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21 Mar 2019
This Week’s Hot Threads September 4, 2018

Maintenance kits for lawn mowers and other small engines

Rotary Corporation, supplier of aftermarket outdoor power equipment parts, features maintenance and overhaul kits for lawn mowers and other small engines. These are among more than 300 new items in the company’s 2019 catalog.maintenance kits

Available for many popular brands, including Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki, and Kohler, Rotary maintenance kits feature up to 10 items. These include an air filter, pre-filter, oil filter, fuel filter, hose clamps, spark plugs, and oil. They are a quick and easy way to keep engines performing at maximum efficiency before, during, and after the season.

Overhaul kits from Rotary are available for a variety of small engines including Briggs & Stratton, Clinton, Kohler, and Tecumseh models. These kits feature all the parts commonly required to rebuild engines, including oil seals, intake and exhaust valves, a gasket set, piston assembly, and connecting rod.

Rotary offers more than 9,500 parts, tools, and accessories for outdoor power equipment. For example:

  • Rotary has a complete line of commercial-strength air, fuel, and oil filters for mowers, trimmers, chainsaws, and golf carts. These are designed to protect engines under tough conditions while ensuring maximum efficiency and peak performance.
  • Rotary has introduced a variety of belts. Replacements for Exmark, John Deere, Toro, and Scag mowers, plus AYP, MTD, and Murray snow throwers are all available. Nearly 3,000 different belts are offered for outdoor power equipment. These include heavy-duty belts reinforced with high-strength aramid fiber and two-ply construction.… They are engineered to meet rigid operating standards with excellent resistance to heat, oil, and abrasion.

To order the company’s 2019 catalog for servicing dealers and distributors visit rotarycorp.com.

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20 Mar 2019
Landscape Students Compete In Annual NALP Competition

The Grove At Ole Miss

University of MississippiFeaturing 160 trees, this 10-acre area is a daily stop for students and faculty as well as a gathering place for commencement and other special events. Keeping this landscape healthy and attractive is the job of Landscape Services at Ole Miss.

Jeff McManus, CGM, director of landscape services at the University of Mississippi, shares what it takes to keep The Grove vibrant.

By Turf Staff
From the Spring 2019 Issue

Please describe The Grove on The University of Mississippi campus. What are its characteristics and uses?

Designed as a place where students could relax and study, this 10-acre space is a unique area in the center of the campus. In 2004, we inventoried the trees; there are 160 trees, consisting of 50 species. [These include, but are not limited to, American Ash, American Elm, American Holly, Black Gum, Black Jack Oak, Black Oak, Burr Oak, Japanese Magnolia, Red Maple, and Sugar Maple.]

University of Mississippi

The Grove occupies 10 acres on The University of Mississippi campus. Adjacent is The Circle, a 3.2 acre plot of land also featuring numerous trees. (Photo: The University of Mississippi, Landscape Services)

The turf is tall fescue. Generally, we use a tall fescue blend that can handle the deep shade of The Grove as well as the hot summer heat. Although tall fescue is a cool season grass and does great in the spring and fall, it does a fair job in deep shade if kept moist during the summer. Also, Bermuda grass is used in full sun areas.

The Grove is not flat terrain; there is a slight pitch in the sense that it slopes a bit. This lends itself to a stage area, where commencement is held. Every second Saturday in May, this area is set up with 15,000 folding chairs for that event.

The “claim to fame” for The Grove is tailgating for home football games; this has been since the 1950s. Up until 1991, cars and RVs were allowed in The Grove for tailgating. That year, there was a tremendous rain during a football game, and many vehicles became stuck. The university decided at that time it would no longer let cars or RVs park in the Grove, and it became a pedestrian-only area. That was when the popularity of The Grove really took off. Over the years, tailgating has evolved from bringing in tables and chairs, and escalated to tents set up by vendors. Currently, it’s been estimated that between 20,000 to 60,000 people gather there on these days.

