BOSS V-Plow Cutting Edges
The pitch: BOSS has developed a range of tough, long-lasting cutting edges to handle the intense wear and tear of snow plowing.
- Constructed using a Hardox wear plate for extended wear resistance.
- Feature a unique curb guard to protect the cutting edge and blade from side impacts.
- Patented and proven snow catcher is specifically designed to catch snow at the plow’s pivot point.
For more information: Bossplow.com
FISHER HC Extreme Wear Shoe Kit
The pitch: The Extreme Wear Shoe Kit for the HC plow is optimized for applications with high wear rates.
- Extends the life of cutting edges by increasing the surface area in contact with the ground.
- Comprised of AR400 steel, the kit is ideal for aggressive surfaces like granite and higher speed plowing applications such as small roads or parkways.
- Immediate availability for the HC plow.
For more information: Fisherplows.com
SnowEx Scrape Maxx Down-Force Kit
The pitch: Unleash your plow’s scraping potential with the Scrape Maxx Down-Force Kit, available for all SnowEx truck plows.
- The active downforce maintains consistent surface pressure, applying more force to break through hardpack.
- The kit maximizes back dragging performance, which is especially important for lighter plows.
- Intuitive One-Button activation.
For more information: Scrapemaxx.com
WESTERN WIDE-OUT and WIDE-OUT XL Poly Cutting Edge Kit
The pitch: WESTERN’s poly cutting edge kit is designed for decorative concrete, driveways and other sensitive surfaces.
- Comprised of polyurethane to minimize surface damage.
- A complete kit includes all the necessary edges and hardware for both the wings and moldboard.
- Available in two sizes to fit the Wide-Out and Wide-Out XL.
For more information: Westernplows.com
After years of working in franchise operations at Weed Man USA, Chris and Jennifer Lemcke are pioneering Canada’s first robomowing franchise – TurfBot.
As robomowers gain popularity, the Lemckes wanted to get in on the ground floor and use their expertise in lawn services to offer a new kind of mowing.
“It’s big in Europe,” says Chris Lemcke, technical director of Turf Holdings and Weed Man USA. “We’ve seen it and we’ve been seeing it more often. There’s a lot to be made of the fact that there’s no labor other than the installation and obviously everyone’s pretty well aware of the difficulty of finding labor nowadays, and the cost of labor, so that’s what intrigues us.”
The couple started TurfBot in Durham, Ontario, where they are master franchisors for Weed Man USA. Lemcke says the new company will be similar since Weed Man already services lawns, so the couple can use their expertise to branch into robotic mowing services. However, TurfBot will be a completely separate brand and operation.
The company just got its start in late August, so it’s still in the pilot test stage, but Lemcke plans to fully launch in 2020. “We just want to be sure that, like anything with the franchising side of things, the systems are set up. We already do it within our Weed Man organization and with franchises, it’s all about getting systems up and running.”
Lemcke has been getting his feet wet doing installs and learning the ins and outs of installations. “It’s not an easy, ‘Just install it and let it run,’” he says.
There’s a lot of tweaking after installing the wiring, and checking to make sure the robomowers are operating properly in the beginning stages, he says, adding that it takes several weeks to ensure that the robots are hitting all areas of the lawn.
“There’s that puppy stage of training to get it to work properly and there’s a lot of learning curves,” he says.
In the future, when the company is up and running, Lemcke plans to offer tech field training on installations and problem-solving, as well as marketing and other support.
In terms of staffing, Lemcke is still working on the numbers, but says most of the labor will be up front during the installation period. “If we’re doing 100 installs, we might need two crews,” he says. “If people are calling in, they want it done as soon as possible. They’re not going to want to wait three weeks to get an installation done.”
Once that initial installation is completed, the company will have employees work on services like spring cleanups, fall cleanups, gardening and trimming and edging where the robots can’t reach.
Lemcke is still working out the financials as well. The upfront cost of the robots are a big expense in the first year or two, but then profitability really starts to go up, he says. “We’re not sure how it will all work out but some of the options would be we would become like a leasing company for the robots,” he says.
