Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A pig in a park

Turns out sheep aren't the only eco-friendly animals to work in the landscaping market. It seems a trio of pigs have joined a Loughborough, England landscaping team to help clean up a local park.

Yeah, that's right: pigs.

Turns out a trio of porcine laborers borrowed from Brooksby Melton College to clear an acre or so of they city's Beacon Hill Country Park, according to

Apparently the young pigs are particularly suited to the job. "The Welsh Pig is an old rare breed which is very hardy and is favoured for its management capabilities," according to the article, which can be read in full here.

New EU pesticide regs will mean loss of popular A.I's there

In Jan. 2009 the European Parliament approved new European Union pesticide regulations. They went into force recently. The UK publication HorticultureWeek reports that the regulations could result in the loss of 19 active ingredients in crop protection products used by the horticulture industry there.

"The new EU legislation is going to have an impact. The potential losses are large and there is a huge degree of uncertainty in the process. We've been working with worst case scenario assumptions and it probably won't be as bad as that, but some products are likely to be lost when we are already at the bare bones. It shows that there is a real problem here," Paul Chambers, Plant Health Adviser of the National Farm Union is quoted in the article.

When the A.I's will be pulled from the market is uncertain.

The following A.I's, some of which most of you will recognize, are not expected to be around when 2020 arrives, according to the article:

Bifenthrin, Esfenvalerate, Bitertanol, Carbendazim, Flusilazole, Quinoxyfen, Cyproconazole, Epoxiconazole, Fenbuconazole, Mancozeb, Maneb, Metconazole, Tebuconazole, Flumioxazine, Glufosinate ammonium, Linuron, Pendimethalin, Amitrole, Ioxynil

Monday, June 27, 2011

One cheeky landscaper

It really makes us wonder who was doing the voting.
A 28-year-old British landscaper won the title of Britain's "Best Builder's Bum." You can read the story and see the now famous backside here.
Apparently, Billy Clark, of the magnificent tush, from Writtle in Essex (love British city names) beat out a "shapely" female contestant, and he's considering (tongue in cheek we think) of moonlighting as a "stunt bottom" in movies. For more on the story (and to get your fill of rear-related puns) read the story from Britain's

Friday, June 24, 2011

Social media is cool, but direct mail still works for Spring-Green

Spring-Green Lawn Care, the 34-year-old multi-regional lawn care service provider based in Plainfield, IL, still uses and gets acceptable sales results with direct mail. Even in this age of Twitter, Facebook and Groupon.
Not that Spring-Green President James Young is old-fashioned or anything, but he tells that social media doesn't work for everything. He believes social media and digital marketing are good for staying in touch with and responding to clients' and prospects' questions. But with direct mail you can better reach prospects with your message and special offers — i.e. acquiring customers.
Click on to read the short interview. Whether you agree or not, you’ll find Young’s views on the new media worthwhile.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Having fun at Snow and Ice Symposium

Checking out the equipment at the 14th Annual Snow and Ice Symposium. More than 1,300 people are expected. Lots to see this year, including the SnowDozer B.A.T. and other new plows. Pretty cool so far!

Don't miss your turfgrass field day!

Attend a turfgrass field day this summer. Many public land-grant universities with turf programs put one on each summer or early fall. These are great educational and networking events. A recent visit to the East Tennessee Research & Education Center just outside of Knoxville, TN, reminded us what you can miss by letting yourself get too busy to show up.

We were among about 150 other turf and sports field managers participating in the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Regional Summer Conference at the University of Tennessee.

The gently rolling outdoor research site on the banks of the broad Tennessee River now features 15 acres of turfgrass research plots thanks to the efforts of the University of Tennessee’s turf team, in particular Dr. John Sorochan. When Sorochan joined the university nine years ago after earning his Ph.D. at Michigan State University the site contained no turfgrass plots. Zero. Nada.

Tennessee’s Turfgrass Field Day is Sept. 15. This should be a must-attend event, especially for sports field managers in the South and Mid-South. Sorochan and his team, thanks to the generosity of the Peebles family and its AstroTurf company, developed The University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety. The outdoor research facility has 60 small-scale athletic research fields build from a variety of playing surfaces — from the professional level to the public park level.

