Thursday, December 30, 2010

Long Island group tries to ignite statewide ban on lawn care pesticide use



The Long Island Neighborhood Network has issued a call to arms for all anti-pesticide proponents in New York to stand up and be counted. The 26-year-old activist organization is kicking off a campaign today (Dec. 30, 2010) in Huntington, NY, pushing for a statewide ban on the use of "toxic" lawn care chemicals.

"We don’t believe the use of poisons that can harm our health, our families, our drinking water and the environment is justified for keeping weeds out of lawns and insects out of flowerbeds. The risk associated with these pesticides is unacceptable, because safer, effective organic methods and low-risk materials are available. If you agree, join us there, bring a sign and demonstrate with us, sign the petition and make your voice heard. If you can’t make it, write your State Legislators," proclaimed the group, seeking to ignite a statewide uprising against the use of common lawn care products.

It is not known how many people will show up for the campaign kickoff, including lawn care professionals, the people that are trained, have long used these products and have the most at stake should the campaign gain steam.

Will this be the flame that ignites NY legislation similar to that enacted in Ontario Province several years ago? If it does it will seriously harm the lawn care industry there and likely encourage groups in neighboring states to seek similar bans. — Ron Hall

Flash: Here's an update on the rally held on Long Island to protest the use of lawn care chemicals. The Long Island Press reported Jan. 1 that "a small group huddled in a parking lot" in downtown Huntington. Three of the huddlers wore haz-mat suits and others flashed signs. Doesn't exactly sound like a groundswell of support for the effort in spite of the ambitious name of MillionsOfVoters.org, the organizer. Read the account of the rally here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Did you ever consider getting into the Christmas tree rental business?

Landscape designer Scott Martin (aka Scotty Claus) rents living, healthy Christmas trees to families and businesses in and around Los Angeles. Apparently he's not the first guy to come up with the idea, but nobody else has garnered the avalanche of positive press that he and his company, Living Christmas, reeled in as this past Christmas approached.

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times were just two of many media outlets that profiled (or blogged) Scotty Claus and his unique service.

Martin did a soft rollout of the service in 2008. The idea has (pardon the pun) taken root. This holiday season, according to an article in the LA-area Daily Breeze, he expected to place 2,000 rented Christmas trees, more than three times the total he rented in 2009. According to that newspaper article he charges $25 to $125 to rent a tree with delivery charges based on the size of the tree.

The
Daily Breeze article gives a pretty good description of Martin's operation.

What do you think, something for those of you in the landscape lighting business to consider adding to the mix?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest worker piece draws fire. . .as usual

A recent opinion piece in The Arizona Republic made a case for a workable guest worker program, and this in a state with the toughest laws against undocumented workers.

The writer of the piece relates how the U.S. population is aging and the country will need more young people to tend and harvest our fruits and vegetables. Or make the beds in our hotel rooms. Or mow our lawns. Or shuck our oysters. Or degut the chickens or whittle the beeves in our huge factory-like meat processing facilities.
(OK, the writer didn't mention all of the nasty, hot or bloody occupations open to any red-blooded U.S. citizen needing a job, but seemingly always only able to attract willing foreign-born workers.)

But, judging from the posted responses to the piece, you would have thought that the writer had just endorsed the Communist Manifesto with a return to Prohibition tossed into the mix. Write anything positive about allowing foreign-born workers into this country to work or perform services (even, educated, hi-tech types) and, wow, you're sure to hear from "America is only for us Americans" crowd, apparently not mindful that — assuming they're not native Americans — they or their ancestors were once immigrants.

In the case of the recent newspaper opinion piece, more than a couple of the responders pointed to our nation's high unemployment rate as an argument against allowing guest workers to take these repetitive, often exhausting, low-paying jobs. . . and this at a time when our national lawmakers have extended unemployment benefits for the chronically unemployed yet again. We can only imagine the response of guest workers to this extension — nice work if you can get it, right?

Read "Guest worker program is vital to U.S." in the
Arizona Republic and if you think we're full of beans on this issue, fire away. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

9.5 Secrets to Growing a Lawn Care Company


This blog is especially for those of you in the lawn care business. After you read it click on Barrett Ersek's 9.5 Secrets to Growing a Lawn Care Company. Ersek is CEO of Holganix, a relatively new company headquartered in Glen Mills, PA, that markets its own proprietary natural organic fertilizer. But, for the time being, let’s get beyond any discussion of natural versus synthetic.

Barrett, who has built and sold two successful lawn care companies, knows that to be successful (business or life) you have to share. In this case, Barrett is sharing some great free information with his 9.5 Secrets to Growing a Lawn Care Company.

It’s often said that free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it. But I can tell you, had I listened to and heeded some of the free advice coming my way over the years I would have avoided a lot of kicks to the posterior. . . Ron Hall

Monday, December 13, 2010

An appreciated enewsletter from California


Those of us in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes are out plowing snow or planning for the coming season. A storm walloped us this past weekend with ferocious winds, frigid temperatures and snow. Lots of snow.

So, getting a enewsletter from California showing an incredible garden was welcome. The enewsletter from Madrone Landscape also offered us some great information about water use, an issue that's growing in importance for our industry.

With greater urgency we’ve been researching and writing about water issues and how they’re affecting our landscape industry. Mostly we’ve focused on irrigation, the act of applying water to green living landscapes under our care.

But, that’s just part of the urban landscape water picture. The other equally important part is runoff. How do we keep storm water from overloading our treatment systems or flushing pollutants into our waterways?

Landscape professionals do clients and their communities an awesome service when they design and install landscapes that capture and use rainwater on site, assuming, of course, the design does not create drainage problems for structures or neighboring properties.

Writes Josh Carmichael, construction division manager at Madrone Landscapes in Atascadero, CA, in the company’s latest newsletter: “ Rainwater harvesting is quickly becoming a smart trend nationwide as people are looking to save money, protect water bodies, or keep their wells from drying up. There are many ways, simple to complex, to store rainwater for future irrigation use or allow it to infiltrate directly into the ground in a rain garden or bioswale.”

In Madrone’s market, a non-profit known as SLO Green Build will be releasing a guide on rainwater harvesting soon, he writes. This is a follow up guide to its Graywater guide released last year.

“These are both great ways to irrigate your garden with a local, free, environmentally friendly water source year round,” writes Carmichael, who is principal of Carmichael Environmental Consultants.

“Locally, SLO Green Build, a non-profit environmental construction coalition, is due to release a guide on rainwater harvesting strategies for county residents later this month. This is a follow up guide to complement their Graywater guide released last year. These are both great ways to irrigate your garden with a local, free, environmentally friendly water source year round.” — Ron Hall

Friday, December 10, 2010

We want this guy on our team


Who says hard work doesn't pay off? Hey, it doesn't hurt to have smarts, drive and a willingness to help others, as well.