The company plans to start offering franchises by the middle of 2019 and target selling in 2020.
“You don’t have to worry about setting the robot up. Basically, we come out and do everything.” Chris Lemcke, TurfBot co-founder
Selling the service.
Lemcke is expecting the customer base to be mainly older homeowners who can’t mow their own lawns and families who simply don’t have the time for yard work.
TurfBot would own the mowers and basically rent them out to homeowners, who would keep the robomowers on their properties.
“It basically becomes a service where you don’t have to worry about it,” he says. “You just pay a monthly fee and you don’t have to worry if technology changes. You don’t have to worry about setting the robot up. Basically, we come out and do everything.”
Robomowing deviates somewhat from the standard perception of lawn care, Lemcke says. People are used to seeing stripes in the lawn once their property has been serviced, but robomowers won’t be able to provide that.
There’s an environmental edge to the mowers as well since the mowers are entirely electric. That helps with the noise factor as well, which Lemcke thinks will be a huge selling point.
To play up the environmental factor, Lemcke says the company would offer services like electric mowing in areas robomowers can’t reach, like steep grades or ditches.
“The big thing that I find more than anything is it’s so loud usually when guys are out mowing the lawn,” he says. “In the morning you’ll be sitting having a coffee and they come by on a Saturday and all of a sudden there they go and it’s VRRRRRR. Whereas this thing, you could sit out and have a coffee and not even know that it’s going. It’s just, ‘Oh, look, the mower’s out going today.’”
When it comes to creating a functional and beautiful outdoor oasis, structures like decks, pergolas, pavilions and fences offer plenty of design options.
“I ask homeowners a lot of questions when we first meet. You have to get a sense of what makes your clients tick,” says Joshua Dean, landscape designer with Wheat’s Landscape in Virginia, Maryland, and the suburban Washington D.C. markets. “We walk around the space and talk about hopes and dreams. I want to move away from how they’re using the space now toward how they want to use the space someday.”
With so many segments to a project, planning has to be a give-and-take process. “We’ve gone from an approximation of an outdoor room to full exterior design,” Dean says. After he meets with clients, he goes back and puts together a design agreement that lays out the plan. “I come back with a concept, not so much a well-developed plan because I want and need the clients’ input. They’re the ones who have to live here and use the space.”
Miles Kuperus Jr., president of Farmside Landscape & Design in Sussex County, New Jersey, uses a slightly different planning technique. “I do a design session right in front of the client,” he says. “We collaborate and build a plan together. I block out various spaces and move them around so they can see their options.” He also asks plenty of questions about how many people will be using the space, what kind of entertaining they like to do, and so on.
Seating is another issue for the key design elements, especially for areas where people gather and relax. “I have to consider sun and shade patterns in this part of the country because it can feel like a 20-degree difference in the shade versus being in the sun,” says landscape architect J’Nell Bryson of J’Nell Bryson Landscape Architecture in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Landscape/night lighting also is being used on almost every project I design because people want to sit out during the evening hours, too.”
Another issue Dean throws into the mix is how products withstand the elements over time. For example, he says they’re installing more aluminum and fewer wood fences. “We do maintenance on properties, and what we’re seeing is that wood doesn’t hold up well,” he says. “You get warping, sagging, the gates won’t close properly. It becomes a long-term maintenance issue.”
Pay attention to housing and design trends.
Dean has noticed that clients are not asking for decks in recent years. “Many of the newer homes we work on are built so that the back door is the same grade as the front, so a deck isn’t the best choice,” he says. “In addition, material costs have skyrocketed the past few years.” Because most of his homeowners prefer the look of natural stone patios, masonry has become the focus. In fact, he installed no decks this past season.
Kuperus says he’s also not building as many decks. “Decks have a high cost and last 10 to 15 years, even with the plastic wood products,” he says. “There’s a permanence to hardscape, and you can get more hardscape square footage at a lesser price.”
He does point out, however, that there are some applications when a deck still works best. “If you’re a full story above ground, you need a deck. It makes more sense and is a better use of space,” he says.
