticides, including herbicide 2,4-D. Rather than retreat from his stance in the face of so negative response, he came back with a second column on the subject Saturday, June 7. The column offers a reasoned explanation of why he feels the way he does about this particular issue.

    My hat is off to Dan Gardner, not as much for his defense of a particular product or class of products but for being honest with himself and his readers. He didn’t let the unfavorable response to what he wrote change what he feels to be true.

    Click on the headline if you want to read what Dan Gardner wrote on June 6.

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    City's refusal to ban pesticides just delays the inevitable

    In the category of man bites dog in light of the near hysteria over lawn pesticide use that’s infected Canada, the council of Parry Sound, Ontario, turned down a proposal to ban the use of pesticides. The Parry Sound mayor cast the deciding vote.

    It seems that skunks and other critters have been tearing up the city’s cemetery looking for grubs, and the city director of operations wants to knock out the grubs with an insecticide. To appease one particularly persistent pesticide critic, who was quoted in the local Beacon Star News as saying, “:I guess we have to control every aspect of our environment and make it as pristine as possible,” (Hey amigo, it’s a cemetery, so lighten up), the city apparently has agreed to try nematodes to control grubs at the town beach.

    I don’t know what the rush is to enact a pesticide ban in Parry Sound or any other city or village in Ontario anyway. What’s the point? It's all but certain that the entire province, including Parry Sound, will have a ban on the so-called “cosmetic use” of pesticides on lawns in 2009.

    As a point of reference, Parry Sound is a delightful city of about 15,000 people on beautiful Georgian Bay a 2-hour drive north of Toronto, Ontario.

    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Clean Air Lawn Care getting killer press

    Clean Air Lawn Care looks like it might take off. The lawn service company, which is based in Fort Collins, CO, uses electric and biodiesel-fueled equipment to run its equipment. Its maintenance equipment is charged during the day by solar panels mounted on its trucks and at night with conventional energy.

    The company has been getting great press wherever it appears and it's starting to appear outside outside of its home base in Colorado. The company began offering franchises just last year.

    If you're looking for a way to break into the maintenance market and you need a positive marketing hook, you may have found it, assuming you live in a place that gets a fair amount of sunshine. Or you keep some incredibly long extension cords in your service vehicle. (OK, I'm kidding about the cords.)

    While I love the concept, I found the company's Web site, www.cleanairlawncare.com tough to navigate, but you may think it's neat. You can click on the headline to check out the Web site yourself. Go to the news section at the top of the site and see the kind of press it's getting. You might want to see if a franchise has made an appearance in your region yet, too. - Ron Hall

    Better dead than in the red

    Residents of Corona, CA are asking their city leaders to raise landscaping fees. In fact they're trying to force the city into action. Apparently aan earlier effort to raise the fees was voted down. Instead of paying for extra maintenance, the city chose to let grass discolor and die.

    Some residents weren't happy with that solution so they began collecting signatures to force a revote.

    According to the article on The Press-Enterprise Web site, "Corona will begin phasing in more drought tolerant plants and installing more efficient irrigation systems to keep costs down if the voters approve the rate hike. If the voters reject the increase, then the city will begin reducing its level of landscape maintained to close the funding gap."

    For the complete story click here.

    Landscape thieves nab shrubs, gas

    Several homes in Mukwonago, WI, have been targeted by thieves who are making away with trees, flowers and shrubs.

    According to Newsradio 620 in Wisconsin: Elsie Roth had her newly planted tress, shrubs and flowers dug up and stolen. 25 holes were found all around Roth's condo complex.

    "Just a little bit surprised," Roth said.  "This is something unusual. I don't know of any other time someone has taken landscaping out of the ground right after it's been planted."

    If that’s not enough, we have a report from Vancouver, WA, where a fuel tank at a landscaping company was targeted. Thieves got away with nearly $3,000 worth of gas.

