Always on their minds

When a backyard is the home office view and the outdoors is a reimagined vacationland, services like lawn care become even more important to customers.

Photo courtesy of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions

“My yard is full of weeds. Help!”

This is the most common lawn care service request when a new client calls Clean Cut Landscape Design, Maintenance & Lighting in Lancaster, Pa. “The other one is, ‘I want my yard to look like my next-door neighbor’s yard,’” says Aaron Raabe, who co-owns the firm with Jim Mellinger.

Lawn care is a growing service for Clean Cut, and Raabe points to a couple of reasons for an increase in demand. “Where we live, our demographic is at least half 60 (year olds) and up, so you get the customer who decides they don’t want to care for their lawn anymore or can’t do it anymore,” he says.

Clean Cut only mows for customers who sign on for other services, such as a lawn care program or tree and shrub services. For those who just wish the dandelions would go away (another popular demand), Raabe focuses on educating clients first so they understand what’s involved in taking a lawn from a weed patch to a healthy green.

“...If you’re sitting at home at a desk and you see the neighbor’s lawn is rich green and yours isn’t, you might say, ‘I have to do something about this.’” Aaron Raabe, co-owner, Clean Cut Landscape Design, Maintenance & Lighting

“We explain the process, the steps we take, the applications,” Raabe says, noting that this further grabs their interest. Education helps sell the service, set expectations and, ultimately, grow a business because clients view you as a trusted resource.

And with more people working from home during the pandemic, there’s more attention on the lawn and landscape — including large-scale projects like outdoor kitchens, patio living spaces and pools. “The momentum has continued and only increased,” says Neave Group Outdoor Solutions’ Glen Baisley, noting that reduced travel and more time at home has resulted in a budget and desire for backyard beautification projects.

“In general, people are putting more into services than ever before, too,” adds Baisley, the company’s marketing and customer service director. “People who typically might have wanted weekly lawn maintenance and didn’t necessarily take on a turf healthcare package are wanting the whole gamut of services because they want their properties to look as best as possible. They are looking out the window all the time and that is what they are seeing.”

Budgeting for a better view.

Business has been healthy during the pandemic, at times even exceeding expectations, as Baisley says. People are asking for pools, fire pits, entertainment spaces and gardens. “They want a personal backyard paradise or their own vacation getaway in their backyard,” he says.

Michael Kaylor is seeing the same trend in Virginia, where he operates Kaylor Lawns and Landscaping. “We have had more calls than we can handle for patios and hardscaping projects like retaining walls,” he says. “We are as slammed as we’ve ever been.” Kaylor has even turned down mowing requests from his clients, who live where he’s based in Christiansburg and Blacksburg.

But what about lawn care specifically?

Are customers just as interested in a healthy, weed-free lawn as they are a patio entertainment space? How does the demand for lawn care services in 2021 compare to how other landscaping services are performing?

With people staying at home more, they are spending less on traveling and more on improving their own backyards.

That depends on the customer demographic, location and clients’ budgets, too. As Raabe says, his area of Pennsylvania which includes lots of newly developed farmland tends to have an older demographic. They’re willing to spend on lawn care and let someone else handle the tasks.

Another interesting market dynamic for Raabe that’s driving lawn care business is a result of the soil-rich farmland. Developers tend to strip and sell the valuable soil before building, which basically lays the groundwork for him to sell lawn care. “Commercial construction companies come and take the topsoil and then someone like me has to work with junk soil,” he says. “For customers who want grass, I walk them through the process and explain it’s a long game.”

Freed-up budget dollars have prompted some homeowners to spend where they might not have before. “The percentage of income goes toward things you might not have cared about before,” Kaylor says. “Maybe they’re not commuting and buying lunch out every day, so they have extra disposable income to put toward their property vs. their car or meals out.”

Kaylor says the debt relief and stimulus dollars many homeowners have received during the last year has given them more expendable income to say yes to big projects. So, in his area, he’s seeing more of an interest in projects that residents might have been dreaming of and put on hold vs. services like lawn care. “With people at home, they want an outdoor space where they can spend time,” he says.

When an office view is a backyard rather than a white wall or parking lot of an office building, there’s naturally more attention on a home’s outdoors.

“If you’re leaving for work at an office at 7 a.m. and coming home at 7 p.m., you might not care how green your grass is,” Raabe says. “But if you’re sitting at home at a desk and you see the neighbor’s lawn is rich green and yours isn’t, you might say, ‘I have to do something about this.’”

Overall, his customer base is demanding lawn care even though they are home and perhaps available to do it themselves because perhaps they’ve attempted it and achieving desired results wasn’t as easy as they thought. “They realize, ‘I don’t want to do that again,’” he says.

Adding in-demand services.

Clients are taking suggestions for improving their properties, Baisley adds. “While we have always made suggestions that lead to a better long-term impact on their landscape and increased curbside value, now clients are more on board because they are at home spending more time,” he says.

While weeds are the top lawn care complaint that drives residents to inquire about a lawn care program, Neave Group Outdoor Solutions has noticed more request for plant healthcare and tree healthcare. “We can make suggestions about which plants are going to thrive and which ones will be the most easily treated, or vice-versa,” he says.

“We have had more calls than we can handle for patios and hardscaping...We are as slammed as we’ve ever been.” Michael Kaylor, owner, Kaylor Lawns & Landscaping

Another in-demand service this season is tick and mosquito control with a special concern for ticks. “We are really anticipating a bad tick season, and then as we go into summer, we’ll get more requests for mosquito,” Baisley says.

Raabe is anticipating greater weed pressure from nutsedge in his region, “which is a challenging grassy weed to take care of,” he says, figuring it will probably cause more people to call for help. “Also, we’ve seen an increase in aeration and overseeding services.”

This could be attributed to educating customers, he says. “As a smaller company, we spend time with customers discussing the different options,” he says.

Continuing into 2021, business is going strong with an uptick in lawn care. “We absolutely have seen a spike in services,” Baisley says. “That includes from new clients and requests from existing customers who want more services.”

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