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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wisconsin schoolboy entrepreneur lands government mowing contract

Who says a tiny mowing/maintenance operation can’t compete against the big guys?

Not 17-year-old Marty Walleser, founder and sole employee of M’s Lawn Care. Marty, who obtained the proper insurance for his company and calculated his costs and time in sizing up the task before outbiding a dozen other companies to win a government contract to mow 34 sites in LaCrosse, WI.

Marty expects to earn $10,000 from his summer mowing job. You can read about how he priced the job and landed the contract by accessing the article in the LaCrosse Tribune or by clicking here. — The LM Editors

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revving up those mowers and making music

Finally a movie about us landscapers. And a darn good one too, we've read.

And if you've ever worked on a mowing crew you know that there's fertile ground for humor, most of it supplied unintentionally by the guys you're working with, right?

The movie is “Mow Crew,” a comedy with lots of original music directed by young filmmaker Taylor Toole. The film is about a young man working on the mowing crew of a landscape company on Martha’s Vineyard. Toole is a Vineyard native. The movie is loosely based on Toole’s adolescent experiences working on a real-life mowing crew for Tea Lane Nursery, an established island nursery and landscape business.

In the movie, the lead character, Eric Campbell, and his girlfriend, Sage, both of them talented musicians, have some tough decisions to make as the summer draws to a close, including whether to stay on the island or take off for Los Angeles where they’ve been promised a record deal.

Adding to the storyline and providing much of the comedy is the ongoing “landscaping war” between Campbell’s mowing crew (with a disaster-prone crew member) and a rival outfit decked out in pink polos and khaki trousers. (Pink polos, puh-leeeze!)

Shot on Martha’s Vineyard in just three weeks in the summer of 2008, the film shows the Vineyard for what it is — both its loveliness and some of its warts, says a review by the island press.

Keep an eye out for it in your city. After all, when was the last time a professional cutter was cast as the lead character in a movie?

Finally, if you've seen the movie, let us know what you thought of it. — LM Editors

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why did these landscapers have to die?

Here are two more tragic reasons why we must provide ongoing safety training if we own or manage a landscape, tree or lawn service business — “ongoing,” because we all tend to forget or let sloppiness slip back into our routines if we don’t get regular reminders.

Two recent and very similar mowing-related fatalities involved young men, probably much like the young men with wives and children working for many of us. Both accidents were preventable had the unfortunate victims recognized (or been trained to recognize) specific mowing hazards.

On the afternoon of May 12 a 33-year-old Detroit man died when his commercial riding mower slid down a steep slope, overturned and trapped him in a small creek at an apartment complex in Shelby Township, MI. The mishap was only discovered when a passerby noticed the undercarriage of the mower sticking above the water.

Just three days later, the 29-year-old operator of a commercial mower died in an eerily similar accident on Brush Creek near Kansas City, MO.

Each year sees about 200 landscape workers killed on the job, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor. The number of accidents and fatalities, as you might expect, is greatest from May through September.

The most common event resulting in landscape services worker fatalities was transportation incidents. About 33% of all landscape worker fatalities were due to transportation incidents in comparison with 43% for all U.S. industry.

Landscape services workers were more likely to die due to falls to lower level, struck by falling objects, and electrocutions (22%, 17%, and 9.8%, respectively).

Landscape services workers were engaged in a range of activities at the time of the occupational fatalities. Using tools or machinery during tree trimming or removal activities was particularly hazardous. Fatalities during tree trimming or removal activities were caused by falls from heights, being struck by falling objects and electrocutions.

Most landscape services worker fatalities occurred on private property with the largest proportion at private residences.

Safety Guidelines

* Understand and comply with all OSHA regulations that apply to the landscape services operations and tasks.

* Develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive safety program that includes written rules and safe work procedures. A joint health and safety committee with employees & supervisors should be considered.

* Conduct an initial and daily jobsite survey before beginning work to identify all hazards and implement appropriate controls.