    — Mike Seuffert

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Wow, this industry has lots of wage-hour violations

    DES MOINES, IA — The feds are finding lots of wage violations among landscape/lawn service companies, says Percella Maupins, the wage hour district director for the U.S. Labor Department. In Iowa, 56% of the companies that have been checked have been in violation of wage-hour regulations. These include failure to comply with federal minimum wage and overtime pay regulations, reported Matt Kelley of Iowa Radio on May 7. (Click on headline for full article.)

    She reminds employers that they're required to pay time-and-a-half the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. And, don't just hand employees cash for the extra work. That’s a big no no.

    Another thing to be aware of — children under the age of 16 are forbidden from using motorized equipment, including lawn mowers and trimmers.

    If you’re not certain what is and what isn’t allowed in terms of wage-hour regulations, visit the Web site www.wsagehour.dol.gov and find out. — Ron Hall

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Tiny gas protest..hey, at least they made an effort

    As protests go, this one is strictly small time. But it reflects what anybody who runs a route service business is feeling right now.

    Earl Humphreys who runs a small lawn care company called Lawn Boyz in eastern Tennessee organized a gas protest on May 5. He and a handful of owners and workers at other lawn care companies held up signs along several highways in the Tri-Cities. The signs urged passing motorists to "hold leaders accountable."

    Humphreys told a reporter for News Channel 11 he's spending more than $100 a day in fuel to run his company's mowers and other equipment. And that's just for 46 accounts, according to the news account. He says if fuel goes to $4 a gallon he's thinking about getting out of the business.

    I applaud Humphreys and his colleagues for making their feelings known, but it's going to take something a whole lot bigger to stop these runaway fuel prices. Maybe something like the trucker's strike in 1974 or so on the Ohio Turnpike.

    I was a newspaper photographer at the time and was sent scurrying on one fine summer morning to photograph the huge stoppage of traffic on the always-busy Ohio Turnpike. Truckers, disgusted with fuel shortages and high fuel prices caused by OPEC's oil embargo, had parked their trucks on the turnpike and blocked traffic for hours and hours. Ribbons of trucks and cars backed up for miles and miles and miles. Nobody could budge. By mid-afternoon a large swath of the turnpike had turned one of the world's largest parking lots. That got everybody's attention.

    Strangely these days everybody, including truckers, seem to be meekly accepting the escalating fuel prices (Humphreys and his colleagues the exception). Unless we start using energy wiser and collectively decrease demand for gasoline and diesel, prices will keep going up, up, up. — Ron Hall

    Click on the headline for the short article about Earl and his colleagues. It appeared on the TriCities.com.

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Manatees should be rescued, never eaten

    Bert’s Bar & Grill in Matlacha, FL, is the kind of joint you would hope to stumble onto assuming you were lucky enough to stumble onto a real, old-time, authentic Florida fishing village. No high-rise condos. No gated, palm-lined communities with names like “Waiting for Heaven” or “Sunstroke Paradise.” No incredibly manicured golf course with greens fees approaching an editor’s weekly take-home.

    I was in luck this week as, driving with my son and his wife to a popular seafood restaurant on Pine Islan, in Lee County in SW Florida, we passed Bert’s and seeing cars lined up and town the main village street, figured this must be the place to stop after dinner.Turns out it was.

    The place, built sometime in the 1930s as a "sweet shoppe", when the tiny village of Matlacha (prounounced ˆmat-la-shay) was little more than a row or two of shanties and small houses (which is still is with little more than 700 residents), is wonderfully time-beaten and, on most nights, beerily cheerful. This particular evening a 3-piece combo called the Yard Dogs was thumping and plucking away, much to the noisy delight of a the Baby Boomer crowd, the first wave of the Baby Boomer crowd and feeling particularly frisky on a cooler-than-usual April evening.

    OK, here’s the hook, as tenuous as it is to the landscape business, which is what this blog is kinda about, right?

    On the wall behind the busy pool table at Bert’s is a sign announcing the annual “Manatee Roast.” And, keeping with the theme, you can pick up a Bert’s tee-shirt that reads “I love Manatees . . .They taste like chicken.” (Darn, meant to get one on the way out, but forgot.)