The foot traffic poses a challenge in terms of soil compaction, which threatens tree root health. But The Grove is here for people to enjoy, so we try to make all this work together. One of the things we’ve done to facilitate travel through the area is to paint “emergency lanes” on game day. People can use these lanes to walk from one end of The Grove to another without having to walk through other people’s tents/areas.

How do you maintain the trees in such a well-traveled space?

Compaction is the big challenge with the trees, due to pedestrian traffic, especially during game day when thousands of people gather. Overseeding with the fescue seed and aerification helps to soften the soil. As the seeds grow, they push the soil, which helps the tree roots against compaction. Several times, we have performed vertical mulching, which also aims to loosen soil around roots to encourage growth.

University of Mississippi

On average, it requires 4,500 pounds of seed to complete the seeding of The Grove. (Photo: The University of Mississippi, Landscape Services)

What is the standard schedule of landscape care for The Grove?

We keep a number of perpetual calendars, one of those being for The Grove. This helps us, so we can master plan. In December and January, we mulch leaves, prune trees, repair damaged turf, and conduct tree replacement. In February through April, tasks are to aerify, overseed, fertilize, start irrigation system, mulch tree rings, start mowing, edge turf, prune trees, and perform tree replacement. In May through August, the team fertilizes turf, mows, edges turf, and the irrigation system is monitored and repaired. In the fall, during September through November, we mulch leaves. After the last home football game of the season, we aerify, overseed, and fertilize the turf.

During football season, on Friday, our department puts out 1,500 to 2,000 cans for trash and recycling. We’ve hired nonprofit organizations (e.g. Baptist Student Union, ROTC) to remove the approximately 70 to 90 tons of waste left by tailgaters after each game.

University of Mississippi

Ole Miss Landscape Services places 2,500 thirty-five gallon plastic waste cans and approximately 300 recycling bins in The Grove and Circle areas on the day before each home game. (Image: The University of Mississippi, Landscape Services)

Why is synthetic turf used in front of The Grove stage?

The stage in The Grove is a popular spot, and groups seem to gravitate there—cheerleaders practicing or ROTC doing exercises, for instance. We were constantly having to replace the turf there, or roping it off and asking people to move. That has been a great solution for us to install the synthetic turf in front of the stage area.

What else is happening on the Ole Miss landscape?

There is a new $80 million STEM building planned, and the site is about 100 yards from The Grove. The project is on hold, while more money is raised for the building. Rather than keep a construction fence up, we are turning it into green space. We’ve already overseeded it, and we’re trying to get to where we can begin mowing it. Why not let people use the space, while the building is on hold?

To learn more about Landscape Services at The University of Mississippi, visit https://olemiss.edu/depts/landscape/.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove.turf@groupc.com.

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19 Mar 2019
Landscape Students Compete In Annual NALP Competition

Fly-By-Night Guys Aren’t Taking Your Business

By Jake Hundley
From the Spring 2019 Issue

Does this sound familiar? “Hey John, we won’t be continuing lawn services with you. We’ve found someone that will do it for less than $30. Thank you, you’ve been great!” You probably shut your eyes and shake your head, annoyed, as you read this. I see it all the time. Lawn guys and landscapers getting frustrated in groups and the LawnSite forum that the $25, “fly-by-night” guys are snagging clients and taking away business. And the responses are always the same: You agree to lower prices. You underbid to secure jobs. You relentlessly bid on more projects at lower costs to justify “volume equals profitability.”

But you’re not winning. You can’t come down to $25 per cut because it doesn’t even cover your overhead, and your customers keep telling you about that guy that can take that tree out at half your cost. Do they even realize you’re licensed and insured?

securing customers

(Photo: Getty Images)

Everything comes down to cost, and no one sees the value and quality you offer. You’re likely second-guessing your pricing whenever you bid on new jobs because these fly-by-night guys keep stealing your clients! But what if I told you they aren’t.

Is your interest piqued? If yes, I’m assuming you’re still figuring out how to deal with this. We have to take a step back and understand that business isn’t a series of sales. It’s a matrix of relationships, and with any relationship, it goes both ways.

