Posts Tagged ‘lawn care companies’

Do it yourself versus the turf care professional Reason #1: The Environment

Published by JKeefe on January 17th, 2012 - in Lawn Care Companies
Lawn on a lake

Turf next to water needs special consideration

50 million Americans care for their own lawns, covering an estimated 31 million of acres of grass.  This amount of lawn area could cover all of New England with 80% of this grass residing in home lawns [Ref 1].  Even with these older figures, we can draw a few basic conclusions including home owner’s account for a significantly larger figure than those who have their grass professionally maintained.  We can also surmise that this is a lot grass area to care for over the growing season with potential ramifications.  Furthermore, the volume of products applied by novice, well-intentioned Americans far outweighs that of licensed and insured turf care professionals.  So what’s really at stake here?  What’s the big deal?

There are a few important factors that should be taken into consideration when comparing the perceived financial savings as opposed to hiring a professional turf care company.  First and foremost, you have the environment.  With so many “do it themselves” (who I will call DITs), one can imagine a larger  impact to waterways when material is unintentionally applied too close to rivers, streams, lakes, or storm drains in cities .  Even though the same rules apply within a state, who is going to notice or inspect the DITs?  No one I suspect would be the simple truth.  Well intentioned or not, without training, field experience, and education, this huge amount of DITs simply don’t have the tools necessary to make proper decisions and apply treatments to turf with the desired results. 

This is a unique problem as it relates to other fields as well such as with a plumber or electrician.  A home owner can do his or her own work, with the final inspection being done by a certified, licensed agent in many cases as a final proof of quality.  After all, there is an inherent safety issue with electrical work to those living within the building.  Codes must be upheld and followed for reasons of safety.  What would happen if this same concept applied to the turf industry?  Imagine requiring a final certification or a site visit prior to applying a weed and feed to your lawn, either near a waterway or even in a city.  Regardless of location, products including fertilizers can find their way into a water system when applied incorrectly, at the wrong rate or analysis.  While this might seem extreme, I propose that most DIT’s do not know the majority of Federal or State legislation governing the applications of lawncare products such as herbicides, insecticides and simple fertilizers.

There is a common saying in many professions that they ‘rely on their tools in their tool box’ to get the job done right. These tools can be diversified and help each professional complete a job, whether a mechanic, physician, or lawn care company.  Each business has varying degrees of education, on the job experience, and certification or licensing to attain each level of competency.  I have been in the green industry for 25 years now and have seen the mistakes made by DITs, as well as by those in the industry with a lack of proper training and education.  It seems like common sense that insuring a quality job is done right, with the right tools would be a top priority in any business, including the turf care industry.

I propose that regardless of what is being applied to turf to make it healthier, or to benefit the home owner’s quality of life, the treatment itself must be done to specifications and within the guidelines set forth by each body of legislature to insure our environment is kept safe for generations to come. 

I find it unsettling that so many DITs have access of some of the same professional products I use in formulations readily available at their local hardware store yet without the guidance and licensing required of our business.  In the end, it all comes down to numbers as cited in the opening paragraph of this blog post: the millions outweigh the professionals.  This information is certainly food for thought as you prepare this winter for the upcoming spring thaw and the inevitable flurry of activity outside on your own lawn.  Perhaps this is the year to explore different options, such as choosing a path that makes both your lawn green, and keeps green in your wallet, while obtaining the results you demand in a safe and eco-friendly way.

References:

[1] The Lawn Institute, 1855-A Hicks Road, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008.

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Phosphorus (P), new legislation for fertilizer use in Vermont

Published by JKeefe on December 20th, 2011 - in Fertilizer, Lawn Care Companies

Phosphorus use in Vermont changes for 2012

New Vermont legislation that all but bans phosphorus uses on maintained lawns in Vermont is a model following several other states including New York and Maine.  Unfortunately, the message has yet to reach most home owners and businesses within Vermont as it relates to fertilizer usage.  A pile of research and scientific agreement went into drafting this new law as it relates to the removal of phosphorus (P) in fertilizer.  If we recall from chemistry class, P is the middle number in what most folks see on a bag of fertilizer. For example; 23-5-10 with 5 representing P.  As a general statement, unless you have a soil test determining the need for P, or if the your lawn is newly seeded/sodded in the first year, P is now illegal to use in the state of Vermont.  The truth is lots of research supports P finding its way into our waterways such as rivers, streams, and lakes.  As a result, algae blooms become abundant, using up oxygen in the water and thereby causing adverse health effects to fish and other desirable organisms.