    As any Floridian or visitor to the state knows, manatees — those huge, doppy, lovable sea cows — are a protected species. They’re a relatively common sight in the rivers and canals in Florida, but prone to get run over and chewed up by speeding power boats, which is not a good thing, especially for the manatees. Obviously, there is no such thing as a Manatee Roast and it’s not likely they taste like chicken anyway, which brings me to lanscaper Kevin McKeever.

    Earlier in April while McKeever was checking out a small drainage ditch near Naples, about an hour and a half drive south of tiny Matlacha, he spotted a baby manatee having a hard time of it. The little fella (165 lbs. and about 5-ft. long) was on his own, and in fact, at a year old, was still nursing. McKeever, realizing the baby was a goner if it didn't get some TLC, called for help.

    Wildlife experts arrived and they finally captured the baby, determined it was badly underweight and needed medical attention and trucked it to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, where it will likely spend a year or so getting nursed back to health before being returned to the wild.

    Mr, McKeever, on my next visit to Bert’s (It's now on my short-list of favorite joints, I’m going to tip a glass to you, for sure. — Ron Hall

    Saturday, April 12, 2008

    He turned in $140,000 in found money . . . and he's still smiling

    Eli Estrada, the 40-year-old landscaper who found $140,000 in unmarked $20s and turned it into police, is somewhat of a celebrity in Southern California. When the word got out about what he'd done, apparently he picked up some new accounts from people impressed with his honesty.

    It turns out the the dough was left on the bumper of a Brinks truck March 11 after a stop at a Bank of America branch in Cerritos. (IHmm, I wonder how the job market is for a couple of ex-Brinks truck guys in Southern California?)

    Estrada found the money on the street and admits to wresting over what to do with it before turning it in. I get a picture of a little white angel with wings on one of Eli's shoulder and a little red devil with pitchfork on the other, both of them taking turns on his head before the angel pulls out a huge wooden mallet and bonks the devil over the head.

    Click on the headline and you can see Eli's smiling face. He and his partner run a company called Turf Turf in Orange County. At least that's what his shirt says.

    Eli you're going to have to do a lot of landscaping to clear $140,000 in tax free profit . . . but you did the right thing!

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Town says "no" to landscaper's short green skirt

    The United Press International reports that Jay Herrod, the professional landscaper that wears a short green skirt when he's mowing, is going to have put on some pants. Officials in Clinton, LA, on Thursday, April 10, denied his request to wear the skirt while he's working . . . oh, that awful nasty heat rash! — Ron Hall

    Woolly lawnmowers

    The Guardian reports: In a bid to keep its municipal lawns trim while saving money, the city of Turin has done away with lawn mowers and brought in 700 sheep to graze in two parks.

    Turin police blocked roads last Thursday as the first flock moved in to tackle the Meisino park, part of a two-month stint which city officials say will save €30,000 (£24,000) on gardeners' fees.

    Shepherds brought up the herd, carrying 16 newly born lambs belonging to the flock, which will now be left to graze at the park on the city's outskirts until the grass is cricket-pitch smooth.

    The scheme was tested last year with cows and sheep, but the cows were not invited back after leaving behind too much dung.

    Click here for the complete article.

    — Mike Seuffert

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    News of the sublime . . .and the utterly ridiculous

    This from the April 9, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle:

    It was a tempting sight for struggling landscaper Eli Estrada: a bag filled with $140,000 on a Cerritos street.
    There was his credit card debt, upcoming wedding and making ends meet with his artificial grass and landscaping business.
    But turning it over to Long Beach police last month was the right thing to do, he said.
    The 40-year-old Estrada admits that some days "I think I was nuts," but he adds, "I know in my gut that to keep that money would be wrong."
    The Bank of America money bag was lost March 11 by Brinks Armored truck drivers. The unmarked $20 bills were bundled into wads of $20,000 and bound for ATMs.
    Long Beach police Sgt. Dina Zapalski says Estrada handed over the money bag to an officer who took a report at one of the landscaper's job sites.
    Brinks later gave him a $2,000 reward.