* Provide specific training for hazards such as power lines and other sources of electricity, tree trimming and felling, falls from heights, roadway vehicle operations, and hand and portable power tools use.

* Train operators of off-road machinery and other specialized equipment to follow manufacturers’ recommended procedures for safe operation, service, and maintenance.

* Monitor workers during periods of high heat stress/strain and remind workers of the signs of heat-related illness and the need to consume sufficient water during hot conditions.

Free Tailgate Training Documents in English and Spanish

* OSHA PLANET Alliance Safety & Health Topics Page

* California State Compensation Insurance Fund Bi-lingual Training

* Farm Safety Association Inc. (Canada)

* Kansas State University Research and Extension and College of Agriculture,

* Ohio State Univ. College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Landscape Worker Bi-lingual Training

* Oregon Health and Science University, Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology

* PLANET Safety Tip Sheets

— The LM Editors

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beyond Logic

As landscape professionals, you may be faced with questions regarding pesticides and the effectiveness of the tools you use every day. It’s important to be aware of “what you’re up against” when it comes to the information your customers may be getting from groups who oppose the use of pesticides.

Last month, the 28th National Pesticide Forum, “Greening the Community,” was held by Beyond Pesticides in Cleveland. During the opening session, “Pesticides 101,” Caroline Cox, a Beyond Pesticides board member and research director for the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., outlined the “10 Reasons Not To Use Pesticides,” renaming her session to clarify her message.

Here are a few of the points this organization is spreading to your current and potential customers.
  • Pesticides don’t solve pest problems. “If pesticides really solved pest problems, we wouldn’t use them repeatedly,” Cox explained. “Every year in the U.S., a billion pesticides are used. The amount isn’t going down.”
  • Pesticides are hazardous to human health. Three hundred million pounds of cancer-causing pesticides and 150 million pounds of pesticides that cause reproduction problems like miscarriages or birth defects are used annually, Cox told the group.
  • Pesticides cause special problems for children. “For their size, children drink more water and eat more food than adults do,” she said. “Their play exposes them to pesticides. They do somersaults on the lawn and they sprawl out on the carpet to read a book. All of these things increase their exposure to pesticides.”
    “Kids are also growing and developing,” she added. “If they are exposed to pesticides when they are at a critical stage of growth or development and their growth changes, this is something have to live with for life. For instance, some common pesticides appear to affect the developing brain so a child’s brain will be different when they grow up."
  • Pesticides contaminate water and air. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Monitoring Program found 57 pesticides in public drinking water samples in 2009, and the U.S. Geological Survey found pesticides in 90% to 100% of rivers and streams they tested in 2006. After stating these facts Cox concluded that “pesticides used on lawn and roadsides do end up in urban streams and rivers.”
  • Pesticides are hazardous to fish and birds. “We share planet with other living things and they pay the price as a result of our pesticide use,” Cox said, adding that 100 million pounds of pesticides per year fill fish, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Pesticide health and safety testing is conducted by pesticide manufacturers. “The government does not test pesticides – they ask companies that make them to test them,” Cox said. “If you profit from a product and test it isn’t there a built in conflict of interest?”
  • Pesticides are hazardous to pets. “A good way to talk to people about pesticides is talk to them about pets,” Cox offered the group, adding that the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported more than 30,000 pesticide poisoned pets in a single year (2005). She also pointed specifically to the use of lawn care herbicides as a reason for the increased risk of pet cancer.
  • Pesticides have too many secrets. Pesticide ingredients are divided into active and inert, Cox explained, “so you wouldn’t know exactly what chemicals were used on your block because a good percentage of them could be inert and not listed on the label.”
Do yourself — and your industry — a favor and become educated about the true benefits of pesticides and be prepared to speak knowledgeably when faced with questions regarding their harmful effects. - Nicole Wisniewski

You can reach Wisniewski, editor-in-chief of Landscape Management magazine, at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rain barrels are all the rage.....why?

My wife Vicky and two of her close friends signed up for rain barrels more than a month ago, sent in their $45 payments to the local conservation district and yesterday they finally got their long-awaited rain barrels.

