Great expectations

Customers are looking for the perfect lawn, but inflation, supply chain issues and tough-to-treat weeds can make this harder to deliver.

Adam Jackson, owner of Nature’s Turf in Atlanta, Georgia, says there’s seemed to be a shift in the mindset of customers.

While pesticides and eco-friendly alternatives have been debated for awhile in his market, and across the country, Jackson says he feels that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and customers being at home more the priority has really been having that perfect weed-free lawn.

“The expectation from clients is to have zero weeds, which is understandable. The consumer, at least in our market, have a very low tolerance for weeds,” he says. “It seemed like five to seven years ago there seemed to be some concern about pesticides, but now we rarely hear about that. It’s that they want zero weeds no matter what.”

Jackson says there’s several factors that make this demand hard to deliver.

First and foremost being weeds that have been troublesome for some time.

“We’re predominately warm-season turf here so Bermuda grass can be an issue but the biggest problem we’ve had in recent years has been annual Bluegrass. The preemergence available on the market are just less effective than they were in prior years. So, it’s been a struggle for us,” Jackson explains.

And the struggle doesn’t stop there. Jackson adds that Doveweed has also been a frequent problem these last few seasons.

“In Atlanta we’ve been battling Doveweed, which seems to just be getting worse. It’s gotten a whole lot worse over the last three to five years,” he says. “We’re definitely working with different products and strategies to control that.”

To keep up with these pesky problem weeds, and find the best, most efficient solutions to them, Jackson says he relies on an expert he hired.

“I have a full-time agronomist that works for me and is constantly measuring and evaluating our programs and the products and meeting and staying in touch with vendors and manufacturers as well to stay current,” he says. “Every six to 12 months we’re constantly enhancing, updating and tweaking what we’re doing.”

But tough-to-treat weeds isn’t the only hurdle standing between customers and their perfect lawns, Jackson says raising prices and supply chain issue has also played a role.

“This season in particular fertilizer is up in some cases 115%, so we’re having to basically rethink nutrition and how we get an appropriate level of nutrition on the lawn,” he says. “Everything we do has gone up. It’s not just fertilizer and chemicals — it’s trucks, equipment and everything else. Even insurance is up significantly.”

To be able to continue to service customers at the standard they expect, Jackson says a price hike was inevitable.

“We’re raising prices to our clients. We typically raise them along with the Consumer Price Index or somewhere close to that, but this year we raised them higher. We did 10% and that’s the largest one-year price increase we’ve ever done,” he says.