You have to qualify your customers just as they have to qualify you. Not all potential customers are going to be ones you want to work with. This is why these guys aren’t stealing your clients. They’re not your clients. At least they’re not the ones you want. In marketing, we call this an audience. A quality audience isn’t on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Let the $25 per cut guys fish here.

Your target audience cares about value and quality more than price. Price comes into play, but your ideal customer understands the relationship between price and quality. And yes, they do exist. The problem could be you’re fishing in the wrong pond, trying to catch minnows when you should go down the road to catch bass. So how do you go about finding these customers?

First, you’ll need to understand who your customers are. I mean the ideal ones, not the ones who will drop you for the neighbor kid. Do some research in the market and see what kind of customer profiles you come up with. They should look something like this: 50/50 Male/Female, Average Income (somewhere in upper middle class), Job Position (Management, Finance, IT, Entrepreneur), Children (2-4), Neighborhood (Newer development), and Lot Size (about 9,000 square feet).

These are not your Craigslist shoppers or Facebook Marketplace browsers. They’re likely not your Nextdoor neighbors or belong to your local swap page. If a lot of customers are dropping you for cheap services, ask yourself if they’re coming from these places. If they’re not, then think about the neighborhoods you’re canvassing with door hangers.

So, the million dollar question is… where do I find these ideal customers?

Well, you already know who they are and roughly where they live. But here’s how to target them. It starts with you. Brand yourself as quality and professional. Don’t use words like, “cheap” or “affordable.” Instead, use “quality” and “professional.” If your sales technique is enticing customers into an “affordable” solution, they expect a low price.

If you have a client or two in an upscale neighborhood (or one that fits your target audience), do a quick 5-around with door hangers. After you finish work on your customer’s yard, go to the direct neighbors of your customer and the three across the street that mirror with door hangers. So yes, even door hangers can be targeted.

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) seems like a good, affordable option, but the return rate is 1% or less, and you’re limited to specific postal routes, quantities, and postcard sizes. Find a direct mail marketing agency, like Inside the Box Marketing, that can blanket an area, targeting specific customer demographics as granular as: Household Size, Lot Size, Income, Job Title, and New Movers.

And, put technology to work. Focus on optimizing your website for search engines, like Google and Bing, and simplistic usability. 71% of all consumers start their buying journey on search engines, and 74% use them for researching during the consideration stage. The customer that visits your search engine optimized (SEO) site does their own research; they’re looking for a quality lawn care service provider or landscaper to fit their needs. If you don’t optimize for words on your site like “cheap landscaping” or “affordable lawn care,” chances are you won’t get that type of traffic.

Also, utilize Facebook’s hypertargeting. The great thing about social media for a savvy advertiser is the information people are willing to put on there. Learn your target audience, and really target them utilizing Facebook Ads Manager. Target identifying factors, including: Age, Gender, Location, Interests, Job Titles, Groups, and Custom Audiences.

The targeting options are almost limitless. Don’t use a generic worm to catch those basses; use bass jigs.

Lastly, Qualify Your Customers

When a potential customer reaches out, don’t let your first reaction be to close the sale. Treat them as if it’s going to be a partnership. I recently spoke with Rich Blood, owner of Guru Gardens, who’s an expert at qualifying customers in the Lawn Care Juggernaut Facebook group, and he said the way you conduct scheduling and prepayment of deposits does a fairly decent job of eliminating tire kickers. He’ll give them a ballpark estimate based on what was described to him before taking time to go to the customer. He’ll then follow up with what I think is the most brilliant phrasing, “If that fits your budget, I can come out to do a proper assessment.”

You’re frustrated the “fly-by-night” guys are taking your customers, but if I were a betting man, I’d say you’re hesitant to take my advice. But, dropping your price to keep or earn a customer is like a tar pit, the more you fight, the stickier it gets. As long as you market yourself properly and to the right people, it will be business as usual. Except that business will be there to stay, and you’ll be earning a much higher profit margin.

securing customersHundley is CEO of Evergrow Marketing, a digital marketing agency that caters to the landscaping and lawn care industry. The firm creates digital marketing strategies utilizing SEO, SEM, social media, website development, and UX optimization to deliver high quality leads.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove.turf@groupc.com.

