This summer, severe drought is expected to hit the southwestern US hard, according to AccuWeather’s 2014 forecast. The state of California already on record for the driest year yet, and forecasters predict that the situation will only spread east as the season heats up. To manage water supplies, cities from Los Angeles to Austin to Tampa are putting limits on water usage, forcing lawn care operators to change up their operations.
“A lot of our scheduling is the biggest challenge,” says Gary LaScalea, president of GroGreen in Plano, Texas. “A good thing we have going for us is that a good 95 percent-plus of our customers have irrigation systems. On the other side of the coin, all these municipalities are wrapped up right now in water restrictions.”
GroGreen works around the city’s watering schedule by making sure technicians know which properties are allowed to water on which day, and making sure that they don’t service lawns on off days. Or, they will apply fertilizer or treatments that don’t need to be watered in the same day.
“It’s unfortunate that the municipality will say which day you can water,” LaScalea says. “If I was able to water when I needed to and be careful and not use more than I need to, I could actually use less water than letting it run for a long time on the one day in two weeks I’m allowed to use the water.”
While many of GroGreen’s customers have irrigation systems, the strict water usage limitations make it hard for homeowners to program their automatic systems. “They travel a lot – a lot of business travel, summer vacations, the kids are out of school,” LaScalea says. “If you can only water once every other week, you’re not going to be home to override the system. You can’t set a time clock to go off just once every other week. They’re all on a seven-day cycle.”
For those without automatic systems, LaScalea says there are other difficulties. Homeowners tend to over water (when they can) in the summer, leaving their lawn susceptible to pests, weeds and disease.
To help their customers with best practices, GroGreen technicians are able to use their iPads to print water usage information and other tips right on their invoices. They also direct customers to GroGreen’s website where they can find watering and mowing tips like proper heights for the season, as well as ways to deal with summer lawn stress. “Most LCOs should have a website that their customers can go to for tips and advice,” LaScalea says.
The tips are great for customers who handle day to day lawn maintenance themselves, but because GroGreen doesn’t offer a mowing service, many of their customers hire a separate contractor. This makes it difficult for GoGreen to ensure proper grass height. “[The mowing companies] are in their routine and it’s hard to change. Sometimes there’s a miscommunication – a gap – and sometimes that’s a gap you have to leave alone,” LaScalea says.