Winter is coming fast. It is time for big holidays, with a great deal of shopping, decoration, cooking, having guests over and a ton of other activities. People spend more time inside their houses, and often times completely forget about their lawn area. It is one thing you should certainly find time for, unless you want to risk an ugly green patch in spring, or even other drastic problems, such as broken pipes and a whole ton of trouble. Preparing the lawn for winter is something you should do in late fall if you want to have a beautiful grass in spring. With heat and dryness are at end, it is time to take some steps in ensuring your grass is just as good next year as it was this summer. So, after you are done with patio cleaning, turn your attention to the lawn, if you want to grow one that is admirable and presentable.
So you’ve planted your sod grass and now have to maintain it. There are a number of ways to properly keep your newly sodded lawn from becoming dried out. Take a look at these steps and follow them closely to have your lawn looking its best.
- Water - Even if the type of grass you’re growing does not need lots of watering, you still have to give it some for proper growth. The best recommendation is to water your lawn daily but only if recommended for your type of grass. Water is essential for anything to grow, it aids in the root establishment and gives the soil moisture.
- Fertilizer - You want your lawn to look healthy, especially as you have invested money and time into this project and want it to be perfect. Fertilizers help this task by giving the grass all the vital nutrients it needs to grow and look its best. There are several different fertilizations that make sod grass grow well:
- Phosphorus Fertilization - This type helps strengthen the roots.
- Potassium Fertilization - Its main objective is to build a defense against harsh climate changes and diseases.
- Nitrogen Fertilization - This one is not long-lasting, but aids in the advancement of grass.
- Mowing - An easy and effective way to keep your grass growing to its fullest potential is to mow it. This helps maintain the right level of growth capacity. Some sod grasses do require that the clippings be bagged or raked immediately after mowing. Cut grass left on your lawn may suffocate the new grass and prevent it from growing. Others types do not need to be raked. This is related to their ability to feed off of the cut grass, which provides it with nutrients. Research which type of grass you choose to plant first.
Things that should be used at a later date to keep a healthy lawn:
- Irrigate - Like watering your lawn daily, you will also need to irrigate it. This will help in building the roots up and is done by literally poking holes in your new yard. You can do this with the use of cleats like professional athletes wear. Walk around your newly planted grass, then water. This will help get moisture into the soil and aid in the winter months when the ground tends to get hard and brittle.
- Pesticides - You may lose your lawn if it is not properly cared for. Insects and other animals such as gophers tend to feed off of grass. A good way to avoid this damage is to spray your yard with a pesticide. These are made to keep insects and animals from feeding off of your lawn. Some of the new pesticides on the market are safe for use around children and harmless to family pets.
If you've failed to maintain a healthy lawn, you can always start over by getting sod laid by a professional if you click here. These are surefire ways to keep your lawn healthy and maintained. Proper care is needed when planting grass at first. You will need to tend to it daily to ensure its fullest potential before being able to enjoy it.
I had the pleasure to check out and explore Central Park for the first time. In the heart of New York City lies ones of the largest and most spectacular city parks in the United States. The park consists of 843 acres which includes several softball fields, open meadows, bridges, carousels, lakes, ponds, zoo, etc. The park consists of 24,000 trees and 843 acres of land and water that is all maintained by the Central Park Conservancy. Central Park has a $34 million dollar annual budget and was established as a National Historical Landmark in 1962. The list could go on and on about this place and all I have to say is don't miss the opportunity to visit central park while in Manhattan. While at the park I had a unique opportunity to take a quick video to share what I had experienced in the short time I was able to explore. Since Central Park consists of 250 acres of lawn I found it appropriate to find out about some facts of the lawn by calling the Central Park Conservancy while I was was there. Although New York is on the east coast, they are also considered to be a cool climate region like Reno, NV. After talking with the staff from the Central Park Conservancy I found out that the parks lawns are predominantly Kentucky Blue Grass like we have in Reno due to their similar year round climate. According to a study in 2008, the park uses approximately 5.28 million gallons of water a year to water all the lawns in Central Park. If you have a chance to go to New York City, plan on spending a full relaxing day to explore this amazing area and don't rush to take in the amazing scenery and lakes this place has to offer.
While training new employees I have found that mowing straight lines in larger yards is not something that comes easily for some people. It almost seems inevitable that if you are using a walk behind mower and traveling a longer distance your first line is going to be crooked. This is problematic because it's the line used to base the rest of the mowing pattern off of. I have created a brief video to show how I used a crooked first line as a means to develop straight lines. Although this might seem basic to some people, I have seen many home owners and lawn care companies mow entire yards based off of an initial crooked line, ending up with a wavy pattern in the grass.
The video below demonstrates how to produce straight mow lines after starting off with an "S" shaped line.
Once the crooked first pass has been completed, look for the section of it that has the straightest line. In this case, the beginning of my first pass had the straightest point, so I lined the wheel up with the wheel pattern of the first 50' or so and overlapped the end of my first pass. Now, after two passes, I have corrected the latter half of the first line.
I complete my third pass by repeating what I did with my second line, overlapping the final portion that remains crooked. After three passes I now have two straight lines as well as a straight reference point from which to mow the rest of the lawn.
One of my favorite hobbies is golf. I freaking love golf. Although I do not have a registered handicap, I normally shoot in the mid to high 80's and get the pleasure of playing many different courses in northern Nevada. So I am going to blog about the courses I play to offer an opinion on two things: 1.) The condition of the course itself, and 2.) the "bang for your buck" experience at the course. While it seems that many courses can charge whatever they want because people will pay it, I have watched three courses in my area close down in the past five years. It seems like golf courses have not adjusted their strategies to fill up tee times and still insist on charging an arm and a leg rate. In my golf review blogs, I intend to give my 2 cents worth to people who enjoy playing nice, fun, challenging courses without sacrificing their first born for the cost of 18 holes. I also hope to speak with some grounds keepers to get some of the ins and outs of golf course maintenance. I'm a lawn guy, I care to know how some of these courses stay in such great condition.
This week, a few friends and I had an amazing opportunity to play Grizzly Ranch Golf Club. Most people have never even heard of this place because it is tucked away in the Sierras near Portola, CA, but it is one of the most beautiful golf clubs around.
It is well worth the short 50 minute drive from Reno to play this beautiful mountain course if you can find a good rate that the club house will honor. I say "honor" because Grizzly Ranch recently offered a text message coupon for a 2 for 1 round (which would equate to $40 per person), and my foursome planned to use two of them. They only accepted one.
The stipulations were that you had to text the coupon that said "share with friends" to your friend, then show it at the club house. However, they denied one of our discounts because we did not send the text message until after we arrived on site, rather than before we got there. We debated the club house attendant over this unstated detail, but we lost.
After all the time spent driving we did not want to turn back to Reno, so we just sucked it up and paid three rates between the four of us, which came out to $60 a piece. I do have to say, however, that unlike other courses that charge $60.00 Grizzly Ranch is still a great deal. (Their peak season rate is $109.00). Still, we were pretty pissed because no matter how nice your course is, you honor an advertised coupon to draw first time players back. Their stubbornness left a bad taste in our mouths.
After our club house debacle, we teed off with only 10 other players on the course for the whole day. While this is amazing for the players, this shows why courses like Grizzly Ranch need to find better ways to attract mid-week golfers when no members are around. The course conditions were near perfect and had little to no evidence of wear from the dry winter, like many of the courses in Reno are experiencing, but there was virtually no one there.
The greens were in great shape but were very slow due to the morning dew, as well as the fact that they had not been cut in a few days. The course was challenging and in such great shape that I would go back with another discounted rate. Their twilight rate of $89.00 is too rich for my blood, but I would recommend taking the time to drive up there and play if they offer another coupon. If you do go with a coupon, just be prepared to read the invisible fine print before you make the drive.
Now that we are a few weeks into the mowing season and the weather is warming up, many people are wondering how much they should water their lawn using a programmable irrigation system. I wish that there was a single answer like, "water these three times and I guarantee you will have a green lawn," but, unfortunately, it is not that easy. However, there are some watering times that are better than others, and some basic tips to see how much water your lawn needs, so let me help you with your lawn watering questions in the Reno area. When Should I Water?
After reading this you will realize this is common sense for the Reno area, but we live in a desert. During the summer, from early afternoon through late afternoon it normally gets hot and windy. If you water in the late afternoon you will most likely experience a higher evaporation rate, as well as water blowing into the streets instead of your lawn! Considering this, I recommend loading up and watering your lawn between the hours of 4am and 10am.
How much should I water?
This is where things get a little tricky, but the rule of thumb is to make sure your lawn is getting 1" of water a week. Some gauge this by placing a tuna can in the middle of the yard and measuring the water accumulated throughout the week. If you perform this test, realize that some areas of your lawn are probably exposed to the sun for longer periods of time throughout the day, so set up the can in a shaded spot as well as a sunny spot for a more accurate measurement.
Most people assume that if their lawn is developing some dead spots it is due to some type of lawn disease, but this might not always be the case. Normally, brown spots are due to poor sprinkler coverage. If you have some dead spots you should check the sprinkler coverage before jumping to any other conclusions. All you have to do is turn on your water and see if the brown spots are being reached by the sprinklers. You will be able to quickly tell if the sprinkler heads have been knocked out of place or broken.
Are There Days I Can't Water?
The answer to this question is "yes." Here is Reno, we have assigned watering days set by Truckee Meadows Water Authority, which states:
- Even Address: Watering Days = Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
- Odd Address: Watering Days= Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
The good news about the Kentucky blue grass that is mainly grown in Reno is that it is able sustain a rather long drought period, like the ones we see during the winter when the lawn goes dormant. So, if you have brown spots, forgot to activate the irrigation system, or went on vacation and your water was shut off, then there is a good chance your turf will be able to withstand this period of drought. Also, make sure not to starve your lawn by under watering it, and make sure to water on your assigned TMWA days or you might end up with a fine for failing to follow the rules.
Dethatching is something that is normally done in the Spring and often coincides with the aeration process. Just like lawn aeration, dethatching is done in to allow nutrients, air, and water to have better access to the root system. Areas of the country consisting of tall fescue and perennial ryegrass do not have to worry as much about a heavy thatch layer build up, but unfortunately Reno consists of mainly Kentucky blue grass, which does tend to have a quicker build up of thatch growth. A small layer of around 1/2" thatch growth can actually be beneficial for your lawn because it can help protect the turf from the hot summer sun, help prevent weed germination, as well as reduce water evaporation. Although there are some great benefits to dethatching, it is important to make sure that if you hire someone to "power rake" the lawn it is not done right after the lawn has been watered. Unlike lawn aeration, which normally gets better core penetration just after a good soak, dethatching a wet lawn can leave you with damaged and ripped up sections of turf. Another important factor after power raking is to make sure that the loose thatch is properly raked up instead of left on the grass or mowed over. Some companies attempt to just mow over the loose thatch, but this will mulch up the dead stems and roots and put them right back into the lawn. The other day, we took a minute to shoot a quick video to show you just how much thatch is pulled up after dethatching a single 30 foot strip. From a distance this lawn does not look like it has a thick thatch layer, but once the power rake gets rolling you can see just how much dead stuff has been removed. Check out the video to get an better idea of what dethatching is and whether or not your turf might need it done. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3eLWyVjoDI[/youtube]
Nothing other than "perfection" can describe the Reno Aces baseball field. Whether it is the checkerboard mowing patterns everyone wishes their front lawns had, or the ideal shade of green turf, the Aces ballpark is as good as it gets.
I had the extreme pleasure to meet up with Head of Grounds Eric Blanton to briefly discuss what it takes to keep this ballpark looking as good as it does. Eric assured me that it takes more than just showing up a couple hours before game time a few days a week to mow and fertilize - it takes a full time job year round to ensure a quality field for players and fans. Eric said, "Our goal is for someone to take a picture of the field and not be able to tell if the photo was taken in February or August."
The picture above was taken on April 3rd during the Aces vs. UNR game, just two days before a snowy season opener. It was this photo made me wonder "how do they make it look so good so early in the season?" While every lawn and golf course in Reno is still dormant, the Aces ballpark has completed their mission to make it look like this image was taken in August. In the video below, Eric and I spend a few minutes discussing some of the ins and outs of maintaining Aces ballpark, along with what it takes to become an award winning Head of Grounds for a minor league baseball team.
Now that the grass is growing it is obvious to see what lawns were taken care of during the off season. What does this mean? There are some lawns that just green up right away and others that take weeks to even show signs that the turf is still alive. So what is secret? Fertilizer! Many people like to skip the final application of fertilizer in the fall because they know that their lawn will go dormant shortly after, so why fertilize if there is no visual benefits? The reason fall fertilizing is very important is because it helps strengthen the roots and will prepare the lawn for the next spring.
Below is a quick video of one of our customers who has the greenest lawn in the neighborhood. Fred has appropriately fertilized which has encouraged his lawn to spring up quickly and look amazing this early in the season.
The Reno climate really makes it difficult to answer the question "when is the appropriate time to activate the irrigation system." Although Reno's climate promotes the grass to go dormant during the winter, the lack of rain and snow this winter, along with warmer temperatures, has people wondering when they should activate their water. Truthfully, there is no single answer to this question. However, depending on what type of person you are, there are a fe suggestions as to when you want to activate your water.
Early Activation (3/20-4/10)
This time is usually when most lawn care companies will activate their water, for both commercial and residential sites. This is normally done at this time because faster growing grass means mowing can be done sooner, which equals more money. At this point in time, the weather should be done with the hard frost, the ground should have thawed out, and freezing pipes SHOULD be out of the question. However, there is still a chance that a really cold night could leave you with a cracked pipe in the morning. If you want to be the first person on the block with a green lawn and believe this is better than possibly having a cracked pipe - then go for it, just be aware of the possible repercussions.
Mid-Season Activation (4/10-4/30)
This is the point in time where most people probably activate the irrigation system. Although you will not be the first on the block with the green lawn, you won't be the last. During this period, observe when the forecast no longer shows sporadic nights in the 20's, then have the piece of mind that nothing will break in the night. By waiting this long you have saved on your water bill for just a bit longer, and no damage has been done to the grass or the irrigation system. The downfall of waiting until this point is that many companies have already started to aerate, and if your lawn has not had a good soaking before the aeration process you might not get good cores out of your lawn. For more information about this, check out Lawn Aeration Part 2.
Late Season Activation ( 5/1- 5/20)
Unfortunately, the downside to waiting this long is that you will most likely be the last person on the block to have a green lawn, and after a winter like we just had this might be pushing the sustainable drought period of your lawn. The only benefit in waiting till this time is the amount of money you will be saving on your water bill. However, a period of drought for you lawn may actually encourage the roots in the lawn to grow deeper, as they try and find water further down in the soil. This is a good thing. Just make sure that you are not stressing your lawn out too much if no amount of rain has accumulated throughout the previous months.
Ultimately, you want to decide what type of person you are when it comes to activating your irrigation. Weigh out the pros and cons to these time periods, and figure out what works best for you and your property.
If you are like me, the very first time you started to cut your grass you had absolutely no clue what you were doing. Just as it is dangerous to give a sharp knife to a baby, it can be dangerous to our lawn to give a man a mower without proper knowledge of how to use it. Since the grass is just starting to grow this season, you should consider when it's the right time to pull out the dusty old lawn mower and give the grass its first haircut. But while lawn mowing seems simple enough, most people don't know that there are actually a few basic things to keep in mind to ensure the best health of the lawn.
Use the 1/3 rule:
You never want to cut your grass more than one third of its current length. Cutting any more than this can be damaging for the turf. If you skipped a week of mowing and now the height of your lawn is excessive, make sure to raise up the height of the mower before you cut, then mow a few days later with your normal mowing height.
Length of Grass:
Since Reno is considered a cool climate consisting of mainly Kentucky Blue Grass and Fescue, our mowing height is going to be slightly longer than that of warm climate grasses. In general, around 2-3" is a good height for our region. Do keep in mind that during the hotter summer months you will want to keep you grass a little longer to help protect your turf.
Bag or Mulch:
If you are a home owner and are on a consistent once a week mowing schedule, I would suggest mulching your grass clippings. Clippings are actually a natural fertilizer for your turf as long as it is mowed properly. If you mow your lawn once a month and ignore the first two suggestions, then the clippings are not small enough to break down to become fertilizer for the soil and will actually damage your lawn if left in larger clumps. If you have large clumps of grass after mulch mowing, then make sure you rake those up before calling it a day.
If you have a string trimmer and want nice edges around your grass, or to clear the grass from around the tree trunks, be careful! It might seem like tree trunks are durable enough to take the abuse of a small amount of string, but after weekly beatings the string will actually break down the bark of the tree and kill it. Check out this BLOG for more information about how to protect your trees for string trimmers and mowers and just be careful.
Dilemma: Where should we draw the line when deciding to hire a professional or save money and hire an amateur? This question is simple if we are talking about who to go to if you have a broken arm, or even who to hire to build your house, but at what point does the grey area come into play where you might be more focused on getting a job done, rather than getting it done right?
I pose this question because when I activated my irrigation system the other day I noticed I had a leak. This was not just any leak, it was coming from about 3' underground in a very random place that should never be damaged. After an hour of digging I was expecting to find some cracked PVC pipe, but to my surprise I simply found that the pipe had separated from its joint. Whoever installed the system forgot to use any glue on this small section, which basically means it was being held together like two pieces of Legos. This was just one of many issues that have come up with my irrigation since we moved in, so it's clear that whoever installed this system took many shortcuts and installed things incorrectly.
So just as you might be ready to hire anyone to install your irrigation system, think about being in this situation in the future. I have had several customers ask me to fix underground piping issues that have broken or were installed incorrectly, and although I know how to do it I normally direct them to call someone who is licensed for this type of work to make sure it is done right. I can fix my own irrigation - but I am no expert.
Ask yourself this question - Does fixing my irrigation fall within the grey area between hiring an amateur and hiring a professional? Before you go with an amateur, think twice about the consequences and possibly spend the extra buck to have the job done right.
The most basic way to tell if you need help activating the water is determine if you know what the picture to the left is? Not a clue? Then yes you might need help turning your irrigation back on after a Reno winter. If this is something you want to be able to do yourself and have a similar system than these directions and video should be able to help you out. 1.) Tools:
To activate your water you will need a small to medium size flat head screw driver and a irrigation key that can be purchased at your local Home Depot.
2.) Test clocks:
This is where the flat head screw driver comes in handy. The two smaller valves that stick out of the back pressure system have spot where you will use the flat head screwdriver. During the winter these slits should be in parallel with the valve, but you will now want to close the valve by turning the screw driver a quarter turn until the slits are perpendicular with the ground.
3.) Open the valves:
Now you will want to turn the two large valves to be parallel with the pipe. In the picture above they are currently perpendicular with the pipe, so by using the picture as a reference you would want to twist both valves a quarter turn until in parallel with the pipes.
4.) Close drain valves:
In the video we are dealing with a two drain system. Your system might have more drain valves so you will want to make sure all drain valves are closed before activating the system. To close the drain valves you will need to use the irrigation key to turn the drain valve clockwise until it stops. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN.
5.) Activate the System:
Finally you will need to use the irrigation key one last time, but just like in the video below you want to turn the key counter-clockwise until the valve is fully open. At this point you should hear all the water fill the pipes and pressurize. If there are no leaks and all drain valves have been closed then this your system is good to go!
It has become evident to me that in the lawn care industry there is a much better approach to make money, but I am not sure if the hard economy would allow people to be open to the idea. What is it? Help other businesses make money. Yes, I know that owning and operating a small business in this country is rather cut-throat, but there are some very effective ways that lawn care and landscaping professionals could help each other make money.
After talking today with a fellow friend and landscaper Joe Colacurcio, owner of Hillside Landscape in Reno, it became very obvious that we had an opportunity to help each other make money. Joe, being very experienced in the landscaping and snow removal realm, had heard that this previous year I was contacted by Cabela's in Reno for a snow removal contract. Since our business is not equipped to take on such a large contract, I simply told them "Thank you for contacting us, but we are currently not able to provide service for you." After the discussion with Joe today, I realized that I had a potential gold mine for someone that could handle a contract like this.
Joe and I generally work in the same field, but we have two completely different business models. Joe focuses on high end landscaping jobs while my business mainly focuses on the weekly lawn maintenance contracts. However, each of our businesses get calls for both types of work because the public does not always know the difference between our companies. At this point in time I was reminded of Steve Carrell's character from the movie Despicable Me saying, "Liiiiiiggght buuulllllb!!!"
Whats the Solution?
This is when I realized that so many lawn care companies stretch themselves thin by trying to serve homes/businesses all across Reno. We each find our niche in a specific part of town that allows us to cut down on drive time (and therefore gas), enabling us to complete more jobs in a shorter period of time. So I propose, "help me, help you." I honestly don't want to be driving to Sparks or south Reno to do a lawn maintenance job just as some companies believe that the NW area is out of their way. If we are able to refer business to each other it would allow us to offer lower rates, drive less, and in the end provide better service for our customers! In my opinion this is a win win situation for both the business and the customer.
The benefits of social media have become more and more evident since our business jumped on the bandwagon last year. Because of this, our marketing focus has changed from trying to blast people with unwanted messages and forcing discounts, to discussing and connecting with others about lawn care tips, tools, and tricks through social media. While it has taken a lot of time and effort to improve our overall search engine optimization (SEO), there are a few quick things we did to get our name on the front page of Google in a moderately untouched market. If you are not quite ready to commit or spend money on social media marketing, here is what I did with limited knowledge to get my brand name recognized on the web. 1.) Get a Website:
Before I had enough money to hire a webmaster to create my website, I did some searching and ended up creating an intuit website. This was not great, but it at least created a home base for people to find me. Depending on your situation I would probably suggest creating a wordpress blog instead. The great thing about both of these is they are user friendly, practically free, and create a hub spot for people to find you.
2.) Get your business on Google places and Yelp:
Another FREE tool, Google Places, is where you maybe noticed first if your competition has not flooded it yet. When we signed up for this, Reno area Lawn Services had swamped this tool, but since this was all they had done Google had no reason to put them higher up on the search engine list. In a key word search now you will find Cory's Lawn Service somewhere between letter A-D on almost any search for "lawn service" or "snow removal." Is it because we're a huge business? NO! It just because we utilized some of the tools the internet had to offer.
3.) Get 5 start reviews:
I can't give away all our secrets to how we landed 13 five star reviews on Google places, but I can say this is easier than it looks. Don't wait for your customers to review you on their own because you may not like what you see when they actually do (many post because of a bad experience, rather than a good one). Ask your loyal customers to help out, maybe offer 10% off, or a buy one get one free if they go review you on Google. It is much more likely for a random person to try out your business if they see 5 star reviews, as opposed to the company that gets 3 stars.
I am no type of social media expert, and I am honestly just learning how to use social media marketing as well, but these were the first 3 things I did to get Cory's Lawn Service some type of visibility on the web that actually had people calling to get more information about our services. Try them out!
Over the past two weeks I have seen several lawn care companies doing all the prep work they possibly can before the lawn mowing season starts. Starting all the way back in the first week of March, I began to see different companies in town start their services to commercial and residential properties, which includes lawn aeration. Although aeration is one of the single best things you can do for the health of your lawn, if it is not done right you may be wasting your money. In Reno, water activation is normally done around the first to second week in April due to the freezing temperatures during early spring nights. The best time to aerate is normally after a lawn has been soaked throughout the night. This enables deep cores to break through the thatch layer and allows water and nutrients to penetrate all the way through to the soil. The problem with aerating your lawn so early in March is that the ground can still be frozen and has not had a chance to be watered. Due to Reno's extremely dry winter this year, many of the lawns that were aerated before the irrigation had been activated have produced very minimal soil penetration, which results in extremely small core removal.
Since I have not activated my water yet, I just went outside and attempted to aerate my lawn to show exactly what I am talking about. The cores that were removed are extremely small compared to the picture above and have hardly even penetrated through the thatch layer. Since most companies, including myself, use a self propelled drum aerator, it is necessary to have moisture in the lawn so as to get deep core penetration and the maximum benefit for the time, money, and effort.