    And this from ShortNews.com. (Click on the headline for the link if you don’t believe me.)

    Jay Herrod of Clinton, Louisiana is just your typical landscaper who mows other people's yards for a living. However, the manner of dress has some people complaining. That's because Herrod wears a skirt while mowing lawns.
    Herrod says the reasoning for wearing the skirt is because he gets heat rash and that "it allow that area to breathe, and uh, wearing a skirt on the mower allows the sweat to evaporate".
    While customers aren't complaining about his skirt-wearing, the town alderman is, citing Harrod for indecency, under the recent "no sagging pants" ordinance. Harrod says he has a doctor's note about his condition, and that the law shouldn't apply.

    Friday, April 04, 2008

    Congo cheats the executioner

    Congo (aka “The Mauler”) will live. His life has been spared.

    Congo, as you may recall from previous blogs, is the German shepherd that chewed up a landscape worker that arrived in the early morning hours of June 5, 2007, to work on the 10-acre property in Princeton Township, NJ.
    The attack resulted in the Hispanic worker, who apparently spoke little or no English, suffering some horrendous injuries that required hospitalization and lots of stitches and patching.

    Several weeks after the attack, a municipal court judge ruled that Congo was a vicious dog and it looked like Congo was going to be dispatched to that big dogbone in the sky. The dog’s owners mounted a legal campaign to save Congo’s life and dog lovers across the state protested the injustice of dispatching Congo to "a better place," just because he ripped apart an "illegal" worker, in their eyes apparently, little more than a dog chew.

    The court finally ruled that Congo will not be euthanized but that its owners pay $50 fines for Congo and each of the then 3-month-old German shepherd pups that joined in the attack. Also, the dog’s owners are to keep Congo and the other dogs behind a fence on their property, and that the property will be posted with warning signs.

    And so ends the saga of Congo , a case that ignited the passions of dog lovers throughout the state of New Jersey.

    Click on the headline to access the article in April 3 issue of The Times of Trenton. – Ron Hall

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    Grounds guy wins $1 mil but stays on the job

    Donald Nicholas, a seasonal grounds worker at a Staten Island cemetery, won $1 million in the New York Lottery this week. He will be paid $32,251 a year for the next 20 years. Nicholas moved to Staten Island from Harlem three years ago. He says he loves his job and has no plans to quit. Good call. It's probably pretty difficult to live in the NY Metro area on $32,251 a year. Ron Hall

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    President Bush visiting Marty Grunder home

    In his last year in office, President George W. Bush seems to have taken a big interest in the landscape industry. First, he visits Wright Manufacturing Inc. in Maryland where he does a nifty turn on a Wright Stander professional mower (“Fire this sucker up,” he’s reported as exclaiming.). And now he’s visiting the home of Marty and Lisa Grunder near Dayton. Marty, of course, is the owner and founder of Grunder Landscape and a well-known speaker and consultant to the Green Industry.

    Marty’s also a stanch Republican and a frequent contributor to Republican candidates. According to Federal Election Commission records, he’s given more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to Republican candidates in the past seven years.

    The President’s visit on Thursday, March 27, is a fundraiser, costing $1,000 to attend the luncheon reception. For $10,000 an invitee gets a private reception with a photo opportunity with the President, according to reports.

    Marty, contacted late last week, said that the invitees include “leaders in southern Ohio.” Some landscape company owners will reportedly be in attendance, as well.

    Other supporters of Victory 2008, the Ohio GOP’s account for supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming elections — those that can’t attend the fundraiser at the Grunder’s home — are urged to contribute to the cause nonetheless, according to the invitations..

