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, 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.

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, 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, 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.