Regrettably, some of the new law is vague and does not address specific issues such as acres of agricultural land along the CT River or large lakes; they are exempt.  Another difficulty is in regard to the time frame that you as a home owner can apply fertilizer in Vermont.  The new time frame is capped between April 1st and October 15th.  Similar laws in surrounding states end the season on December 1st versus mid October.  Although December 1st might be a stretch for Vermont fertilizer use and not be applicable (did I mention the ground cannot be frozen?), I can certainly see viable treatments being applied into late October.  Don’t forget, this applies to ALL home owners in Vermont as well as commercial entities including golf courses.  The current fine is listed at around $500 per occurrence.  That could get expensive!  You know what the Borg say on Star Trek the next generation . . . “resistance is futile”.

On the positive side, the mandated 25 ft distance between waterways and the lawn is a nice starting point.  I would actually recommend a greater distance on steep slopes or very thin turf where runoff or erosion is likely to occur.  Remember, green grass is nice when done right, but it’s only grass and effort should be made to prevent potential damage to the home of fish, plants, or other wildlife.  This change in law is another reason why state licensed, seasoned, and experienced companies are so important when it comes to legally fertilizing and caring for your turf.  While most home owners may mean well, it will take months if not years for this kind of word to spread never mind compliance with switching over to a zero phosphate fertilizer.  Don’t forget, lots of people think like this . . .  “If 50 lbs is good, 100 should be great”.  In this case, not so much.

How can you help?  Step one would be to tell your friends to read this blog and spread the word.  Folks need to realize this is an important change.  A really big one!  Second, get a copy of the law as it is drafted by visiting the Department of Agriculture. Or ask your local representative to send you a copy and explain it further.  I have the file in electronic form and could e-mail a copy if asked.   April 1st will be here before you know it, then its game time . . . on unfrozen ground of course!

 On Twitter @MrGrassNHVT

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Autumn brings out the best in a lawn in NH & VT

chippers can create a picture perfect lawn outside your window

With autumn in full swing, most lawns in NH & VT should be well recovered from what was a record setting summer in terms of high heat.  Any lingering damage should be very obvious and can be fixed before winter such as dead patches of crabgrass or ongoing grub activity.  September and October are ideal months to improve your grass due to warm soil, ample moisture, and cool days/nights.  Fertilizing, liming, aeration, seeding, compost tea, and optional weed reduction are all most effective at this time of the year in NH & VT.  Any insect activity should be addressed now as the longer you wait; the more lawn you lose and the more difficult the control becomes as the pests grow larger such as with grubs in the soil.

If your lawn has issues with weeds such as shepherd’s purse, chickweed, or henbit; consider a treatment this fall with products such as Dimension.  Use of the aforementioned product this fall will also provide some crabgrass suppression next spring.

Autumn is a great time to improve your soil since it is the supporting mechanism for a healthy lawn.  Topdressing with compost, adding sea kelp, or spraying on compost tea rich in humates, fungi, and bacteria are encouraging ways to improve the microbial state of your lawn before winter.  Using a high calcium lime is a positive step to not only adjust your soil pH, but provide calcium which turf greatly appreciates by improving the cation exchange within the soil itself.  What does that mean?  Calcium helps loosen soil up while Magnesium based lime tends to bind it up more.  The better the cation exchange, the less your soil will leach nutrients, especially when combined with a healthy microbial environment below ground.  Soils high in organic matter have high cation exchange capacities while sandy soils have very low ratings.  As you can see, healthy soil is more important to your lawn than you may have imagined.

As always, be sure to recycle your lawn clippings whenever possible and mow high even in the fall to promote deeper root systems.  As the leaves begin to fall and accumulate, don’t let them mulch out shaded areas- rake them up or mow them into pieces.  Improved sunlight can help those marginal areas which were blocked by a tree canopy or forest edge.  Even shade tolerant grass will appreciate a little extra sun in the fall before winter snow arrives.

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