    According to leftyblogs.com, the event co-chairs are listed as: Jim and Janet Dicke, Marty and Lisa Grunder, Bill and Sandy Gunlock and Jane Portman and Rayj and Inu Soin. — Ron Hall

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    Says Brandy: "The check is in the mail"

    I’ don’t who the singer Brandy is or why she is famous. Anyway, I thought some recent publicity involving Brandy was kind of funny, at least the responses to the story about her and a landscaper appearing on a Web site.

    A couple of days ago it was reported that Raymond Soriano Landscape filed a claim in court alleging that Brandy (the singer) owed him $3,567 for work it had done on her California property eight or nine months or so.

    Apparently CelebTV got a hold of the claim and publicized it. Then it was picked up by oh-so-calculatedly hip TMZ, resulting in another media blip.

    Amusing? Not the story so much as the postings about the story on the TMZ Web site. Click on the headline above. At least they amused me...kinduv. Ron Hall

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    It's a gas, gas, gas

    We're finally reaching that tipping point when it comes to fuel prices, that point where we finally change our driving and vehicle-buying habits.

    I'm seeing it at the park & ride where I catch the express bus into downtown Cleveland. There used to lots of extra parking spaces at the Westlake Park & Ride, even for the 8:30 a.m. bus, the last bus to make the run. Now unless you get to the parking lot by 8:00 a.m. you stand a chance of not getting s spot. More people are bussing it.

    If gasoline goes to $3.50 a gallon (which it already has in California and Hawaii)O here's what it costa to fill up a:

    Cadillac Escalade — $108.50.
    Hummer H2 — $112.00
    Ford Expedition — $117.25
    Dodge Ram — $122.50
    Ford F250 pickup — $133

    My guess is gas will go to $4.00 by early summer. But I hope not. — Ron Hall

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    King of the backhoe operators

    I’ve always been in awe of these guys who can operate big, powerful construction equipment likes it’s easiest thing in the world. It could be a big Cat’ dozer or crane or bucket loader, but they jockey these big, powerful units like nothing could be simpler. And for them (wind- and sun-creased, hardhard at a jaunty angle) maybe nothing is.

    But for guys like me that have trouble backing a small boat trailer. . .well.

    That said,, I tip my hat to Nick Market of Windsor, Ontario. The folks at Case presented Nick a 50th anniversary limited-edition Case 580 Super M Series 2 loader/backhoe, valued at nearly $120,000 yesterday.

    Nick won the Case North America Rodeo Series Championship event in Las Vegas where the huge ConExpo equipment trade show is taking place. Nick, who has been at the controls of backhoe/loaders for more than 30 years, beat out more than 4200 other operators in the competition that unfolded over the past year. — Ron

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Ahhh, spring...when lawn care rules

    Grasscycling “new” again

    What is old is suddenly new again. Remember the “Grasscycling” push put on by the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) in the late 1980s and early 1990s? The point of the initiative was to convince homeowners and lawn maintenance pros not to bag their grassclippings and not to truck the lawn waste to landfills. As we all know this is incredibly more costly now because of higher fuel prices and almost universal landfill tipping fees. Grasscycling was one of PLCAA's biggest successes because the message did eventually filter through the media to the public. friend and former technical editor of Landscape Management, Bill Knoop, Ph.D., Texas A&M extension, initiated a similar “Don't Bag It” campaign, with essentially he same message. Grasscycling, a term rarely heard for more than a decade or more, is starting to resonate again, this time in the “green” arena. It has been proven again and again that when clippings are returned to the lawn, some of the nutrients, in particular nitrogen, return to the soil, meaning less fertilizer is needed to keep the grass green and growing.