Jarret Krueger, a student at Wellington High School, has the complete package and earned himself a $48,000 Harry Gore Memorial Scholarship to Wichita State University, reported the Wichita Business Journal Dec. 9. (Image courtesy Wichita State University.)

We could list all of the activities and accomplishments of this young man (4.2 weighted GPA, managing the vending operations at Wellington High, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, etc.) . . . but since this blog is devoted to matters "green" we will just mention that Krueger's been running his own Krueger Lawn Service these past five years, which kinda makes us proud.

Jarret will be studying entrepreneurship at Wichita State. (Why doesn't that surprise us?)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

There's no sugar-coating the effects of this economy on our industry

I just came back from the Lawn Care/Pest Control Summit in Atlanta, GA, this past Friday. It was put on by the Professional Landcare Association (PLANET) and National Pest Management Association. I'm guessing there were between 150 and 200 participants.

Over the course of several days there, I talked to more than a dozen owners and they told me that they're hanging on and some said they're continuing to grow their companies, although at a slower pace than prior to 2008. To the person, however, they said things could be better — a lot better. That's very evident in several recent news articles.

On Dec. 5, the Springfield (OH) News Sun reported that sod farmer Ivan Lavy decided it was time to call it quits after 20 years in business. On Saturday, Dec. 4, he put his turf and grass company on the auction block. The property was sold and will eventually be used for homes, commercial development and sports fields, the paper reported.

Kirk Hunter, executive director of Turfgrass Producers International, is quoted in the article as doubting that the sod business will never be as robust as it was in the mid 2005s, at the height of the homebuilding boom. But, he says it will return to health eventually.

To read the article in the springfieldnewssun.com, click here.

A sizable landscape company in Georgia also packed it in this past year. Lee Daniel lost Forever Green Lawn Care and Landscaping, Newnan, GA, that, at one time, employed 40 people. But, not only did he lose his livlihood, he lost his home, his wife and, in a touching article appearing in the Newnan Times-Herald newspaper, admits to almost taking his own life.

Daniel said that he rode the wave when the housing market crested several years ago, and when that wave crashed, his company crashed with it.

To read the article in the times-herald.com, click here. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Forget the tie with the lightup reindeer nose; give dad a gift certificate for lawn care

A gift card to Sears for dad? Nah . . .Wouldn't a gift card for professional lawn service be more appreciated?

That's what Gerry Okimi, owner of Turf King Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) is promoting. He says his company is offering a limited number of special lawn vouchers throughout the month of December.

"During the upcoming holiday season with Christmas and Hanukkah approaching, many people will be wanting to give the gift of a healthy, green lawn to someone they love," says Okimi.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TruGreen Landcare being shopped around

In November, ServiceMaster's board of directors said it's exploring strategic alternatives designed to maximize value to shareholders. To that end, it's working with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as its advisors and Sidley Austin as its legal advisor.

Included in the company's Form 10Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Nov. 15, is the following comment regarding ServiceMaster’s TruGreen Landcare unit: “The Company is exploring strategic options relating to TruGreen LandCare, including the potential sale of the business.”

“The early indications we’ve seen in the market are that there is a solid interest in TruGreen LandCare, so we think the time is right to evaluate the opportunities," said ServiceMaster CEO J. Patrick Spainhour.

“Our executive team is dedicated to exploring all strategic options that have potential to allow TruGreen LandCare to reach its growth potential,” he added. “In the meantime, we will continue to operate TruGreen LandCare in the best interests of our customers.”

The ServiceMaster Form 10Q reported a 7.9% decrease in revenue in its landscape segment and a $5.2 million decrease in operating income for the third quarter of 2010 compared to 2009. Contract maintenance revenue was down 9%, and enhancement sales were down 8.3%.

TruGreen LandCare, which has operations in more than 100 locations in 40 states, generates about 14% of ServiceMaster's annual revenues. By contrast, the TruGreen LawnCare segment delivers 32% of the company's revenues.

TruGreen Landcare, as many of your remember, was born in the mad dash in the late 1990s to acquire regionally prominent (although not necessarily profitable) landscape companies by national players, such as ServiceMaster and rollup upstart Landcare U.S.A., which several years after the landscape acquisition arms race sold out.— Ron Hall

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turf pros say that evidence is strong for global warming

It seems like we don't hear as much about global warming these days in the mainstream media because the economy continues to dominate the nightly news. But at a recent industry event, climate change — as two speakers preferred to call it — was talked about often. And both speakers, who appeared at the recent Green Start Academy hosted by John Deere Golf and Bayer Environmental Science, believe there's something to global warming.

During his presentation, Tom Rufty, Ph.D., a turfgrass professor from North Carolina State, displayed a slide containing two satellite photographs of Artic sea ice — one from 1979 and the other from 2008. The later photograph clearly revealed ice that had melted.

"We're in an inter-glacial period right now where the Earth should be cooling, but instead it's warming up," Rufty said.

Nick Hamon, Ph.D., who was recently named the head of sustainability for Bayer CropScience, said 95% of scientists believe there's a climate change issue.

"The 5 percent who don't think we have a climate change issue may end up being right," he said. "But 5 percent is not a great probability to live and work by when it comes to decide what the future may look like."

The basic message from Hamon and Rufty is climate change is something that can't be ignored.

"You may be cynical and say this is not going to happen," Hamon said. "But even if it's 50 percent correct, it's a little concerning."

Despite the challenges the world will face, Hamon has a good outlook for the green industry.

"Good science shows that the green industry has a place," he says.

Turfgrass plays a vital role in carbon sequestration, which can mitigate climate change, Hamon adds. He notes the following statistics should make people who work in Green Industry feel good about what they do for a living:

* Turfgrass removes 20 million tons of carbon — 5% of the carbon from our atmosphere.

* 10,000 sq. ft. of grass can produce enough oxygen for a family of four. 10,000 sq. ft. of healthy grass absorbs 6,000 gal. of rainwater without runoff.

* Managed turfgrass sequesters significantly more carbon than healthy turf.

Editor's note: Thanks to sister magazine Golfdom for the above report.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How will NY's organic yards initiative change lawn care in the Empire State?


It’s difficult to predict just how New York’s “Be Green Organic Yards NY” initiative will change the professional lawn application business in the State . . . but it will change it. Just how much will become more evident this coming Jan. 11, the opening day of the Empire State Green Industry Show in Rochester.

That’s when the Cornell University team of Dr. Jennifer Grant, Dr. Frank Rossi, Walter Nelson and David Chinery will present a 4-part session. Trained lawn care companies who successfully complete the course exam can apply for a NY Department of Conservation license agreement to use the “Be Green” logo. The course exam will be presented the same day at 4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Bring along a crisp C- note, yes, $100. DEC says you’ll have to fork it over to take the test.