Many designers say there’s been an increase in requests for pergolas and pavilions, which consist of four posts and a roof but without walls. “Pergolas help to define a space from a design standpoint and encourage people to sit down and enjoy the view,” Dean says. “A pavilion increases useable space, but it doesn’t have to be permitted up to a certain size in this area.” These structures also may include retractable shade awnings, bug screens, heaters and fans, offering multi-season appeal.
Pavilions are increasingly popular in many regions. “I don’t get many requests for pergolas,” Bryson says. “They’re aesthetically pleasing, but they don’t guard against rain and sun, so my clients usually opt for a covered structure since shade and weather protection are more functional for our part of the country.”
Help clients prioritize.
During the planning stages, Dean lists specific tasks and includes an outline of cost per section to help clients decide what’s really important to them.
“This starts a whole new set of discussions, which helps clients set priorities,” he says. “I often hear, ‘You recommended that fire pit, and I didn’t really want it at first, but now I love it and really have to have it.’”
Getting the numbers out there from the start helps manage expectations and smooths the decision process. “I explain that I can design whatever they want, but we need to talk about what they want to spend,” Kuperus says. “We have clients with a $100,000 house but a $150,000 landscape. There’s no typical range for us. It’s more about creating quality of life for our clients.”
Don’t forget that you’re creating a space you want clients to love.
Keep clients in the loop.
As the project unfolds, Kuperus says he’s methodical about communicating. For every job, he lays mock ups, explains the next phase to homeowners, and keeps clients informed every step of the way from design through construction. “We get their input,” he says, “It’s never a good idea to make decisions in a vacuum without them. Nothing good will ever come of that.”
Because even the most well-planned projects experience little blips, Dean automatically sets a contingency budget for every design. It’s usually a percentage of the job. “I explain that I’ll draw down on it if I need to, but I go no further than that point,” he says. “I’ve found if we have a little money to work with if something comes up, we communicate better and get to the end of the project in a more productive way.”
Don’t neglect aesthetics.
Function is always the first consideration, but don’t forget that you’re creating a space you want clients to love. For example, Bryson says that for pool areas, “aluminum fences with pickets are a great low-maintenance option. You install landscaping on both sides of the fence, making this type of fence the least visually intrusive.”
Plantings also create boundaries and privacy, while adding beauty. “I use living fences when possible, meaning plant material that creates a wall or hedge. Because of code restrictions on fence height, plants ultimately will provide more privacy because they can be allowed to grow taller than a fence,” Bryson says. “Plus, ‘green’ fences absorb more sound, encourage wildlife, and add a visual softness that fences do not.”
Kuperus says that homeowners may ask for specific design elements, but he tries to help them embrace the whole concept of outdoor living. “You don’t want hardscapes that are too hard,” he says. “You need to soften those edges with planting beds, accessorize with pots, and plant herbs nearby. Now you’ve got fragrance and pollinators and a sensory space. That makes people want to be outside. You’re changing the way they enjoy their homes.”
It’s a view many landscape professionals share. “I believe that when people spend more time outside in their gardens, they become stewards for the natural world,” Dean says. “When we create a space that people truly experience, we create an emotional response. Gardens make us want to take better care of our world.”
The author is a freelance writer based in the Northeast.
The best way to prevent winter disease affecting a lawn is to promote best practices year-round, says Lance Forsee, president of Colonial Lawn & Garden headquartered in Yakima, Washington.
“This includes core aeration, the correct fertilization, mowing correctly with sharp blades and picking up the leaves when they begin to fall so they don’t accumulate on the turf,” he says.
In order to provide these practices to the fullest extent possible, Forsee says his company only offers full programs to clients, not partial programs. Colonial Lawn & Garden is a full-service lawn care company. Clients are approximately 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial.
“We want our clients to be on a full program, which is six fertilizer/weed control applications per season. By doing that, we’re giving their lawns everything they need,” Forsee says.
In the rare case a client comes on more than halfway through the year and shows signs of a weak lawn, Forsee says he would focus on core aeration of the turf and compost top dressing before winter.