    Florida county gets tough on ferts

    And finally, I ran across the new law for fertilizing lawn s in Sarasota County in Florida. These types of local laws aimed at lawn fertilizers seem to be cropping up in many parts of the country. These came from a recent article in the Herald Tribune:
    Sarasota County's fertilizer law aims to cut down on the amount of pollution getting into area waterways. Here is a look at what it calls for:
    - It prohibits residents from applying fertilizers that contain nitrogen or phosphorus between June 1 and Sept. 30.
    - It sets maximum levels for the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that legal fertilizers can contain.
    - It sets a fertilizer-free zone within 10 feet of any body of water and creates a voluntary "low maintenance zone" within 6 feet of water bodies.
    - It recommends use of "slow-release fertilizers."
    - It requires fertilizer application companies to create a training course.
    - It sets penalties for violators that start with a warning and rise to $500.

    ServiceMaster spends big bucks

    Business Week recently reported that lawn care and pest-control provider ServiceMaster Co. spent $2.2 million last year to lobby the federal government. The company was acquired in 2007 by private-equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
    ServiceMaster, which owns TruGreen lawn care and Terminix pest control, spent $1 million in the second half of 2007 to lobby Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency, said the magazine.
    ServiceMaster lobbied on parts of the federal farm bill that apply to insecticides and fungicides and on a bill signed by President Bush in October that extended funding for pesticide oversight office.

    Ontario pesticide ban — look out, here it comes!

    The Province of Ontario will almost certainly implement a new provincial pesticide law this year. The Province's environment minister in an interview with the Kingston Whig-Standard newspapers said: “The bottom line is this - we're going to ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides. It's going to supercede any municipal bylaw. It's going to ban the sale of, not just the use of, cosmetic pesticides by the general public, which is what the municipal bylaws speak to.” — Ron Hall

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    One tough "Mole"

    I don’t often write about products in this blog. In fact, I don’t think I ever have — until now. What I want to tell you about is a product so simple (and potentially so useful) that it blew me away at the recent California Landscape Contractors Association Trade Show and Conference in LA.

    The name of the product is the Bullet Mole. My first thought on hearing the name was that the product is something to kill moles. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Actually the Bullet Mole is an incredibly simple tool. That’s what I love about it; that and it gets the job done without a lot of expense and fuss.

    The tool itself looks like a tiny warhead at the end of a metal shaft. This warhead doesn’t explode or anything like that, though, even though it can penetrate and shatter the hardest rock. Made of super tough metal, it makes neat, round openings for installing irrigation pipe and/or wires under sidewalks or driveways. No fuss. No muss.

    Quite simply, you dig a small hole at one end of the sidewalk or driveway insert the Bullet Mole, pointy side in the direction of the sidewalk or driveway, than you whack the butt end of the metal shaft with a sledge hammer and it drives the “Mole” (irrigation pipe surrounding the shaft behind it) under the sidewalk or driveway. The force of the falling sledge hammer is enough to drive the “Mole” through clay, rock, just about any material.

    Check out the “Mole” at http://bulletmole.com.

    (For the record, this product mention was not solicited and was not the result of any freebies or promises by the “Mole” makers and marketers. I just thought it was cool.) — Ron Hall

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Physically fittest lawn business owners ever?

    Robert Johnson and his wife, Cia, started up their own lawn mowing business this year in Columbia, MO. The name of the company is "The Green Team". They advertise an "environmentally friendly" brand of lawn service.

    I'll say.

    They transport their mowing equipment to job sites via a bicycle pulling an 8-t. cargo trailer. They charge a flat rate of $25 per lawn within their marketing area, which I'm thinking is probably as far as they feel like peddling a bicycle with a trailer behind it.

    I'm also thinking these are very young and VERY fit individuals. They mow lawns with reel push mowers, no engines, no fuel, very little noise.