Initial research there started in the fall of 2010. Sorochan and his colleages will share some preliminary findings at Tennessee’s Turfgrass Field Day, Sept. 15.

Check the date for the Turfgrass Field Day nearest you and plan on attending. We can guarantee you a barbecue pork sandwich, Marconi or potato salad and ice tea lunch — and the latest research information about turfgrass and its management in your neck of the country.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Brown grass is "cool" in drought-stressed UK

Turfgrass Growers Association in the United Kingdom this week provided water companies with new information to help educate homeowners that there's no need to water established turf.

Four new factsheets, available from its website at, focus on looking after newly laid and established lawns in warm, dry weather.

They advise homeowners to avoid watering established lawns after the driest spring in 20 years put pressure on water supplies.

Tim Mudge, Chief Executive of the TGA, whose members produce more than 70% of the turf grown in the British Isles, says that during hot weather, the watering of established lawns is, in most situations, wasteful and unnecessary.

"Our message is not to worry if your lawn goes brown during the summer. Going brown is the natural survival mechanism of grass. When water is in short supply grass responds by shutting down. The brown color shows that it has stopped growing until more favorable conditions return. We all have an obligation to use water responsibly and we're trying to do our bit to get the water conservation message across."

The TGA also reminded water companies that grass does, indeed, need water to get established. It recommended a discretionary 28 day exemption from discretionary use bans for newly laid turf.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The hearings and the ban — a tale of two 20-year anniversaries

Summer 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the second of two U.S. Senate sub-committee hearings on pesticide use by the lawn care industry. The first hearing on Capitol Hill took place the previous summer. Senators John Warner (R-VA), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) conducted the hearings. Representatives from the lawn care industry and pesticide critics, including people claiming to have been harmed by them, testified.

The professional lawn care industry was understandably concerned. The hearings marked the first time that the industry came under the national media spotlight. And, it was clear from the start that the hearings weren’t being called to pat the industry on its back for ridding the nation’s lawns of crabgrass and dandelions. Their purpose was to determine if the industry’s use of lawn care chemicals was harmful to the health of customers.

Scrutiny fails to uncover hazards

Industry professionals, business owners and spokespeople from the Professional Lawn Care Industry of America (PLCAA) defended industry practices. Industry critics received equal time to state their case. Overall, their testimony was, for the most part, anecdotal rather than substantive. In one instance it bordered on silly when the manufacturer of a “natural” lawn care product suggested that homeowners pay neighborhood children a nickel for each dandelion they dig from their yards. The supplier earnestly floated this as an alternative to professionally applied weed controls.

(You can’t make this stuff up. I had a front-row seat to both hearings.)

In the end, neither Capitol Hill hearing gave the senators ammunition enough to move against the industry or the products it uses. In terms of damning revelations the hearings were a flop.

Even so, the hearings led to the establishment of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), representing the specialty chemical industry, which has since successfully defended the industry's right to use pesticide products. The U.S. lawn care industry remains healthy in spite of the economic turmoil of the past several years and (to my knowledge anyway) has not been proven to result in any undue health risk either for lawn care customers, the public at large or chemical applicators.

A different sort of celebration

Coincidentally, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Town of Hudson in Quebec Province banning the use of most synthetic pesticides for lawn care. The town is planning a special celebration on June 18. Hudson’s Awakening Festival will reportedly feature 14 speakers from across North America, including Paul Tukey, who has fashioned a high profile career bashing the lawn care industry's use of traditional pesticides.

Tukey, who claims that lawn care chemicals harmed his health when he was as a lawn care professional in Maine, travels the United States and Canada promoting pesticide bans wherever. Articulate and media savvy, Tukey has deftly positioned himself as the champion of the anti-pesticide movement in lawn care, and is in high demand as a speaker.

Whether out of genuine concern over the health effects of pesticides, entrepreneurial opportunism or a combination of the two, Tukey’s efforts have the potential to contribute to the failure of thousands of businesses and the loss of tens of thousands of lawn care jobs in the United States. That’s a lot of damage to be directing at an industry on what is (being generous) flimsy and poorly documented evidence of harmful effects.

The consequences of what Tukey and other like-minded individuals (for whatever reasons) are promoting are staggering. Witness Canada’s rapidly shrinking lawn care industry where provinces and local governments have implemented a welter of pesticides bans, each with its own set of rules.