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19 Mar 2019
This Week’s Hot Threads September 4, 2018

Premium turfgrass selected for FIFA World Cup 2022

When the best of the best face off in the next FIFA World Cup, they will do so on the premium turfgrass known as Platinum TE™ Paspalum. After years of comprehensive testing, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy selected Platinum TE as the playing surface for all stadiums and training sites hosting the November 2022 event in Qatar.premium turfgrass

In a joint venture, Aspire Sports Turf and STRI conducted extensive research on which to base their selection. Varieties of seashore paspalum, bermudagrass, and zoysia turfgrasses were tested at multiple sites. Platinum TE Paspalum proved to be the most durable and shade tolerant of the turfgrasses tested, outperforming the other varieties in recovery as well. Establishment and grow-in from stolons were also quicker with the Platinum TE.

Grassing has begun at multiple stadiums and training facilities. To ensure genetic purity and the highest quality, the Platinum TE Paspalum being utilized is licensed and certified plant material from global turfgrass supplier Atlas Turf International. Grassing will continue as the remaining facilities are completed over the next two years.

“For over a decade, Platinum TE Paspalum has performed consistently well for projects in the Middle East,” said Atlas Turf President John Holmes. “It’s not surprising that it was singled out as the top performer and ultimately selected for Qatar 2022. In the testing, Platinum TE exhibited stronger tensile strength, greater ability to grow in low light conditions, and rapid recovery from injury.”

Introduced in 2007 by noted plant scientist Dr. Ron R. Duncan and Turf Ecosystems, Platinum TE Paspalum features characteristics sought out for championship-quality sporting facilities, including athletic fields and golf courses. In addition to the benefits highlighted in the research results, Platinum TE exhibits exceptional density, disease resistance, and superior salt tolerance. With dark green color and striping, Platinum TE delivers attractive fields. Platinum TE is the premium turfgrass of choice at over 150 projects around the world including soccer, baseball, rugby, and football facilities and golf courses at every level of play.

Platinum TE can be closely mowed to heights below 1/8″ and will proliferate in soils irrigated with water containing 5,500 ppm of salt. It spreads quickly during establishment and forms a dense turf which will compete with the presence of weeds when properly maintained. All paspalum selections are sterile and must be propagated by transferring stolons or sod.

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18 Mar 2019
Landscape Students Compete In Annual NALP Competition

Keep An Eye On Lawn And Tree Service Hampton Roads Disease

By Lindsey Getz
From the Spring 2019 Issue

As a lawn care operator, you’re in the business of producing well-maintained and lush green lawns and landscapes. But the unpredictability of weather and the prevalence of certain diseases (as a result of changing weather and site conditions) can make this challenging to say the least. Even so, having success with turf and tree disease management as an add-on service isn’t exactly an easy feat, either. It often requires taking the time to talk to and educate customers—along with a serious dose of honesty.

Fred Oskanian, owner of Terra Lawn Care Specialists in Collegeville, PA, knows a thing about that. In fact, he’s often competing against the “big national companies” that tend to make hard sales pitches and even use diseases as bait.

lawn and tree disease control

Growing on this tree is Armillaria mellea, commonly known as honey fungus. (Photo: Ned Patchett Consulting)

“There is a lot of misinformation out there, and some of it is perpetuated by companies who are willing to use any line to hook new customers,” Oskanian says. “It’s why we have two agronomists on staff, and we make all of our technicians obtain their own licensure. We’ve been out to properties in which the client was told their lawn was dead when in fact it was just dormant.”

Oskanian says that lawn care companies that fail to educate their clients also run the risk of the client assuming they did something wrong, when in fact, the lawn has just been plagued by disease.

“That’s why we’re big on sending one of our two lead technicians over to properties when concerns get called in,” Oskanian says. “That’s one of the benefits of having a company that is local and small enough that we can respond to those concerns and provide education as needed, depending on what’s going on.”

