Chris Koelling recently had a customer cancel her lawn care service with his company, giving him no explanation.
“I never knew why,” says Koelling, the owner of Mt. Vernon, Ill.-based Lawn Perfection. “I thought it was to save money.”
He caught up with her and discovered the real reason she cancelled her service was that she didn’t like chemicals.
“I jumped on that and said we’d be happy to put you on an organic program that has no chemicals,” he says. “She signed up like that.”
Lawn care operators are hearing from more clients who are saying they enjoy having an alternative to traditional synthetic fertilizers and other lawn care products.
Biofertility programs – which use living microorganisms to enhance the soil structure – are organic and can reduce the need for pesticide use on the lawns, lawn care operators say. Some LCOs have just begun using the program this year, so it’s still too early to tell what the customer satisfaction level will be. But early word suggests they might be on the right track.
“A customer just called and thanked me,” says Eric Greenwood, owner of Heritage Lawn Care in Ann Arbor, Mich. “She has pets and liked the idea behind (organics). She always worried because she had a grub control program and needed to treat it without harming the pets. We were able to lower the amount of grub control by 80 percent in a year.”
Koelling has received positive feedback as well.
“We have a client who has a daughter with a lung disease and didn’t want any chemicals on the lawn,” he says, adding the client was glad to hear there was an organic program. “The feedback I’m getting is, ‘This is great you’re doing this; I didn’t know there was another option (besides synthetics). I didn’t think we could have a nice lawn.’”
Customers like the fast-acting nature of the biofertility program, Greenwood says. “It’s the only product available in organic form that can take effect immediately,” he adds, citing many products that need warm temperatures to be activated – something northern climates sometimes lack.
Then there’s another portion of clients that just want to be better stewards of the environment.
“Some people are conscious about what we’re doing, as far as the environment is concerned. I think environmental concerns are going to play a bigger role,” says Koelling, who adds Illinois doesn’t have the stringent regulations regarding pesticide and fertilizer use that other states have been adopting.
Other customers might be leaning toward organics, but want to wait for visible confirmation of effectiveness before jumping on board.
“Customers ask if you have proven results, but my education says it’s going to work,” says Greenwood, who just started a biofertility program this year. “Everyone’s trusted my judgment so far. I’ve had no callbacks in the first two weeks.”