Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ok, what's so "environmental" about this grass seed?

"Green" or "sustainability" or whatever term you want to give to this new era of resource preservation and ecological regeneration is resulting in some far-fetched environmental claims.

A recent one coming to my attention involves a grass seed marketer — not a name most of you would recognize — that's aggressively marketing the environmental benefits of its grass seed mixtures. The company makes some rather exaggerated (remarkable?) claims for its products.

On its website it says that buyers/users of its grass seed need only mow once a month, seldom or never water (after establishment), that it thrives without chemicals and grows 12-in.-deep roots.

Yes, in theory, the grass seed mixtures it sells (a 5-lb. bag costs about $35) will probably survive and may even result is a sward acceptable to a "naturalist" with minimal care. But, my guess is that most people buying these products and expecting to have attractive, high-quality lawns without watering, fertilizing and by mowing just once a month are going to be sorely disappointed.

What do these "environmental" lawn seed mixtures contain? It turns out they're comprised of different ratios of fine fescues, turf-type tall fescues, Kentucky bluegrasses and perennial ryegrasses.

The fine fescues (hard, creeping red and chewings) predominate in the shade mixtures, with Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescues making up a goodly portion of the sunny mixtures. Combining improved varieties of these different species for different growing conditions (sun and share) are a common practice by grass seed marketers.

The fact that this company’s website bears the seal of approval of SafeLawns.org should be enough of a tipoff that this company is aiming its marketing at the naive consumer. And, judging by the press this company is getting, the naive media. (Hey, I've been a part of the media for 40-plus years, and will regretfully admit to being naive on more than a few occasions.)

I hope this one example isn't indicative of where the landscape industry is going in terms of its commitment to sustainable products and services. — Ron Hall

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Canadians sneaking weed killers back across their border?

Word comes that some Canadians are buying pesticides online or crossing into the United States to get weed killers and insecticides. The authorities have been informed. This is a no-no. Several provinces in Canada, including Ontario, have banned the sale and use of almost all traditional lawn care pest control products.
Could it be that some Canadian homeowners are fed up with how their properties look? From what we've been told from lawn care pros there, the so-called “natural” or “organic” replacements for these government-approved weed killers are:
more expensive
require the use of more product
more frequent applications and
provide less satisfactory results.
Moreover, whether these products are “safer” than those they've replaced is debatable. Any reasonable discussion relating to the relative “safety” of pesticides — alternative vs traditional — is now unlikely because the issue has become so emotional and politicized.
Even so, not every Canadian homeowner is enamored with lawn weeds, one of which is now apparently in consideration as the country’s official weed. OK, that’s not funny. Let it be said here first: There’s no chance, absolutely no chance, the national flag will become known as The Dandelion rather than The Maple Leaf.
We don’t condone illegal activities of any kind. We're merely commenting that some of our fine neighbors from the north are crossing our U.S. border to buy weed killers. Here’s a recent news article about that: “Gardeners cross-border shop for illegal pesticides.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is someone stealing your fuel? Read this

Rarely do we feature products on this blog. The LM staff's postings are not for sale. Our criteria for posting is simple — helping readers offer better service, save time and money, be more environmentally responsible.

Michigan contractor Mark Bruinius came up with a product, TankShield, that helps contractors save money by stopping fuel theft from skid tanks. We're passing along the information because we've heard lots of stories about equipment and fuel theft this spring.

Bruinius, who ran a landscaping business for 15 years, contacted us after reading the article "Theft: Lock it up" in our Feb. 2011 issue.

Maybe like you, he had a problem preventing fuel theft from his skid tanks. He had three 500-gal. tanks — unleaded, on-road and off-road diesel. Most of the theft involved small amounts taken periodically. He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t figure out a way to stop it. It took the theft of $1,100 worth of unleaded fuel for him to say “enough.”

After a lot of experimentation, he came up with a rugged patented product made of 12-gauge steel and secured with using puck-style lock that allows his employees (those he trusts with keys) to access the pump through the front door. A unique internal slide rod at the rear door allows his fuel distributor to fill the tanks.

Bruinius, who manufactures the TankShields in Michigan, says they’re available in 550 and 1000 gal. UL, non-UL, double-walled tanks and high-flow pump models.

Always feel free to share your ideas with us and we’ll pass them along so that others can benefit from your experiences.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keep your guard up; thieves see landscape equipment as easy pickens'

John Levonsky, JK Landscaping, speaking to WINK News in southwest Florida, referred to the thieves that hit his company as “being like ghosts.” They cut a hole in the chain link fence at his company’s holding yard in Bonita Springs, FL, and selectively picked out and made off with thousands of dollars worth of his equipment.

“They came in, took it, closed the doors, put the locks back in their place and just disappeared,” Levonsky told the TV station reporter.

Similiar discouraging reports from across the United States and Canada have been filling the news wires. It almost seems like an epidemic this spring. Thieves apparently see landscaping equipment as easy pickens’. The small stuff is easy to fence for fast cash. Apparently, it’s no problem to move the big stuff, too — commercial mowers, skid steers, loaders etc. Thieves even make off with trucks with loaded landscape trailers.

There are two huge costs to equipment theft:

1. The monetary cost represented by the loss of the equipment. Make sure equipment is properly insured!

2. Downtown and loss of production while replacement equipment is rounded up. This will spoil any landscaper's day. Levonsky, speaking to the WINK reporter, took his loss more philosophically than most.

"You shut down for a day, you regroup, you can't let it get you down. You just gotta keep moving,” he said.

When we polled readers earlier this year, more than 60% of respondents said they had been ripped off at least once in the past three years; some said they'd been hit multiple times.

For great information about how to reduce the risk of theft of your stuff, click on our special spring report — "Theft: Lock it up."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Download the new "The Benefits of Turf" pub

The Ohio State University turf team has put together a very nice digital publication, “The Benefits of Turf.” This is something you may want to share with customers, prospects or local regulatory officials. Click on “The Benefits of Turf,” and I think you will agree that this is nicely done.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Green Industry bigger than most people realize

$175.3 billion. That's serious cash money.

That was the estimated total economic contribution (revenue) for the U.S. Green Industry in 2007. Landscaping services contributed $86.6 billion. That was the largest of the 17 industry categories in the report.

The Southern Cooperative Series shared these number, along with other eye-opening statistics, in its digital publication, "Economic Contributions of the Green Industry in the United States, 2007." The report became available May 12.

Here are some numbers gathered from the 61-page report:

— The Green Industry employed almost two million full- and part-time workers in '07 with approximately half employed in landscaping services.

— Labor earnings in the Industry exceeded $53 billion with landscaping services again the largest segment handing out $28 in paychecks.

— California led the n
ation in Industry output contributions at about $25 billion. It was followed by Florida at $15 billion, Illinois 8.2 billion and Ohio approximately $7 billion.

— The Green Industry represented 0.76% of U.S. gross domestic product in 2007.

The report makes great bathroom reading. To download a pdf of the report click here.