Not familiar with the Be Green Organic Yards NY initiative? Here’s a website that explains it: www.dec.ny.gov/public/65071.html

For the record: Our guess is that the rooms for the organic lawn care sessions will be full. — Ron Hall

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jump-start 2011 business growth

Landscape Management visited many booths at the GIE+EXPO Oct. 28-30 in Louisville, KY, to obtain the latest industry news and trends and gather some education for readers on the business opportunities 2011 beholds.

Here is a collection of the videos we shot, providing you with tips to drive business improvement and growth next year.

OVERCOME PRICING PRESSURE
John Deere's Chase Tew gives landscape professionals his best advice for alleviating pricing pressure in today's economy.



2011 LANDSCAPE BUSINESS PREVIEW
PLANET president and landscaper David Snodgrass reveals the mindset of today's typical landscape professional, his predictions for business in 2011 and PLANET news.



BRAND BUILDING
Syngenta's Dan Steltz shares his tips on how lawn care and landscape professionals can improve their brands as they go into business in 2011.



FERTILIZER PRICING UPDATE & FALL FERTILIZATION TIPS
Agrium Advanced Technologies' Chris Derrick shares current data on fertilizer pricing and offers his best advice on how lawn care operators can improve fall fertilization.



ADD-ON OPPORTUNITY: AERATION
Want to know how to start an aeration service and sustain it? Turfco's Bob Brophy reveals his secrets from 36 years in the industry.



CONQUERING CRABGRASS
Crabgrass has been tough this year. Dow AgroSciences offers some tips for getting ahead of it in 2011.



POWERED BY PROPANE
Landscape Management Editor-in-Chief interviews the Propane Education & Research Council's Brian Feehan on the growing trend in propane-powered landscape equipment.



MAKE MOWER MONEY
Properly storing a mower for winter means a quicker, more productive and instantly profitable spring start-up. Cub Cadet's Allen Baird shares his tips.



CREATING OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES
Belgard's Ken O'Neill discusses a growing trend: outdoor rooms.



COLOR READY?
Landscapers: November is the time to build relationships with your growers for 2011 orders. Are you ready? Ball's Jeff Gibson shares some tips for improving your 2011 seasonal color programs.



SEE THE LIGHT
Kichler's Scott Pesta discusses the new "green" trend in LED landscape lighting fixtures.



PAVING THE WAY
Patrick Day of Boral Bricks updates GIE+EXPO 2010 attendees on one of the hottest trends in hardscapes today: permeable pavers.



ADD-ON OPPORTUNITY: STUMP GRINDING
Expand your business in 2011 with stump grinding. Learn more from Toro's Greg Lawrence.

Wow, this is a lot of candy for our troops!!

A tip of the hat and a "nice job" to all of the landscapers and other small businesses across the nation that promoted this year's Treat for the Troops candy drive. And a special thanks to Allentuck Landscaping for reminding us.

Today, on this special day, Veteran's Day, Bruce Allentuck emailed this note to his customers and friends, thanking them for their support of Treats for the Troops:

"You came through again! Congratulations on a superb candy drive for Treats for the Troops. When combined with the other groups collecting candy, the total came to over 10,000 pounds collected. That is over 5 TONS!

Mover Moms (http://www.movermoms.org/ ) has already trucked the candy up to a National Guard post near Wheeling, West Virginia where it is being sorted and orgnaized. Next it will be flown over to our men and women of all faiths serving in Afghanistan and Iraq in time for the holidays."

Sincerely, yours,

Bruce Allentuck
President

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Huge fine should remind us to look before we dig

ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO, CANADA — Please don’t accuse us of picking on this landscape company; we’re not. Indeed, we’re genuinely sorry the following tragedy, one of the strangest we’ve read about in a long time, happened in the first place. The purpose of this blog is to remind you of what can go wrong if you don’t you know about and mark all underground utilities before digging.

In July 2008, a worker for a Niagara Falls landscape company punctured a propane line with a reinforcing bar on a customer’s property. To make a long story short (you can get the details from a recent article in the Hamilton Spectator), the propane gas leached through the earth and followed a television cable conduit into the home’s basement. When enough propane collected in the home’s basement, it exploded and killed a 54-old-occupant.

The company has been fined a total of $225,000 for health-and-safety violations, reported the newspaper. The court said that company did not mark the propane line and its workers made no effort to locate the underground gas line.

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Expect fertilizer prices to rise 10% (maybe more) for 2011

None of us, and especially those of us in the turf health business, want to see fertilizer prices spike like they did a couple of years ago. Likely they won't, not to that extend anyway. Even so, if you're buying turfgrass fertilizer next season, you might want to heed Lebanon Turf's advice to watch corn prices.

“As corn goes, so goes nitrogen and as nitrogen goes, so go fertilizer prices,” said Harry L. Mathis, corporate director of Materials, Distribution and Order Fulfillment for Lebanon Seaboard Corp., parent company of LebanonTurf.

The USDA’s corn forecast – recently adjusted downward 3.6% – caused a ripple effect that likely will be felt at golf courses, sports fields and anywhere turf managers rely on nitrogen-based fertilizers. The forecast sent corn futures soaring to near $6 per bushel, a price that encourages farmers to plant more corn, which in turn, requires increased nutrients. The subsequent jump in worldwide demand for nitrogen increases costs to fertilizer producers.

“We were sailing along in pretty stable condition this summer, and then the USDA numbers and the corn harvest sparked the markets,” Mathis said. “It just goes to show how fragile and interconnected the supply chain is.”

While market conditions have stabilized in the last several weeks, Mathis predicts that prices for fertilizer products high in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium will increase by 10% or more for the 2011 growing season. Any disorder in the worldwide supply chain, which could be brought on by disruptions at nitrogen plants and shipping interruptions, could cause another spike in costs. “N, P and K are in the mix together,” Mathis said.

“The corn number is real; the nitrogen situation is real, and when the season hits, low inventories of raw materials stateside could force some significant availability and pricing issues in the spring,” he said.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

GIE + EXPO staying in L'ville through 2014


LOUISVILLE, KY — The GIE + EXPO is staying here at least through 2014 and Hardscape North America is returning for 2011, reported Bill Harley, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). This was the first year that hardscape suppliers, under the sponsorship of Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI), had a large presence at the event.

Harley’s announcement Thursday, Oct. 28, ended speculation (as little as there was) that the GIE + EXPO might move elsewhere as the original agreement between the three-sponsoring associations approached its end. But the board, made up of members of the OPEI, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), decided Louisville was the place to be, at least for the next four years.

This year’s event, Oct. 28 – Oct. 30, featured 750 exhibitors and attracted an estimated 20,000 participants (including exhibitors), Harley said at a press conference the morning the trade show opened. The trade show is reported to be the 14th largest in the United States, says the OPEI. Final attendance numbers will be announced soon.

Why Louisville again?


A number of factors figured into the GIE Board’s decision to keep the trade show in Louisville, not the least being the 190,000 sq. ft. of indoor space in the Kentucky Exposition Center and the 20 acres of outdoor demonstration space just outside its doors. All of this located just minutes from the Louisville airport and an easy 10-minute drive from downtown. What other cities east of the Mississippi can offer this?

Important as that is, the efforts made by the convention people in the city itself appear to be an equally large reason why the event isn't moving soon. They genuinely seem to appreciate having the event and, from appearances anyway, do everything they can to accommodate the trade show and the concurrent PLANET and PGMS business conferences.

It's strictly business

While many of us, myself included, wouldn't squawk if a different venue were chosen (just for a change), there's no denying that, unlike other cities with huge convention centers (Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans immediately come to mind), if you're coming to the GIE + EXPO in Louisville, you're coming to learn, network, operate some really neat equipment out in a big dusty field and, perhaps, do business. As nice as the city's smallish Fourth Street Live entertainment district is, Louisville is not regarded as a family vacation destination. Not like other big convention cities, anyway, and certainly not in late October.

In the end, the decision to keep the event in Louisville for another couple of years is a good one. Louisville is a nice city with good facilities, and the people that run the event do a very good job.

Hey, that's just my opinion. What do you think? — Ron Hall

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A chance to grab a Rain Bird grant


Here’s a heads up about a neat new contest from the folks at Rain Bird. You’re getting the news here before it’s released to the public. We’re one of the partners in this contest and we’re very excited about it because it addresses just what our landscape industry is all about.

In other words, we'd love to learn that one or more of the readers of this blog pick up some of the more than $50,000 in grants that Rain Bird will be awarding to companies, non-profits, homeowners or, in fact, anybody in the whole wide world that submits a winning water conservation or environmental sustainability project that promotes green spaces. The company is awarding three $1,500 grants, three $5,000 grants and three $10,000 grants.

The contest is the latest wrinkle on the company’s Intelligent Use of Water program it initiated in 2008. Any internet user can submit a project via the Intelligent Use of Water Awards (IUOW) website and can promote it within his or her own community.

All projects can be anonymously voted upon by visitors (one vote a day per project, per individual user. The projects with the most votes will receive funding from Rain Bird according to their funding category.

OK, there you have it; you can get a head start on submitting one of your great water conservation or environmental sustainability project. Visit the IUOW awards website here to get the details, submit your project, let people know about it and start voting . . . In other words, get crackin’. — Ron Hall

Friday, October 22, 2010

New 1099 Tax Rule = Paperwork Nightmare

Paperwork.

The very word sends a shutter through folks in almost every profession who after long, tiring days must succumb to the job that's not quite finished until the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

Detectives who chase down bad guys spend most of their waking moments conducting witness and suspect interviews, but each evening as they get back to the office, there are mountains of paperwork necessary to record their day's work and justify whether someone is guilty or innocent. Paperwork lays the groundwork for their cases in court.

Doctors who make rounds from patient to patient, adjusting medications, performing surgeries, making emergency medical decisions. At the end of each day, medical charts must be in order to ensure the right continued health care for every patient and for insurance purposes.

While business owners have their own paperwork struggles ... their situation just got worse.

The impending 1099 tax rule that's slated to go into effect in 2012 in conjunction with the new health care legislation means a business owner - landscapers, too - have to file 1099 forms for EVERY vendor you spend more than $600 with in a year.

Consider this example, which shows how daunting the paperwork filing task will become: A business that spends $20 a week on pizza for its employees, for example, would spend a total of $1,040 a year — and would need to file a 1099 form to that local pizzeria.

Reuters has an easy-to-understand breakdown of how and why this rule came to be, the likelihood it will actually go into effect, and what business owners need to know about it. Check it out here and let us know what you think.

- Nicole Wisniewski

Monday, September 27, 2010

Grade schoolers enlisted in anti-pesticide effort

OTTAWA, CANADA — A class of grade-school students at an elementary school in Canada crafted containers of natural slug bait and pesticide-free weed killer. The youngsters sent their classroom concoctions, each with accompanying note to Canadian lawmakers. The notes urged a nationwide ban on pesticide use, said a recent article appearing on Coquitlam.now,

This is wrong on several levels.

First, there is no such thing as a pesticide-free chemical weed killer. If it’s a chemical and a weed killer, synthetic or natural, it’s a pesticide

But, to the larger issue: While we applaud the students' earnest effort to advance the common good, we don't feel they should be used to advance anyone's personal agenda.

More disturbing was the image accompanying the online article. It showed a grinning Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP (Member of Parliament) Fin Donnelly posing with one of the student’s creations, implying, whether intentional or not, an endorsement of the students' anti-pesticide message.

Pesticide use in a complicated issue with huge public health and food production issues way beyond the comprehension of most grade schoolers. .... and often it seems politicos, as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A great rain garden guide....and it's free!



Nothing attracts Americans' attention as quickly as the phrases "free" and "all you can eat," but this blog isn't about Hometown Buffet. It's about information that can help you prevent runoff and non-point-source pollution on your clients' properties.

You can pay $4.95 for the Oregon Rain Garden Guide or you can download a pdf version of by accessing http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/onlinepubs.html. That version is free.

And, don't fret because the title of the rain garden pub says "Oregon." The 44-page Guide contains great information about designing and installing rain gardens that would be helpful, regardless of where you live or offer services.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that the downloadable version produced by Oregon Sea Grant at Oregon State University is free. Yes, FREE! — Ron Hall

Friday, August 27, 2010

A neat app to serve (and impress) your livescape clients


I would hardly refer to myself as a technophile, but I’m far from being a Luddite. The evidence: I've been an eager participant in the incredible technological revolution transforming publishing — starting as I did with manual typewriters, lead editing pencils, copy paper and glue pots and now sharing information in this brave new digital era.

That said, I’m not a first adopter and careful with my dollars so I’m waiting until the price of the new ereaders comes down before writing a check. But I will be getting an iPad. Indeed it's almost certain we’ll all be carrying an iPad or similar highly portable, multi-functional digital tool with us and here's why — yet another handy app.

If you're in the business of selling and installing livescapes you need to check out the modestly priced Landscaper’s Companion app for an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch by Stevenson Software, LLC.

It’s a neat reference guide to trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and all sorts of other plants. Landscaper’s Companion features over 1400 plants listed by their common and scientific names. Over 5700 high quality images from around the web. 16 categories of plants: Annuals, Bulbs, Cacti, Conifers, Flowering and Fruit Trees, Ground Covers, Herbs, House Plants, Ornamental Grasses, Palms, Perennials, Roses, Shade Trees, Shrubs, Vegetables Fruits Berries and Water Plants. The app is updated periodically with additional plants and images for free.

What client wouldn’t be impressed when you say (with an air of smugness and great confidence), “excuse me while I whip this out,” and start zipping through the colorful images, showing the prospect exactly what they’ll be getting in terms of greenery and seasonal color?

If you get Landscaper's Companion or any other app that you feel others would like to know about, share with us and the audience on this blog. — Ron Hall

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Will this visionary landscaper/urban planner be Florida's next governor? Fat chance


Michael E. Arth wants to be governor of Florida. Fat chance. Visionaries rarely become governors, and especially in Florida. The Sunshine state chooses its chief leader from that small group of insiders firmly entrenched in party politics, possessing absurdly fat war chests and predictably bereft of vision. The lack of vision is an unspoken qualification. The latest polls have the candidate from the Democratic Party with a small but significant lead over the Republican. Arth has no party affiliation.

(In light of what we’ve been experiencing this past generation in terms of political leadership at both the state and federal levels is it any wonder the tone of this post? My guess is you feel the same way. But I digress.)

I want to acquaint you to Arth for several reasons but mostly because of his vision of urban landscapes. About 10 years ago Arth (an artist, author and landscape/urban planner) founded a movement known as “New Pedestrianism.” Essentially, Arth envisions clusters of small communities with our urban centers, neighborhoods with trees, walkways and bikeways in front of homes, and tree-lined automobile streets behind homes. The centers of these "villages" would be populated with stores and other amenities, all within easy walking or biking distance within these neighborhoods.

I'm sure other urban planners have promoted and, to one degree or another, executed similar plans. But none of them (to my knowledge anyway) has run for governor in a major state and then bicycled its length and breadth promoting his candidacy and his progressive ideas. But, not beholding to any particular special interest (Florida politicos have historically been joined at the hip to powerful moneyed interests, be they developers or sugar growers), Arth doesn’t have the finances to buy the name recognition necessary to be taken as a serious threat in the race. . .But he has the imagination and drive to get things done. Impressive things.

A decade ago, while writing a book, “The Labors of Hercules: Modern Solutions to 12 Herculean Problems,” he bought 32 homes in the worst part of DeLand, FL, a neighborhood known as “Crack Town.” Arth rebuilt the dilapidated neighborhood into a pleasantly landscaped, award-winning community within a community, DeLand’s Historic Garden District.

While I’ve never met Arth and only know of him and his political ambitions through newspaper and online accounts, I do know DeLand. I know it quite well from frequent visits to my brother's home there. He and his then-young family, seeking a small, quiet city with "old Florida" charm moved there decades ago. His two daughters, my nieces, both earned degrees at Stetson University, which is in DeLand, located just west of Daytona.

Arth is a fascinating person and my guess is that we will hear more about him even after this November’s election. His ideas about urban planning and safe, sustainable neighborhoods are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his vision for a safer and cleaner society.

Google his name and check him out. You might find him to be kindred spirit — in a political and environmental sense. Or maybe not. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Having a Ball





On a beautiful and sultry West Chicago afternoon, scores of landscape contractors and growers wandered the 9 acres of Ball Horticulture Co.'s well-manicured grounds. They were there as part of the company's Landscape Day, a chance to see what new varieties will be available in the coming years.
“We tend to talk about the pretty" when it comes to flowers, says Marvin Miller, Ball’s market research manager, but we often neglect the economic benefits — improving property values, drawing tourists and creating jobs.
Attendees also got the rare treat to hear Ball President and CEO talk about the history of the Ball trial gardens. To hear what she had to say about the site, click on the video.
While there was certainly lots of "pretty" to talk about, contractors got a chance to hear Ball employees explain everything from the latest varieties to the latest way to grow them. They also got to hear from a panel of experts about how growers and contractors can work together to make their operations more profitable.
The panel included: Steve Zylstra, Zylstra Greenhouses, Kalamazoo, MI; Bob Jones, SpringCreek Growers, Magnolia, TX; Ed Mrozinski, Acres Landscape, Wauconda, IL; and Bruce Hellerick, Senior Horticulturist (and LM columnist), Brickman.
According to Jones, clients have been trying to save money by reducing the number of color change-outs -- maybe skipping a spring or winter. The other big trend, Hellerick says, is the move away from annuals. Whether it's because of the U.S. Building Council's LEED program or just an attempt to save some money, people are moving away from annual installations, he explains. "I like annuals," Hellerick says. "I'm very nervous for the industry right now."
Zylstra responded by saying, "There's a lot of market out there. We need to do a better job of selling."
video

Monday, August 16, 2010

Take a peek into the Marianis' incredible landscape

Check out the landscape of one of the best-known landscapers in the Chicago region by accessing the recent article in the Daily Herald describing Frank and Sherri Mariani’s spread in Lake Forest, IL. Frank Mariani, of course, is the founder of Mariani Landscape, a 400-employee operation that specializes in designing, installing and maintaining landscapes. It's 17-acre headquarters are located in Lake Forest, just north of Chicago.

The article written by Deborah Donovan provides a peek into the 10-acre property that the Mariani’s purchased in 1986. The Mariani property with its Tudor-style home was once part of a dairy and cattle farm. It contains a butterfly garden, vegetable garden, woodland garden, orchard and a 2-acre prairie backing up to public preserve. Gone is much of the bluegrass that once dominated the property.

The click here to access the article, which contains more than a dozen images of the Mariani property. — Ron Hall

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A shrinking Cooperative Extension not good news for our industry

Cooperative Extension is our bridge between research and what’s practical “down on the farm.” Or in the case of the Green Industry, what works for our growing, living landscapes.

Many of us have gotten to know and rely upon the experience and advice of extension specialists. We value the helpful and impartial service they provide.

An article today on onlineathens.com (available here) warns that Georgia could be losing yet more extension personnel due to mandated budget cuts at the University of Georgia. The University is being forced to chop 4% ($16.3 million) from its fiscal 2011 budget that began this past July 1.

Agriculture dean Scott Angle is protesting the cuts to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He says the state’s ag research stations and the Cooperative Extension Service already have absorbed budget cuts of 20% in the last two years. The number of county extension agents in the state has dropped from 400 to 300 since 2008.

Other states, looking to save money, have been chopping away at Cooperative Extension these past several years, as well. This is not good. Extension specialists make a big difference in keeping our environment productive in terms of food and fiber, and advising our Green Industry on best practices and greener ways of providing our services.

Those of you in Georgia may want to contact the Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA) to see what you can do to save your Cooperative Extension from shrinking anymore.

The rest of us must continue to support our extension personnel and the work they do. — Ron Hall

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sharpen your irrigation skills as the era of cheap water approaches

The significance of the results of a recent survey by Black & Veatch should be obvious to anyone in the business of installing or maintaining irrigation systems. The price of water is going go up, up, up so the need for irrigation that doesn’t waste water (i.e. money) is growing, growing, growing.

In other words, the era of cheap water may be coming to an abrupt end.

Black & Veatch’s 50 Largest Cities Water and Wastewater Rate Survey indicates the average annual increase in typical residential water bills is approximately 5.3% from 2001 through 2009, while the increase in typical residential sewer bills is approximately 5.5%.

“This survey is a tool for managers of water infrastructure to see how their rates compare with national trends,” said John Kersten, Associate Vice President and Water Industry Lead in Black & Veatch’s management consulting division. “The primary source of income for these utilities to pay for operating, maintaining, expanding and updating their infrastructure is through water and sewer rate collections, which must be continuously adjusted to address rising costs.”

A key finding of the survey is that water and wastewater bills for residential use across the country have increased at a steady rate since 2001 – when Black & Veatch began producing the survey.

This trend correlates with findings from The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), showing approximately $2.2 trillion of investment is needed to improve vital infrastructure over the next five years. Overall, America’s grade is a cumulative “D” as noted by the ASCE.

Black & Veatch’s analysis cites five key issues that influence rates and sheds more detail around the value of water and wastewater services and the solutions needed to address these two areas of vital infrastructure:

— Commodity price increases. Primarily in electricity, chemicals and natural gas costs. A leading contributor to operating and maintenance costs of water and wastewater facilities - highlighting the important inter-relationship or nexus of water and energy.

— Lower consumption and high fixed cost. In general, demand or a consumer’s usage is declining while many utility costs, such as debt service, are fixed. Since most pricing structures include volume-based charges, revenues are declining while costs are not.

— Benefits. Pension obligations and health care benefits are prompting an increase in labor costs.

— Influence of wastewater legal action. Significant capital programs are being implemented in most major cities to comply with legal; action related to http://www.bv.com/About_Us/Default.aspxwastewater system performance.

— Aging infrastructure. Updating and replacing aging infrastructure are significant costs for most water and sewer utilities, as noted in the ASCE report available at: www.asce.org.

Black & Veatch Corporation is a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company specializing in infrastructure development in energy, water, telecommunications, federal, management consulting and environmental markets.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery prettied up by trowel-wielding kids








ARLINGTON, VA — The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) held its 14th annual Renewal and Remembrance event at Arlington National Cemetery here Monday. More than 300 Green Industry professionals showed up with spreaders, sprayers, aerators and other equipment to work in 90-F.-plus heat to improve the grounds at the huge cemetery.

In what’s become a trend at the event, many brought their families to help, children too. I’m estimating about 50 or 60 young people (some of them very young) got an opportunity to watch the changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then plant perennials in the nearby Children’s Garden.

The children, under the guidance of adult volunteers, lined up, fitted with aprons, gloves and with trowels in hand, and planted one perennial each, enlarging a garden some of them had worked in the season before.

Here are some images of the youngsters in action. We hope you enjoy seeing them as we did watching them planting the flowers. — Ron Hall

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When invasive species get loose they often turn into monsters


The offices of Landscape Management magazine in Cleveland are just blocks from Lake Erie.

There’s a monster at our doorstep, our lakefront. It threatens incredible harm. This monster is an invasive species, the Asian carp, and the only thing keeping it from damaging the ecology of our Great Lakes and its multi-billion dollar sports fishery is an electrified fence in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

If (when?) this fish makes its way around the barriers and into Lake Michigan it will be only a matter of time before it will spread to the other great lakes putting native species such as lake trout, walleye, whitefish bass and white perch (to name a few) in peril. The Asian carp is a voracious feeder and gobbles up much of the same food as these fish. The only difference being that the Asian carp can grow to 100 lbs. Anybody ever see a 100 lb. walleye?

Wherever the carp establishes itself the populations of native fish decrease. And the Asian carp has been establishing itself in many of our Midwestern river systems ever since escaping from southern farm ponds into the Mississippi River during the disastrous Midwestern floods of the early 1990s. Apparently catfish farmers had put them in their ponds to eat algae and other scum that, apparently, the carp are pretty good at doing.

The plant world has its share of invasive monsters, as well. One of the worst, the giant hogweed, is on the loose. It's horrific in a different sense than the carp. The giant hogweed's sap can cause severe, long lasting swelling and blistering to humans and animals. If sap gets into your eyes it can cause temporary and sometimes permanent blindness.

This problem plant can grow to a height of eight to 15 feet. Native to the Caucasus, it’s believed giant hogweed was brought into the United States and Canada as an ornamental, but it does particularly well where the soil has been disturbed, such as along railroads, abandoned construction sites and vacant, weedy fields. If conditions are right, it can dominate an area.

To date, giant hogweed has been reported in several eastern Canada provinces and from Maine to Michigan and as far south as Virginia in the United States.

Once established invasive species are often impossible to eradicate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent controlling them, and many hundreds of millions more will be spent as the battle against harmful invasive species is literally never ending.

Click here for a good description of giant hogweed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Embark's YouTube message strikes the right tone


Hurricane season is here. Landscape and tree-care companies get lots of cleanup work after a major hurricane. Some of the owners of these companies have told us they have enough to do without the hot dirty work of cleanup, fixup and hurricane debris removal, which some have described as “blood money.”

Houston-based Embark Tree and Landscape’s short (1:45 minute) YouTube video takes a positive and proactive approach to the possibility of hurricanes, advising viewers of what they should be considering in terms of tree care before the next hurricane arrives……and it will eventually, of course. This is a nice example of the social media being used effectively.

Click here to see the Embark YouTube video.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We can only hope we're like Larry





(Image by Owen Baker, staff photographer The Daily Breeze)






Larry Marty, a great-great-grandfather who lives in Torrence, CA, is pretty amazing. The guy is 91 and goes to work four days a week as a landscaper, working in his grandson’s company.

I read about Larry in an article written by Dennis McCarthy in the July 9 issue of the Daily Breeze (actually dailybreeze.com).

"Granddad's the first one to arrive in the morning, the only one on time, and he always takes the hardest jobs," says Mike DeVestern, one of Marty's eight grandchildren quoted in the article.

Stop what you’re doing and click here to read about Larry. This man is inspiring. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Perennial peanuts being readied for Florida landscapes, including replacing turfgrass


Here's a news release from the University of Florida where researchers are developing varieties of perennial peanuts to be used as landscape groundcovers or low-input lawns replacing turfgrass.

UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has released two rhizoma perennial peanuts for ornamental use, Arblick and Ecoturf. They are formally announced in the current issue of Journal of Plant Registrations.

Both grow low to the ground and produce dense green foliage with small yellow-orange flowers, said Ann Blount, an associate professor with UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna.

The plants were released into the public domain, so anyone may buy, sell or grow them.

Ken Quesenberry, a retired UF agronomist who’s studied the crop for years, points out that some plants marketed as perennial peanut do not grow from communal root systems, called rhizomes.

Those root systems help the plant withstand heavy foot traffic and allow them to bounce back from winter frost. Sometimes called pintoi perennial peanut, the non-rhizoma plants are suitable for South Florida but aren’t as cold-tolerant as rhizoma varieties, he said.

Researchers didn’t breed the plants—instead, they collected wild specimens in South America in the 1950s, Blount said. For decades afterward, UF agronomists Tito French and Gordon Prine studied these and other perennial peanuts as potential livestock forages and hay crops; in recent years they began providing samples to commercial sod producers.

UF is evaluating almost 40 rhizoma perennial peanuts, some of them suited to ornamental use, he said. Researchers hope to identify shade-tolerant varieties, which would expand the crop’s potential for home lawns.

Quesenberry said it’s anyone’s guess whether perennial peanut will ever rival turfgrass in popularity. But the legume will probably get attention in communities with water restrictions, he said.

The perennial peanut is adapted to subtropical and warm temperate climates. In the northern hemisphere, this would include locations below 32o north latitude (Florida-Georgia state line) having a long, warm growing season.

Those of you in Florida wanting to know more about using rhizomal perennial peanuts in the urban landscape can check out a guide from the University of Florida authored by Robert E. Rouse, Elan M. Miavitz, and Fritz M. Roka. Click here for the Guide.

Images courtesy the University of Florida

Monday, June 28, 2010

'Denialism' too often trumps science

SAN ANTONIO — Michael Spector, a reporter and author of the book “Denialism,” expressed his concern about the public’s fear of science including vaccinations and genetically engineered food and their role in society today at the American Seed Trade Association’s 127th Annual Convention here.

“People are anxious about the future and they don’t understand who is right and who is wrong,” Spector said. “Nothing in the world is without risk and this is something that American agriculture doesn’t address.

“There is risk. When we get in a car, 50,000 of us are going to die just this year. That doesn’t stop us from driving. Whatever our actions are, there are pluses and minuses that must be weighed.”

Spector said genetically engineered food has been planted for 20 plus years on numerous hectares.

“Another word for genetically modified food is ‘food,’” he noted. “Everything has been enhanced thru time—keeping the good and getting rid of the bad. Genetically engineered food is just a more precise way of doing that.”

Agriculture and the seed industry have products with benefits that are truly remarkable, he pointed out.

“The seed industry has the tools that almost no other industry has,” Spector told convention attendees, who are gathered June 26-30 to discuss and learn about seed industry issues. “There are tremendous achievements such as engineering foods to have fewer fats and healthier oils, in a nation that is so addicted to food, is outstanding.”

Spector explained that there are plants that have been modified with vitamins that would help many people in developing countries around the world, but they are rejected based on fears.

“This is a way to feed people who need to eat food,” Spector stated. “But, opposition is so severe and so fierce that it stops plants from going into the ground. Vitamin A rice is one example. There is a severe deficiency of Vitamin A, but opposition has put a stop to planting the Vitamin A enhanced rice. Products and developments such as these would save millions of human lives.”

While reporting and writing about scientific issues, Spector observed that people cling to what they believe is reason to deny or run away from something.

“Like every technology, things can be used for good or bad,” he said. “Technology moves us forward, not backward.”

He defined “denialism” as embracing fiction instead of the reality of every day.

“We embrace it because the alternative makes us angry,” Spector explained.

Businesses in the agricultural world that want to get their products accepted need to do a better job, he said.

“For too long, scientists, agricultural people, pharmacists and government have believed if science is on your side then that’s enough,” Spector said. “That’s not the case. Look at vaccinations. Why is half of the United States not vaccinating their children for woofing cough? Eventually polio could come back. Why? Because it is in other parts of the world and we have airplanes. This could happen if we don’t start doing a better job.

“We could pretend this isn’t a problem but that is disgraceful and it’s fooling people. We need to move away from embracing fear to embracing reality.”

Spector believes that in order for people to embrace reality, the scientific and agricultural communities need to start talking.

“Pharmaceutical companies are terrible about this,” he said. “They are in such a defensive crouch; they don’t want to talk about anything. Others will talk and those who talk and communicate get their story across.”

Agriculture has an amazing story, but people don’t understand it, Spector mentioned. He encouraged convention attendees and others in the agricultural community to start talking.

“Get out there and talk about what you are doing and what your products do,” he said. “We have a semantic problem and we need to address it. Reach out and talk to kids. Talk to everyone.

“Talk about what would happen if there wasn’t farming. Talk about what the world would look like without roads, without automobiles. I know what that world is like, because I spend a lot of time in Africa. When tomatoes grow, they go bad because farmers can’t get them to the market.”

For a billion people to go to bed hungry every night in this world and for us to try to prevent that situation from changing is an enduring shame, he said.

“We’ve got the science and we can change this, but it will never happen or be accepted if we don’t talk about it,” Spector explained. “We have to be willing to acknowledge and talk about the theoretical risks. It’s scary. There are downsides and we need to be willing to talk about them. I believe the benefits far outweigh the downsides.”

“I went to fancy farmers market a couple weeks ago in New York and there was guy selling milk,” Spector told. “But it wasn’t just regular milk; he was selling raw milk. One of the greatest advances we’ve had in this country was to pasteurize milk. To go to a fancy market and buy fancy milk and have some guy selling me raw milk is wrong. I hope you will do your part and help stop this.” — New Release from the ASTA


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Study says natural pesticides can do more harm than synthetics

Arsenic is a natural element and a deadly one if ingested. Lead, which is certainly natural, can do incredible harm, especially to youngsters. Even common table salt, which almost all of us have on our dinner tables, can result in death if taken in excess.

Many people (too many?) see the word natural as connoting safe and benign, whether for humans or the environment. I don’t know why this is so. Indeed, if you consult your Mirriam-Webster you will see that the neither word safe or benign appear in the 15 or so definitions of the word natural.

But the perception that natural is safer than synthetic or is better for the environment, especially in terms of chemical plant protection products, figures large in the rational of many in the activist community, especially in Canada where a well-organized, well-funded coalition of activist groups are on a mission — and to this point successful one — to take common chemical turf/landscape pest control products out of the hands of homeowners and even professionals that have (from all appearances) used them to good effect for decades.

OK, so what is this leading to?

A recent study by University of Guelph researchers claims that natural pesticides could cause more environmental damage than conventional chemicals.

"These data bring into caution the widely held assumption that organic pesticides are more environmentally benign than synthetic ones," said a synopsis of the paper published in the most recent edition of PLoS ONE, an online magazine that publishes medical and scientific research.

For a recent article in the consumer press about the study click here.

To access the results of the study published in PLoS ONE, click here.

If you already know all you need to know about chemical plant protection products (whether natural or manmade), and nothing you can read will ever add to your vast knowledge or change your opinion on the subject we apologize for wasting your time. Sincerely. — Ron Hall

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Do these irrigation/landscape tech salaries sound right to you?

I’m not sure how accurate these averages or how they were obtained, but here goes anyway. My guess is that they’re greatest value lies in showing that the wages for landscape and irrigation employees differ significantly by region.

You might say "Duh, that’s a no-brainer. " Fair enough but I thought you might find these salary averages interesting anyway.

The numbers come from the website indeed.com/salary. I selected for the following market for no other reason than they’re in different parts of the country. Visit the website you can probably find the salaries for your metropolitan market, as well.

Landscape tech —Las Vegas $20,000; Atlanta $24,000; Boston $25,000

Irrigation tech — Las Vegas $27,000: Atlanta $32,000: Boston $33,000

Lead groundskeeper — Las Vegas $36,000: Atlanta $43,000: Boston $45,000

Nursery manager — Las Vegas $34,000: Atlanta $40,000: Boston $42,000

Grounds worker — Las Vegas $21,000: Atlanta $25,000: Boston $26,000

Landscape laborer — Las Vegas $19,000: Atlanta $23,000: Boston $24,000

You'll find a more authoritative breakdown of industry salaries in the next Landscape Management magazine State of the Industry Report. Be on the lookout for it.

Source: indeed.com/salary — Ron Hall

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Former PLCAA leader Jim Brooks dies

We were saddened today to learn of the death of James Richard Brooks, 69. A note from Tom Delaney of the Professional Land Care Network informed us that Jim died Monday, May 3 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Embracing Hospice facility in Cumming, GA.

Those of you that have been in the lawn care business for more than few years probably remember Jim Brooks very well. A tall, handsome man with a deep resonant voice, Jim served as executive director of the Professional Lawn Care Association (PLCAA) in the 1980s, leading the Association during the period of its greatest growth. In total, Jim worked in the turfgrass industry for 17 years.

An excellent speaker and an accomplished amateur actor, Jim stayed very active after leaving PLCAA playing tennis, performing with local theater and devoting hours in services to the elderly in his community of Marietta, GA.

Jim received his undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Kansas where he was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Marilyn, and by two brothers, two sons and two grandchildren.

We remember Jim fondly and send our belated condolences to his family — Ron Hall

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

NY State Go Green program seeking to change an industry?

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is announcing a “Be Green Organic Yards NY” program that will reward businesses that do not use synthetic pesticide and other materials prohibited by organic conditions in an agreement that the DEC is crafting.

The reward?

It’s the right to use the “Be Green” service mark and to be listed as a green service provider on its website. The thinking is that consumers will access the website and hire lawn care or landscape service providers who agree to use products allowed by the program.

The program was just announced and it looks like the DEC has a lot of work to do before it is ready for launch, although apparently it intends to begin offering training for the program this fall.

There’s something about a state agency promoting a program whose aim is to bend an industry, in this case the lawn care industry, to its particular mindset that I find disturbing. It looks to me like bureaucrats looking for something else to meddle with.

But I’m not in the lawn care business in New York, and nobody from any government agency ever calls seeking my opinion, so I’ll leave it up to each and every one of you to decide for yourself if this Go Green program is a good idea.

Check out the details of the program on the DEC website by clicking here and shout out what you think. — Ron Hall

Monday, June 07, 2010

Landscaper comes up with colorful gay pride creation

KEY WEST, FL — Landscapers can be very creative as evidenced by John Mumford who teamed with artist Rick Worth and a handful of helpers to “landscape” Mount Trashmore here. They didn’t use plants, pavers or any of the other traditional landscape materials; they used buckets of paint, 87 gallons to be exact.

If you’re curious about what they came up with to kick off PrideFest, which starts June 9, click on CBS4.com here and see their colorful 120-ft. by 60-ft. creation. — Ron Hall

Friday, June 04, 2010

American Veterans' Lawn Care now on active duty


OK, what's the proper protocol? Do we salute our lawn care provider first and pay later, or pay them first and then salute?

The new American Veterans’ Lawn Care Service, based in Tyler, TX, sounds like a pretty neat idea. From the little bit we could learn about it, it appears to be both a professional lawn care company and also a program to help military veterans needing a job.

Its Facebook page describes it’s a non-profit organization consisting of American military veterans “that will shape up or maintain your yard, pool and surroundings with military precision and pride!”

Vietnam veteran St. Mark Holmes created the company and, according this recent report on KLTV in Tyler, TX, he is hiring other veterans to take care of lawns in East Texas.

From the images on the company’s Facebook page, it looks like these guys mean business when it comes to lawn care. — LM Editors

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Plant some vegetables for your clients — they'll love it!


I take a pair of kitchen scissors and cut fresh leaf lettuce from a large clay planter in our backyard whenever the wife or I want a salad for lunch or dinner. I planted the lettuce seed, a combination of green and red-leaved varieties, in potting soil left over from the previous season. The package of seed cost me $1.19, and has provided us with a near-continuous supply of tender, fresh lettuce for more than a month and has been incredibly easy to tend. Two weeks ago I planted the remainder of the leftover seed in a hanging basket, which will provide us with several nice large salads when the other lettuce is finished.

I planted several short rows of peas in early April, again from a single package costing $1.19. Those plants are almost ready to yield what appears to a bounty of plumb, juicy snow peas, meaning we’ll eat the pods and all. In addition, our recently planted half dozen pepper plants (all different varieties), four egg plants, four broccoli plants, five celery plants and half dozen tomato plants (again different varieties) promise similar fresh vegetables.

Our yard is very small, 50 ft. by 50 ft., with a shaded, themed cement patio surrounded on three sides by a flower garden (a garden that earned Vicky first place in the city garden contest in 2008). You can correctly infer from that that we’re hardly vegetable farmers. Even so, each year we prepare a planter or two of leaf lettuce and clear several sunny little corners on the property for other vegetable plants and await the bounty, which is usually enough by mid to late summer to share with neighbors as well as supply our needs until frost arrives again.

The point of this blog is not to crow about what a wonderful landscape we have (it’s modest by almost any measure) or what gifted gardeners we’ve become (we have our share of disasters) but to suggest that some of your clients might very much appreciate a tiny little gesture such as planting them a nice decorative container of leaf lettuce, grape tomatoes or another of their favorite vegetables.

That small, kind gesture might just land you a customer (and a friend) for life, considering the state of the economy and growing concerns over the source of our food, including the distances that it is shipped. — Ron Hall

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Readers Digest gives a nice shoutout to Cleveland lawn care pro

Phil Fogarty, owner of Crowley’s Weed Man, Euclid, OH, got a great shoutout from Readers Digest in its June issue. The magazine praised Fogarty for his efforts for many years on behalf of the Professional Landcare Network’s annual Renewal & Remembrance Arlington National Cemetery greenup.

Said the magazine (access the article here), Fogarty and 400 other volunteers travel to Virginia at their own expense and donate $250,000 worth of labor, equipment, and materials to lime lawns, yank weeds, feed flowers, and plant trees. Their work helps support the year-round efforts of Arlington’s staff to maintain the cemetery’s 624 acres. Says Fogarty, “It’s our gift to America.”

He also helped launch Project Evergreen's GreenCare for Troops, a nationwide program that supplies free lawn care to military families while a loved one is deployed overseas. Since 2006, the program has provided more than 9,000 households with more than 2,500 green-thumbed volunteers. “Tending a lawn is nothing compared with what these families go through,” says Fogarty. “But it’s a way to let them know we care,” said Fogarty in the magazine article — LM Staff