All of this has taken place since Hudson’s landmark victory to enact its ban. Is this is something to be celebrated, really?

Perhaps forgotten in the town's 20th anniversary Awakening Festival is that the issue, at least from the courts’ rulings, wasn't about the safety of lawn care pesticides, at all. The courts' ruling upheld the town’s right to enact its own legislation. — Ron Hall

Thursday, June 09, 2011

2011 Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition Accepting Entries

Feel strongly about water conservation issues? Now's your chance to put your passion --and creativity -- to good use. Create a short film about responsible water conservation for a shot at $6,000 and a trip to the awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, CA (Sept. 20).

Films should range from 1 to 10 minutes in length. Submissions are accepted until Aug. 1. For contest rules, a look at past winners and more information, visit

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Counting on compost tea to get the job done at CU-Boulder

Boulder, CO, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, is a beautiful city and home to the University of Colorado. Those leaning to the right on the political scale sometimes refer to Boulder as “The Republic of Boulder” for its progressive attitude on environmental and social issues. (Image courtesy UC-Boulder)

Therefore, we weren’t surprised to read that CU-Boulder will begin using compost tea rather than synthetic fertilizers and conventional pesticides to keep its common areas healthy and weed free.

The first phase of the program will cut the use of herbicides on turf areas this season by 45% compared to the 2009 season, and by 93% by the end of 2012, said an article on Student leaders think it’s a grand idea.

Switching from traditional products to compost tea (aided by some hand weeding) is going to be costly. Frank Bruno, vice chancellor for planning and administration at CU-Boulder, says the switchover could cost $90,000 extra a year. (Ouch!).

We’re not pooh-poohing compost teas, which have intrigued some of the industry’s more adventuresome professionals for decades. We’ve interviewed more than a few landscape/lawn service professionals who swear by their brews in improving plant performance and suppressing diseases. Almost to the person, they say their biggest challenges are manufacturing consistent product from batch to batch and producing teas in sufficient quantities for commercial purposes.

A good place to start if you're curious about compost teas is a fact sheet “Compost Tea: Miracle or Marketing Gimmick,” by Linda Chalker-Scott, associate professor and extension horticulturist, at Washington State University.

Monday, June 06, 2011

10 sure-fire landscape sales boosters

Tom Oyler loves to sell. He founded and sold U.S. Lawns, and has sold millions of dollars of products, services and companies over the past three decades. He owns and still actively runs several Florida-based companies in addition to partnering with Bruce Wilson in their successful consulting business, Wilson-Oyler Group.

Oyler's an entertaining speaker, too. We attended the recent Next Level Network University and participated in a spirited day-long selling seminar with Oyler and a group of talented managers from top U.S. landscape companies.

Here's Tom's top 10 things to think about in the sales process:

1. Qualify prospects. (No bad meat in your camp. Laser sharp value proposition. Time management.)

2. Maintenance services are short-cycle and renewable services. (You do not have to sell the customer; you have to suppress the competition. Build value chains. Empathetically engineer sales solutions)

3. Build market density. (A crew behind glass is just burning gas. Speed of service and service recovery. Lower supervisory costs.)

4. Do the math. (Data base management. Time management. Meeting goals.)

5. Inside sales support may be needed. (Inexpensive. Accurate. Routine.)

6. Get there first. (Build your brand. Understand market trends. Alter pricing strategies. Sell strategically.)

7. Invest in your client. (Be selflessly selfish.)

8. Become a business leader. (Within your company. Within your community.)

9. Build trust. (Communications. Corporate and competency.)

10. Gain subject matter and domain matter expert status. (Be the knowledge leader.)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Now that's loyalty

We all know it's a lot cheaper to keep customers than it is to go out and find new ones. Customer loyalty is a tenuous thing these days, with so many looking for the best deal. It was quite refreshing to read a story about a customer loyalty that we imagine will be pretty hard to beat.

A Chillicothe, Ohio woman has been a customer with her local bank since before World War I.
June Gregg, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday still has the account her father set up for her in 1913. For more on the story, read the Associated Press article here.

Have you got a customer loyalty story? Let us here about it: