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If you are considering crabgrass control this spring, consider solving the real problem as an alternative spring time lawn project. If you have a crabgrass problem, you have more than just a crabgrass problem. The root of the issue is likely unhealthy soil, compaction, and low organic matter; all of which contribute to an inferior lawn. Most folks will focus on the symptoms of a poor looking lawn such as dead patches or crabgrass and not the underlying issues. Most lawn issues can be directly attributed to bad soil. Can there be bad soil? Well, in a manner of speaking yes, there can be bad soil or at least soil that cannot successfully support good turf growth. Healthy turf does not occur by accident; it takes a healthy soil to support a green, lush lawn. Let’s take a closer look at why good soil is so important and why bad soil really can only support crabgrass or nothing at all.
Soil is supposed to be filled with micro-organisms in various percentages, nature’s way of supporting plant life through root systems. A healthy soil will contain soil particles of various sizes (clay through sand), air spaces, and water. An ideal soil will also contact organic matter and many micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, like in high school biology class (wicked cool). Turf really appreciates a soil which has a higher bacterial count. Now you know why grass is always so green over the septic system, an ideal environment for lots of bacteria, organic matter, and moisture.
Poor soil will have a low population of these micro-organisms; in fact, it may not have much, if any at all. Low organic matter is another issue which takes away from a healthy lawn. Compacted soils don’t have the air spaces necessary for roots to grow successfully because roots need air to survive. Add a low soil pH and now you have locked up vital nutrients necessary to support healthy turf growth.
The bottom line is that a good lawn must be rooted in healthy soil. Without moving forward with proper techniques to improve your soil, your lawn is destined to be a field of crabgrass and blowing dust each and every year. Growing a lawn is just like growing corn or any other crop – it has basic needs. Crabgrass is much less fussy and will gladly move in without an invitation and stay all summer long, thriving in high heat with minimal rainfall. Crabgrass is not the enemy; crabgrass is just an opportunist which seizes its ideal growing environment. The real villain is bad soil that is devoid of air, organic matter, and micro-organisms.
Your real hope lies in compost teas rich in bacteria, fungi, and other “good guys” who helps improve a sterile and almost lifeless pile of dirt. Sea kelp adds lots of organic matter plus a host of nutrients, proteins, and minerals. Core aeration breaks up compacted soil, providing air pockets and the opportunity for rain to penetrate a hard surface area. Organic fertilizers provide more organic matter and a plentiful helping of nutrients, not only the grass, but the living community below! While crabgrass suppression can be helpful, the real cure lies in improving your lawn’s soil as a basic rule towards creating an outdoor living space that can be enjoyed instead of being cursed.
The clock is ticking as companies prepare for the snow melt and the onset of the 2011 lawn care season. In this blog post, I shall briefly cover compost tea, kelp, fertilizer pricing, Mycorrhizae, and other trends worth exploring.
As petroleum prices rise, so does the cost of manufacturing basic fertilizer components. Lawn care companies can expect to pay more for their fertilizer products in 2011, thus increasing the need to execute an effective and efficient turf program. There has been one price increase already with perhaps another expected midyear. Those companies unable to make sound business practices may become a thing of the past. Some price increases may inevitably be passed onto the customer as pressure builds to make a profit in a highly competitive industry.
The bell continues to toll for fundamental changes utilizing basic soil and environmental processes in the lawn care industry. These options include inoculating seed with beneficial fungi called Mycorrhizae. One inoculation allows this fungus to multiply and spread within a lawn area. Long used in the tree industry, Mycorrhizae sets up a friendly relationship on the turf root system, breaking down surrounding nutrients and minerals. The end result generally becomes a lessened demand on the quantity of fertilizer required due to this helpful relationship below ground.
There are still more options available beyond standard fertilizers such as compost tea and kelp; both which utilize actual plant material, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and much more to help improve soil structure and thereby create a healthier lawn. Compost tea usually contains beneficial bacteria, sugars, and kelp; all which help grass become stronger while simultaneously improving the defensive mechanism to fight off insect and disease pressure. Although there are lots of blends and types of compost tea, the general idea is to strengthen the lawn so it can withstand drought, insect, and disease pressure as it appears during the growing season. Compost tea and kelp both help build the soil which is very often a large limiting factor in improving a lawn. With many lawns containing high amounts of sand or minimal top soil, adding kelp and or compost tea becomes are very sound decision. Both sea kelp and compost tea are not inexpensive, but they provide key materials not found in most fertilizers and improve soil infrastructure. Compare the investment in compost tea, kelp, or Mycorrhizae versus renovating your lawn and you are looking at saving thousands of dollars at a minimum. Any lawn treatment which can help reduce fertilizer demand and build the soil is certainly worth exploring and perhaps even using in 2011.
Are you considering some lawn treatments but you are concerned about the kids, pets, the environment, and general safety of what is going down around your house? All of these concerns are valid with plenty of solutions available. There are organic options to control lawn insects, diseases, and even reduce fertilizer demand. Does choosing an organic pest control option give companies a free pass from obtaining the proper state licensing, insurance, and company certification? Let’s find out! I will not address education or background experience in this blog post- even though it is a very significant factor in choosing a lawn company (see prior blog posts for more information).