What should I do?
If you have already had your lawn aerated and your cores are small because the irrigation had not been activated yet, you can either: 1) get it done again, or 2) just wait until the fall to get it done right. If you hire a company to aerate your lawn, ask if they use a self propelled drum aerator or a piston driven aerator. If the company uses a piston driven aerator, then the aeration process can be done at any time, as long as the ground is not frozen.
Finally, you get what you pay for! A neighborhood boy this year went and rented an aerator for a day and was only charging homes $20.00 to aerate their lawn. Due to the amount of people that signed up for this cheap rate, his aeration jobs resulted in very few plugs being removed because he was in a rush to return the aerator by the end of the day.
Just make sure when you aerate this season that the process is done right!
As many green companies are wondering what to do about replacing the lost income from this past winter, it is crucial to think of a way to substitute for the lost revenue caused by the lack of snow removal. For some much larger companies in parts of Wisconsin, and other snowy states in which half their income comes from snow removal, this was significantly harder to do than for companies in Reno. This year, I found myself going out for one single snow storm, which didn't even cover the cost of parts to tune up our snow blowers. Since our snow removal profits normally pay for lawn equipment tune ups as well as new equipment, I had to figure out a way to replace this lost revenue. It was at this point it became evident that Cory's Lawn Service needed to think outside the box to try and replace our lost revenue. We decided to offer our customers a "Decomposed Granite Refresher", which can be read about in a previous BLOG. After emailing our customers about this offer, we spent 2 weeks installing 18 cubic yards of decomposed granite for 14 homes, which weighs in around 66,600 pounds. After doing some quick searching on the internet we found out that this is the equivalent of moving 5.5 African Elephants by shovel and wheel barrow.
Whats the Point?
Although this number may seem like nothing to the green companies that actually move rock as part of their yearly business, for our company it enabled us to purchase and maintain our lawn care equipment this year. The point being, all companies need to think about extra "outside the box" services to offer customers in times of hardship. Although we normally count on snow removal service, it is not up to us what weather God is going to provide. Just as corporations plan out a yearly budget based on the money they expect to have, many small businesses count on work that is not actually guaranteed, such as snow removal.
It is vital is to have a back up plan for rough times so you don't have to downsize your workforce, offer less hours, or shut down shop entirely. This back up plan might not be your bread and butter, but it will keep your head above water during a poor season and allow you to be ready for when things improve.
It was an exciting moment at the Bettinghouse residence today when the loud sound of a diesel engine stopped in front of my home and UPS delivered our door hanger flyers for the 2012 season. Although I have redirected most of my marketing efforts to different social media platforms (which is free) I have stuck with one form of traditional marketing for the past 3 years - door hangers. They have helped my business tremendously, but it has taken more than just running around all parts of the city and blanketing a large area with a generic message. This year, I used the base of an old design from Sara Millim and, with the professional help of Donald Zimmerman, came up with some new ideas that I believe will have a response rate in Reno, NV that is greater than the national average. For a lawn care business like mine the national response rate is somewhere around .4%-2%. In 2010 I had a response rate of about 4%, with 2.3% actually signing up. Although these numbers seem extremely low to the naked eye, this meant 19 new clients that I did business for over the course of 7 months in 2010, as well as in the following years.
The key is to not waste time blanketing all neighborhoods, but to seek out a few areas of the city that are looking for what your business has to offer. We design our door hangers to fit a specific region of the city. This way we are not driving all across town, but are staying clustered and doing business for one location.
Cory's Lawn Service was originally established by handing out Microsoft Word flyers in the right neighborhood in 2005. Before I knew it I had 30 customers and had not bought a piece of equipment yet! Although we have come a long way from Word documents and used equipment, I would still recommend using this traditional way of marketing if you are looking to start up or help grow a business.
If you are concerned about the amount of time spent walking around and hanging flyers, I understand completely. I realized after the first year that handing these out personally was not the best use of my time, so for the past two years I have hired Trevor Hallum, who tells me "you realize you are paying me to go on a run." I also realized it will get done even quicker when I am paying him per flyer, rather than per hour. Now Trevor gets paid to go on a faster run!