    Wow, would I love for them to mow my neighbor's yard. He doesn't think a thing about cranking up his mower at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings in the summer. The hell with the neighbors. The hell with the noise is this guy's philosophy

    Clicking on the headline will take you to the couple's lawn business Web site. — Ron Hall

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    "The Tea Leaf", one of my favorite enewsletters

    Check out Jeff Thredgold’s enewsletter on his Web site
    http://www.thredgold.com/index.html. Jeff is an economist and also one of the most entertaining speakers you’ll ever get a chance to hear. (I’ve heard him speak on two occasions.) He also produces a fun enewsletter entitled “The Tea Leaf” (it’s free) that provides a weekly look at the state of the ever-changing American economy. Who would think that discussions about GNP could be enjoyable, right? You’ll find yourself looking forward to seeing The Tea Leaf turn up in your email in-box each week. I do. Click on the headline and it’ll take you to Jeff’s Web site. Check it out my friends. — Ron Hall

    Friday, February 15, 2008

    While cruising YouTube I found Ruppert clips

    Under the category of “No Good Deed Should Go Unpunished . . .oops, make that Unappreciated”, I inform you of some good work being done by folks many of us know, or know of — Craig Ruppert and longtime associate Chris Davitt, both of Maryland-based Ruppert Nurseries.

    I found out about these deeds while cruising YouTube, two neat videos. Who would have thought? One 8-minute clip shows Craig and Chris Davitt. The shorter of the two, entitled “Easter Seals Philanthropist of the Year 2007”, features Craig praising the Easter Seals for the help it provided his Down Syndrome younger sister who is now 43, gainfully employed and living a relatively independent life. (This one really hit home for me in that it’s been almost exactly a year ago that Jeffrey Johnson, son of my wife’s best friend, Sandy, died suddenly, Jeff, a Down Syndrome individual, was an incredibly kind, gentle and responsible person and was voted “Employee of the Year” — and it was no gimme — for almost every year he worked at the local Pizza Hut, and he worked there 17 or 18 years. Damn Jeff, we should have played a lot more golf together. When it came to golf carts you were definitely hell on wheels!)

    The second YouTube clip is about 8 minutes long and starts with Chris and Craig telling viewers about Food for the Poor, the third largest charity in the United States that provides a multitude of help, materials and support to the West Indies and Latin America. Every year the two landscape executives plan and promote a trip to Jamaica with family members and friends and help build houses and schools for families there.

    Unfortunately, I came across the YouTube clip too late for this year. This year they went Feb. 15-18. Craig, on the videa, says the two men got involved with Food for the Poor in 1999, so it’s a good bet they’ll be returning again in 2009. You might want to google Food for the Poor to see what kind of work that group is doing. That charity says 96% of what it receives gets passed on to the needy.

    Here are the urls for the two YouTube clips:

    The Easter Seals one is; http://youtube.com/watch?v=4wqLtxMdWCM
    The Food for the Poor One is: http://youtube.com/watch?v=bRpxSbKk_Z0

    Check’em out. Cool stuff. — Ron Hall

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Is this any way to treat a granny?

    Bizarre (but real) news from the whacky world of lawns.

    This past Monday, Feb. 12, grandmother Betty Perry agreed to a last-minute deal with the City of Orem, UT, resulting from her arrest in July 2007. It seems the city was unhappy with Grandma Perry because she hadn't kept her lawn up to its standards. During the process of letting the 70-year-old grandma know just how unhappy it was on that nice day this past July, she and an Orem police officer had some sort of misunderstanding.

    Well, uhmmm, maybe it was more than a mere misunderstanding in that it didn't take long for things to get very unpleasant for Grandma Perry who ended up bruised, bloodied, handcuffed and eventually put into a holding cell. She even had to call her son to bail her out. Hey I'm not making this stuff up.

    OK, so I wasn't there to see how exactly what went on, but I gotta tell you I don't see any reason in the world why a simple matter such as a brown lawn (so what if it had a few weeds in it?) could have led to this whole silly episode. For heaven sakes folks, let's lighten up on the lawn patrol.

    You can read Grandma Perry's side of the story by clicking on the headline above or going to www.lawnlady.info.

    By the way — Go granny go! — Ron Hall

    Wednesday, February 06, 2008

    The Cabaret candidate of Super Tuesday

    While I’m sure there’s many of you out there who are interested in the upcoming presidential election, I realize many of you weren’t able to stay up late last night to watch returns coming in from the Super Tuesday Republican and Democratic primaries. Since I have no life and did, I figured I’d give you a few quick impressions from all the hours and hours of fun.