They were delighted when they drove up to a local park and saw a knot of people and perhaps 30 plastic 55-gallon barrels lined up in rows outside of a shelter house. After 15 minutes of instruction by the conservation leader, the 20 or so women and a couple of men immediately got to the business of threading faucets and poly overflow pipes into the barrels that had been drilled prior to their arrival. Heeding the instructions of the conservationist, each participant proudly straddled their new barrel to get a better grip on their simple tasks. The late afternoon took on the aspects of a block party as the men and women, astride their barrels, cheerfully passed channel locks and monkey wrenches back and forth.

Yes, we all want to be environmentalists, especially those of us in the professional Green Industry. We do what we can on our properties and on our clients’ properties to conserve water and reduce runoff and non-point-source pollution.

But, I have to tell you; a rain barrel by itself (we now have two at our home) will NOT do the trick by itself. It's one tiny piece of the puzzle.

Even before we could get our new, second rain barrel in place the rains came. And they kept coming. Since I hadn’t properly installed even our first rain barrel (no provision for overflow) and fearing a flooded basement, I spent much of the day bailing water into our newly acquired rain barrel and then into any other large container I could find and finally (like Mickey Mouse the sorcerers apprentice in Fantasia) lugging it onto the back of our property and dumping it onto our flower garden. Bucket after bucket.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing rain barrels. If your wife or a customer wants one, let them have one. But I think I would tell them upfront that to catch rain — really catch rain — they’re going to need more than a single 55-gallon barrel.

In other words, let them know exactly what they’re getting.

Here are a few things your wife or your customer needs to know about rain barrels:

— A one inch rain on a 100 sq. ft. roof area will fill a 55-gal. rain barrel. What does that mean? It means to capture all of the rainwater (or even most of it) from the roof of your house you're going to need a lot more rain barrels. To capture all of a one inch rain —today we had 1.5 inches at my house — I would need 11 barrels, which of course is not about to happen. Looking at it another way, if you and your family lived in a 10-ft. X 10-ft. house you could capture almost every drop of rain in a single barrel from a one-inch event. But how many families live in a 10X10 house?

— You will need a fine mesh over your gutter connection to keep leaves and other debris from your barrel.

— Take measures to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your rain barrel. Again, a fine mesh covering would work. Or you can use tablespoon of olive oil in the water or “mosquito dunks”. Stagnate water breeds mosquitoes and it gets yucky.

— Don’t install your rain barrel too high off the ground. Water is heavy. Filled with water the barrel will weigh more than 300 lbs. and could fall on you and maim you. Unfortunately, there is not likely to be anybody around with a camera phone so others can share in your misfortune on America's Funniest Home Video.

— If you live anywhere but the far South remove your rain barrel from the downspout prior to winter and turn it upside down or on its side.

I'm sure it's obvious from my misadventures that I am not a rain barrel expert. So if you have anything to add to this tale (apart from ridicule, that is) share it please. — Ron Hall

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Landscapes are interesting; people are fascinating

Begins my 26th year reporting on the Green Industry and my wonder grows at the incredible diversity of ecosystems, both natural and manmade, that give each region of the United States its distinctive personality. That said, it’s the people connected to these landscapes that fascinate me most. People like Phil and Rhonda Brewer who live and maintain a unique landscape at their 3.5-acre homestead just outside of Tucson.

First, a short back-story:

I’m visiting Tucson with about 50 other editors and communication professionals, all of us members of the Turf and Ornamental Communications Association (TOCA), and participating in three days of learning and networking.

Like any other conference, the schedule is packed. Yet each of us manages to carve out a few hours of free time. I spend mine meeting the Brewers and touring their uniquely personal landscape in the company of Ray Garvey of the Grasshopper mower company and marketing specialist Brian Schoenthaler of Meet Associated, both hailing from Wichita, KS.