Please look for our new flyers in the NW Reno area. Also, if you got one of our flyers and read this blog contact me and I will give you a free mow!
This week I had a chance to take a break and go golfing with some good friends at Whitney Oaks golf course in Rocklin, CA. Although I was there for a beautiful day of golf, I really wish I would have chance to meet up with the grounds crew to interview them about the upkeep around the course. Whitney Oaks is probably one of the more difficult courses I have played in the past few years outside of Reno. I do not have a registered handicap and normally shoot in the mid 80's, but the two times I played here I have shot a 98 and a 92. As far as the actual quality of the turf at the course goes, I can't say I was disappointed. However, most holes were not in the greatest shape. I do have to give credit to the fact that the greens were just aerated and things have greened up more in the past 3 weeks. I guess part of me just expects California courses to be immaculate in the winter/spring compared to the golf courses we have in Reno.
I really want to start meeting with the grounds crews at the different courses I play to find out the reasons why their courses look the way they do. When do they activate the full time watering? What fertilizer do they use? And when do they apply it? I think this would share a glimpse of how and why golf courses stay in great shape throughout the year. After driving out to Whitney Oaks twice from Reno, I would give this course a overall score of 7 out of 10 for spring golf. It is challenging but fun, and the pace of play was decent. Also, the staff was super nice the first time to hook us up with a discounted rate for a friend's birthday, even though our coupon was not valid on that day (read the fine print Rob!) I would like to return to Whitney Oaks in the summer and I bet my rating would go up when everything is green!
Although it might seem stupid, I wanted to take a little video of the guys we were out with and give a little shout out to my buddy Christian's amazing restaurant SUP in Reno, NV. Christian has only been playing golf seriously a few months and with his garage sale bag of mismatched clubs this guy is just around the corner from consistently shooting in the 90's.
If this is the first year you are considering hiring a lawn care service or are in need of a change from the same crappy service year after year, here are the TOP 5 things to consider before hiring a lawn care provider. These recommendation are not the guaranteed way to hire the most stellar lawn care provider around, but since this is a business that practically anyone can start up there are some things to watch out for. I will admit and know for a fact that Cory's Lawn Service may not be the best fit for what you're looking for, but after being in the business for some time I can tell you some things to look out for and avoid so you can hire a service that does fits your needs. 1.) Talk to your Neighbors:
There is still no better way to find a good business than through word of mouth. Whether its a restaurant or a vacation spot we don't trust anything more that what others have to say. Have you noticed that your neighbors use a lawn care services? Be a nice neighbor and bring over a plate of cookies and ask them how they ended up choosing the service they currently use, how they like them, and what downfalls there have been to using the service.
If you're hiring little Timmy from down the street who is trying to make money to go to summer camp this year then ignore this one and have the kid wash your car as well. But if you're hiring a small business to take care of your property this year, then that's what they should be, a licensed small business which all business are required to places in a visible spot for anyone to see. This insures you that they are registered with the state and city in case of any injury or damage is done to your property they will be easy to find and are most likely insured as well.
3.) Hire who you trust:
Almost all lawn care providers will come to your home for a free estimate and if they don't that might be a red flag already. This allows you the opportunity to meet them first hand and ask any questions before you commit to signing any type of contract. See if they will be the person who will be on your property weekly, and if not try and meet the people that will. Your lawn care provider will get to know your property quickly and when you're home or not. If you can't trust them in person with you home, can you trust them on your property when your out of town?
This day in age so many people are using social media. In a matter of minutes you can check online if they are reputable and trustworthy. Review sites like Google places and Yelp will bring up reviews from past customers along with a 1 to 5 star rating according to past work done. If you don't want to spend the time asking a neighbor, this is the second best way to find a little bit about what you're dealing with.
5.) Read the fine print:
Unfortunately this is where I have heard people getting into trouble. If you have to sign a weekly lawn care contract read the fine print. Make sure you are not locked into your contract in case the company is awful. Also make sure that the company is not going to charge you the regular rate during winter when the grass is not growing and they are now mowing on a weekly bases.