Let’s explore one scenario and see if you know the answer. This fictitious company is based in NH only- however- VT has similar statues.
Doug hires Organic Landscapes (fictitious name) and assumes they have all the proper credentials’, after all; their pickup truck has a nice logo. Doug hires Organic Landscapes to improve his lawn and still control some insects like grubs which he has had a problem with for years. Doug agrees to a few basic fertilizer treatments, lime, and a grub control treatment- all organic. Does Organic Landscapes need a NH Supervisory and perhaps an Operational pesticide license?
What Doug does not realize is any claim made to control a pest requires significant state licensing, insurance, and certification. An easy way to determine if a company is certified in NH is to look at the truck itself. Any state certified company will have 2” black letters on the service vehicles showing “NHPC” followed by a registration number unique to that business. If the truck(s) lack this, they either are not licensed, perhaps are pretending to be- or forgot. In this case, there is no NHPC number on the trucks because Organic Landscapes does not realize they even need this certification.
While you may not need a license or any of the aforementioned qualifications to treat your own lawn, if you are doing it “for hire” – money, the business must hold the proper credentials when controlling pests- organic or not in NH. This goes for spraying weeds with vinegar, applying oils to control surface insects like chinch bugs, or botanical extracts to knock back red thread disease.
Before you consider any lawn care program change, be sure to inquire about how long the company has been in business, its reputation, its insurance, its certifications and so forth. If this article has your juices flowing for more- check out my earlier BBB blog post and why a good rating and accreditation is vital. I have several more blog posts on just how to select a lawn company and why you should consider these factors in your final decision. Thanks for visiting!
The holidays are right around the corner and the last thought on your mind might be preparing or even considering your lawn service in 2011. Let’s face it, the growing season is practically finished and your mower may well be stored away with visions of cutting next spring. Until then, your once green carpet takes a back seat to turkey, skiing, and ice skates versus what kind lawn company to use in 2011.
If you already use a national lawn care chain like Trugreen, you will likely receive several pre-pay letters or contacts beginning in November with possibly a second in December or January. This proposal will outline your 2010 lawn treatments and duplicate it for 2011 with an incentive for pre-paying. Statistically, most customers will not respond to this letter never mind prepaying for the entire year. In fact, many will seize this opportunity to return the letter with a note containing the word “cancel”.
For smaller lawn care firms, their accounts are scrupulously reviewed in the late fall where additions, modifications, and recommendations are made before sending out a fresh lawn proposal for 2011. Many companies will also reward their customer’s for prepaying and for choosing multiple services like a Plant Health Care program for the tree and shrubs in the landscape in conjunction with the turf program. Chipper’s has offered these valuable incentives in the past to its client base. Reviewing the account history for each individual client for 2011 is of paramount importance as it increases future results through necessary turf program adjustments before sending out any new proposal. Such actions help insure the highest quality turf program through comprehensive annual review versus a simplistic recycling of treatments year after year.
There is plenty of time to review your turf program over the winter with no need to rush your decision. Perhaps 2011 may be the year to receive a fresh, second opinion from a smaller company where the total dollars spent is relative to actual needs and desired results. Late fall or early winter is a great time to collect this type of information before the lawn is snow-covered. While there are plenty of cheeseburger, one size fits all lawn care companies out there, see if you can find one that really tailors the whole package; results, experience, and your budget.
This is the year you have decided to get some advice. This is the year you want to see results and actually enjoy your front lawn as you look out that window with your cup of coffee each morning. Your vision of brown can turn to green! So where do you begin?
1. Start your research online.
Start your research online with company websites and or blogs in order to get a “flavor” for what they do, office locations, credentials such as certifications/licenses, and other important factors. Make a short list for yourself. What is important to you in terms of service like ease of contact and communication? While things are always great when the going is good, can you obtain a direct e-mail address or cell phone number to ask a direct question to a manager? Send an e-mail and see if you get a response. How fast does the employee respond? If you never hear back or if one is not available, you have an answer. If you said “no” prepare to call an out of state “800 number” that is only open during “standard business hours”.
While many companies may appear alike on the surface- as you dig deeper you will find a vast difference when it comes to things like ease of contact. Communication is key not only for just asking questions but for peace of mind. You should feel good about having access, direct access to those who you employ like your future lawn care company. You should feel great about supporting your local economy, especially in these economic times by hiring a local firm versus a national chain. Who you decide to employ locally makes a direct statement on what you believe in and support.
Are there any testimonials on the website which would indicate customer satisfaction and success? How many offices are there and who runs the show? Information is power and the more you get a sense of who you will be dealing with, the higher your satisfaction level will ultimately be because your decision will be a sound one.
In future installments, I will discuss why you should consider experience in the field and background as vital components when it comes to hiring a turf care company. I plan to discuss topics like how to obtain real results as it relates to product selection such as natural versus traditional programs. Don’t wait, start researching today!