How the five of us – myself, Ray, Brian and the Brewers — came together is a long story. It’s enough to say that Phil, whose lean, angular features suggest a wrangler riding fence more so than the former owner of radio stations in Hawaii and Colorado, and his wife, Rhonda, made the acquaintance of Grasshopper President Stan Guyer at a Colorado art show where Rhonda was exhibiting her work. By the way, Rhonda is an incredible artist that works in multiple media, including producing one-of-a-kind pieces out of lariat rope. But we're talking landscaping here, right?

Phil noticed Stan’s jacket with the Grasshopper logo, mentioned that he was looking for a commercial mower tough enough to tame the turf on his desert turf, ended up buying a Grasshopper 723K, and here we were walking the Brewer’s property and admiring more than two years of landscaping that have transformed this tiny piece of desert into a delightful ecosystem that blends livability with the native environment.

Certainly if your passion is purely native landscaping, you might take issue with at least one of the features, turfgrass, the Brewers installed on their property since moving there 10 years ago.

Yes, they installed and maintain turfgrass, in this case centipedegrass (modest parcels by Midwest standards), which Phil mows with his Grasshopper. And yes, the turfgrass is irrigated, which, of course, is now also being discouraged in desert communities across the Southwest. In this case the water comes from an 1100-ft.-deep well, pumped to a 5,000-gallon underground tank, which the Brewers had installed several years ago. It also captures rainwater runoff from a nearby utility building. When the property, which includes a one-acre pasture for horses, is irrigated, which apparently is only done when the Brewers are home, the grass is green and alive.

Phil, after much research, installed the system himself, a total of four miles of water line and about 80 Hunter sprinkler heads matched to specific zones. The heads irrigating the fenced in pasture were installed in recesses in a low stone wall. They can be changed much as you would change a spark plug on a car. He didn’t want sprinkler heads in the pasture fearing that a horse might stumble on one and get injured.

The landscape, of course, features cacti (many species), mature mesquite trees with cast a cool dappled shade across much of the small front lawn and perhaps a dozen other indigenous plant species on their property. Non-natives include roses, flowering plums and five oaks, which give their homestead its name, Five Oaks.

We came at a good time.

The cacti buds are full and tight, and you can just see hints of the blood reds, oranges and yellows promising to unfold in full bloom on their brown, rocky residential landscape. A few species are in glorious blossom as I write this. The real show takes place next week.

Credit for the brief, annual phenomenon goes to the region’s scarcest resource – water.

Heavy rains this spring in a city that in some years measures precipitation in a single digit, is coaxing one of the most brilliant displays of desert color in recent memory. (The Sonoran justifies its claim as the most ecologically diverse and alive desert ecoscape on the planet!)

As I mentioned earlier, the real story isn’t so much the landscape, much of which was installed by the Brewers and by Rhonda’s brother, an experienced contractor, but about the couple’s love of the region’s unique environment. Like any thoughtfully planned and executed landscape, it fits the ecology of the region and is frequently visited by a variety of desert critters, including bobcats and coyotes. Very unwelcome, however, are rattlesnakes, which a 3-ft.-long Mojave rattlesnake found out when Rhonda dispatched it with two blasts from her shotgun.

The Brewers are people on the move. They’re gone from their home almost as much as they’re there. The morning we visited they had just the night before returned from Oklahoma.

Sharing a pitcher of cold, non-sweetened ice tea that Rhonda poured from a colorful ceramic pitcher she had created in here “Little Dipper” collection of serving ware, Phil says the couple is looking forward to spending the summer at Five Oaks. Then they’ll be off again in their motor home with Rhonda’s art – pastels, ceramic ware and lariat rope baskets, all of it one-of-a-kind and some of it incredibly pricey by work-a-day standards – secure in the trailer behind it.

“You never know who you’re going to meet or what stories they’re going to tell you. They could be famous or not, but I look forward to it,” says Phil.

But for now and for the next several weeks, he says he will be busy getting Five Oaks back in order and Rhonda will be busy with her artwork, which includes crafting one-of-a-kind baskets out of lariat rope, unique in all the world . . . like the Brewers. — Ron Hall