The application timing of fungicides to treat spot patch or patch disease can be difficult.
“I’m not a huge proponent of fungicides, it’s more about providing the right cultural control practices. We’ll do compost top dressing. We’ll do whatever we can to make the turf as thick and healthy as possible going into winter,” Forsee says.
Forsee says he typically only uses fungicides for spot treatment if
“Geography plays a huge part in what you should do for your lawn to get ready for winter,” says Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president of U.S. Lawns. “It all really depends on some proper horticultural practices, but it really depends on what you’re looking for, for that lawn to look like through the winter.”
U.S. Lawns operates a home office out of Orlando, Florida, and has approximately 30 employees there but has other franchises nationwide.
Lawn care clients in warmer climates may want their lawn to maintain a green hue through winter, while others may be okay with the turf turning brown, Fitzpatrick says. Up north, the turf may be covered with snow most of the winter and appearance has little importance.
If a lawn is going to be overseeded in the fall, the lawn will probably be scalped, and
“You’re going to want to feed it, but you’re going to want to feed it with some very specific fertilizer that stimulates root growth, not top growth,” Fitzpatrick says. “You’re also going to want to feed it with some nutrients that it can store over the winter so that when it greens up in the spring, it greens up right away without you having to dump a lot of extra fertilizer on it.”
Regardless of geographic location, paying close attention to seasonal change is important.
“You’re going to want to understand your temperature ranges that are best to do things with the turf,” Fitzpatrick says.
Snow mold is a well-known offender when it comes to winter diseases, contractors say.
“Most of your fungus
In the Pacific Northwest, Forsee says snow mold is only common with snow accumulation.
“We’ll get some powdery mildew,” Forsee says. “What we do in the fall does a lot to
Occasionally, Forsee says he sees rodent damage to a turf over winter.
“That usually happens when we get snow cover, but keeping the turf mowed at a relatively short height will help on that,” Forsee says.
Once winter hits, Forsee says it’s important to talk to clients about
“If you don’t prep the lawn right for the winter, you’re going to have a much harder time getting the performance you want in the spring,” Fitzpatrick says.
This performance can vary depending on geographic location, but problems can include a lawn that isn’t “greening up” in the spring, overly rapid growth and weed control issues, Fitzpatrick says.
“If they’re doing leaf cleanup, definitely don’t allow the leaves to mat the turf.” Lance Forsee, president of Colonial Lawn & Garden
What to tell clients.
Forsee also points out that lawn cleanup is important if the client is doing it themselves.
“If they’re doing leaf cleanup, definitely don’t allow leaves to mat the turf. Make sure you rake the leaves off the turf. Don’t put away the lawn mower too early. And I would recommend reducing the mowing height going into the fall,” Forsee says.
In addition, irrigation should be continued until as late into the fall as possible and ideally until the turf stops growing, he says.
“Sometimes we’ll have a dry winter,” Forsee says. “Cool season turf grasses do not go truly dormant. They slow way down, but as long as there’s moisture, they’re growing, even as slow as it is.”
Fitzpatrick stresses the importance of contractors to communicate fall lawn care plans with clients as soon as possible.
“Prompt customers early enough in the year to get them prepared to take action,” Fitzpatrick says. “They are going to have a window of opportunity to do that when the temperatures are right, the soil temperatures are right and the turf is still in a growing
Saving time and money.
Planning for a successful spring in the fall can take a little forethought, but the results can yield long-term success.
“Aerating, top dressing, potentially even overseeing, those things, that if we can shift them into the fall, where they’re really more effective, it’ll save us as contractors time in the spring, because spring is always busy,” Forsee says. The natural tendency for contractors is to slow down in the fall, he says.
“We could do more work right now whereas
In addition to communicating with the client, they can also be educated over time via blogs, website content, social media and more, Forsee says.
“I think people are starting to get it. If you had to only fertilize one time a year, the best time to do it would be in the fall. If you did it two times a year, it’d be spring and fall,” Forsee says.
The author is a freelance writer based in Ohio.