Friday, July 31, 2015

Aeration: How to Cure Hard-Core Lawns

I hear a lot of people talk about aeration as if it isn't really part of necessary lawn maintenance. It is only for golf courses and the guy who wants the best lawn on the block. You might even have this gentleman as your neighbor. He's the guy you see in his yard at 5:00 in the morning with a dandelion puller while you have your morning coffee. You have already conceded to Mr. Jones and determined since you won't be pulling weeds at 5:00 with him, you probably don't need to aerate like he does either. While Mr. Jones might be completing aeration twice a year, how do you know if and when you should be?
  • Typically a compacted lawn is thin. If you haven't changed any other lawn care practices recently and the lawn seems to be getting thinner every season, it's time to aerate. 
  • If you now swear that fertilizer is also a waste of time and money, it's time to aerate. Mr. Jones lawn looks great after he fertilizes right? It must be the brand he is using! Fertilizer won't do you much good over compacted soil as it can't penetrate it. The nutrients simply wash away and never reach the roots.
  • You seem to have more wash outs than normal after rainfall. Again, if you haven't made any changes to the grade or surrounding area and suddenly mulched or other areas are washing out, it's time to aerate. Just as compacted soil won't allow nutrients to reach the roots of your turf, it won't allow water to infiltrate either.  Not only does this create more runoff, it also forces the turf into drought stress earlier than it normally would.

"OK, OK I get it, but when should I do it?" If it has been awhile and/or you have never completed it before, aerate a few weeks before you fertilize. Then complete an annual aeration about month before our first frost.

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Jobs Done Right

As the saying goes, "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur."
My son had a recent experience that certainly taught him this. He just turned 16 and we bought him a car. He wanted to upgrade the factory stereo and purchased all the new equipment. Rather than hire a professional he decided it would be cheaper to have a "friend" install it all for him. His friend had "experience". Long story short, his $800 upgrade turned into a $3,000 bill for me. How? This "less expensive" installation blew out the electronic steering module, the head stereo unit, and the new amplifiers he purchased. The car also needed to be jumped every 6 hours with or without the now non-functional stereo connected to the battery. In the end he spent $800 and I spent $3,000 getting it all fixed. After taking his lumps and speaking with the professional who fixed it all he discovered it would have cost $1,700 for the same system he now has if he would have came to them in the first place. It is now professionally installed, warranted, and higher end equipment. To save money he spent $2,100 extra! Wait a minute, I guess I spent $3,000 extra!

I see this every year in the green industry as well. "That's more expensive, another guy proposed something different for much less". I tell all of our customers that 40% of our water feature division alone is completing rebuilds from either other companies or weekend warrior installations. Some people, like my son, just need to find out for themselves the hard way. When the job goes bad and we get a call to rebuild it, my price is now increased. "But some of the work is done shouldn't it be less"? No so fast, there is now more work to complete just to get the job back to a blank slate so we can build a quality feature.

This certainly doesn't mean the most expensive price is the highest quality or best company for the job either. Some businesses just price for higher margins. We pay benefits to our employees so we can retain an educated and dedicated staff. Our equipment is reliable and well maintained, we use higher quality products, we offer warranties, and we carry the proper levels of insurance and complete extensive training. These things cost money and the investment results in projects that exceed customer expectations. It should always be a question of value rather than price. Rarely do two companies propose the exact same design or materials. The question is what are you getting for your money? Two identical boxes can be certainly be priced the same, but one of them may be empty.

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