    John McCain pulled ahead as the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination, winning the majority of states, including New York, California, Illinois and more. While I view myself as a conservative, I’m not one of the hard-core McCain haters out there, like Ann Coulter, who said she’d vote for Hillary over McCain.

    What I am is fascinated by McCain’s political rise and fall over this past year. I wrote him off months ago, as his campaign was based on the support of a war that is now incredibly unpopular even with Republicans. I really wrote him off during the backlash he took for his stance on immigration, even though I personally supported it, especially for the sake fo the landscape industry. And you’d think we’d be writing him off now because voters are tired of politics as usual in Washington, and the economy has become the number one issue. McCain, meanwhile, has been a Washington insider for decades, and still has not articulated any type of plan or leadership on the economic front.

    While all of this is fascinating, it’s also moot. There’s a 99.99 percent chance that the Democrats win this election. Like Bob Dole in 1996, McCain is old. I figure Republicans are going to let him have his chance and then try to come out strong four years from now.

    Now when I say the Democrats have a 99.99 percent chance of winning, that other .01 percent comes into play only if they elect Hillary Clinton, which they may be well on their way to doing. And if there’s one thing Democrats are known for, it’s pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Watching Hillary speak last night, I came to the realization that, believe it or not, she is actually a worse public speaker, in terms of prepared speeches, than George W. Bush. Now I should mention that without a teleprompter, most 9th grade students in speech class will do better extemporaneously than Bush.

    From the very beginning of her speech when she actually seemed annoyed that the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering to the point where she started recycling old John Kerry talking points, Hillary was just awful. Here’s a tip for Hillary: If you want to sound sincere — which we know you are not, but you should at least try to act like you are — you can start by pronouncing the word “a” as “uh,” rather than “ay.” You are not the Fonz. It makes you sound stilted, pretentious and disingenuous.

    Seriously, how can Democrats be considering making Hillary their nominee? They’ve spent the last eight years complaining about how the Republicans have divided the country, how they won’t work together to fix those problems facing the people of the nation. And then they are going to nominate Hillary? For eight more years of exactly the same kind of politics in Washington? Seriously?

    This would be like the Republicans coming out and saying, “OK, George Bush said he was a uniter and not a divider. He didn’t really come through on that front. We can do better. We’re going to clean up Washington. We’re going to make this nation one again.” And then they elect Dick Cheney as president.

    Even though I don’t necessarily agree with his politics, I do respect Barack Obama. He is a fantastic speaker. He inspires people. And he wouldn’t bring the baggage of eight years of scandal and a publicity-seeking ex-president with him into the White House.

    Now my favorite part of Obama’s speech from last night was when he said, “Maybe this year, we don’t have to settle for politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems. Maybe this year, we can finally start doing something about health care we can’t afford. Maybe this year we can start doing something about mortgages we can’t pay. Maybe this year, this time, can be different.”

    At this point, I pictured the lights going out, and a spotlight highlighting a silhouette of Obama, alone of the stage. And slowly, behind him, the music rises and he begins to sing:

    Maybe this time, I'll be lucky
    Maybe this time, he'll stay
    Maybe this time
    For the first time
    Love won't hurry away

    He will hold me fast
    I'll be home at last
    Not a loser anymore
    Like the last time
    And the time before

    Everybody loves a winner
    So nobody loved me;
    'Lady Peaceful,' 'Lady Happy,'
    That's what I long to be
    All the odds are in my favor
    Something's bound to begin
    It's got to happen, happen sometime
    Maybe this time I'll win.

    (Cut to Obama’s left (camera right), and the woman behind him would be weeping uncontrollably like that girl on "American Idol" last year when Sanjaya was on.)

    Did anyone else picture that, or was it just me? Maybe I’m just weird.

    — Mike Seuffert (E-mail comments to mseuffert@questex.com)