There’s no question that customer education is vital when it comes to understanding disease. Brian Aynardi, northeast manager of university and contract research for PBI-Gordon Corporation, says that it might help to talk to customers about specific diseases that are prevalent in their geographical area, as many lawn diseases occur regionally. For instance, Aynardi says that Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Leaf Spot, and Pythium Blight are most prevalent in the North whereas in the South, Large Patch and Spring Dead Spot are commonly found.

“It’s also important to recognize that the environment has a major impact on lawn disease,” says Aynardi. “Many diseases require very specific conditions and temperatures to thrive and spread. For that reason, it can be very unpredictable in terms of what any given year might bring.”

Oskanian says that funguses are definitely the company’s primary concern and that he gets a mix of those that are willing to “wait it out” (as some funguses do resolve themselves) and others that are interested in pursuing fungicides. He says that it comes down to an “honest conversation,” not a hard sell approach.

Aynardi suggests that conversations with homeowners about fungicides should help allay their concerns about safety, as he sees this as a point of resistance from some.

“Being able to understand the label and articulate the safety of the product to the customer is a big deal in terms of their willingness to allow for the application of professional products,” says Aynardi.

He continues, “I think there are a lot of people that want to have a nice lawn but have some concerns that need to be addressed. Lawn care operators who are most successful with add-on disease control will be those that can talk to the customer about these concerns.”

Aynardi says that PBI-Gordon recently expanded their fungicide portfolio. The company’s product, Kabuto, is an effective fungicide for Dollar Spot and Spring Dead Spot in turfgrass.

The Surrounding Landscape

Of course, many companies also work with the surrounding landscape and know that trouble with disease is not just limited to the turf. However, when it comes to tree diseases, it can get a bit more complex. Different species of trees are prone to different diseases (which of course vary regionally). Plus, many tree diseases also mimic other problems such as pests or even environmental stressors, says Joshua Malik, founder and owner of Joshua Tree Service Hampton Roads, a professional tree and lawn care company in Stockertown, PA.

lawn and tree disease control

The unpredictability of weather in many regions and the prevalence of certain diseases (as a result of changing weather and site conditions) can further complicate disease management efforts. (Photo: PBI-Gordon Corporation)

“When it comes to control methods, the exact recommendations will vary based on the specifics on the disease,” Malik adds. “But the most obvious treatment for tree disease, such as a fungus infection, is the application of a professional grade product. At Joshua Tree Service Hampton Roads, for fungal diseases we use two different professional fungicide products, including a contact control. That’s going to reduce fungal spores immediately. In addition to a contact control, we’ll use a product that gets absorbed over a longer period of time.”

Along with the application of a professional grade product, Malik says that his technicians will also make important “cultural recommendations” that could improve the tree’s overall health. This might include suggestions regarding irrigation, pruning, or even mulching. Oftentimes homeowners don’t even realize how much their own actions are impacting the health of their trees.

Ned Patchett, president and certified arborist from Ned Patchett Consulting, a tree service in Moss Beach, CA, says that they often connect with lawn care companies when it’s determined a tree disease may be caused by an irrigation system that oversprays.

“When you have broadcast irrigation from lawns spraying the trunk of a tree, it can create environmental conditions in which fungus will thrive,” Patchett says. “We often end up working with folks in the turf industry to remedy this.”

Education Is Key

At the end of the day, whether it’s for turf or trees, client education is of critical importance.

“We spend a lot of time talking to our customers and helping them understand what’s going on with their tree,” Malik adds. “Sometimes that includes a hard conversation that their tree cannot be saved. There are certain diseases, such as Thousand Cankers Disease, which have no cure. If the tree has already been aggressively attacked by a disease with no cure, the best course of action may be removal. It comes down to having an honest conversation about what’s best.”

Aynardi agrees.

“No matter what you’re dealing with, I think addressing issues with customers head on—before they bring them up—is the key to success,” he says. “Whether it’s understanding what’s going on with their property or concerns over whether or not a treatment is safe, it’s so important to put clients at ease. The best way to do that is with education.”

lawn and tree disease controlGetz is an award winning freelance writer based in Royersford, PA.

Do you have a comment ? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove.turf@groupc.com.

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