Archive for category landscaping

Landscapers: April is National Safe Digging Month

April is Safe Digging Month - Call 811

April is National Safe Digging Month

Damage prevention is a shared responsibility. As landscaping business owners, it is our responsibility to “know what’s below” before we dig. April is national safe digging month and all landscapers should take time to review our safe digging practices.

In our landscaping business, we have always employed a four step process in preventing damage to underground lines.

1) Visually Survey the Site: There are simple things to look for yourself. The area between a meter and a structure is always an area of concern. Obvious replanting of grass seed might disclose where a line has recently been laid. Areas of greener grass might tell you where a water or sewer line resides.

2) Ask the Property Owner: Property owners are a source of line location information and might be able to tell you general areas of concern. However, their knowledge of buried lines should not be fully relied upon. Property owners “forget” locations of lines or are completely unaware of lines that were buried before they owned the property.

3) Call 811: A call to 811 a few days before your digging project will allow your local utilities to visit the site and mark your lines. This is a free service and should be used for every digging job. Even if the property owner tells you that an area is safe to dig, you should call 811 to prevent potential damage to “forgotten” lines. Also, calling 811 should help reduce your liability if you do damage an unmarked line.

4) Dig Carefully: After everyone (including 811) has asserted that there are no lines in a work area, landscapers should use due diligence in their digging practices. Keep watch for leaking water from a sewer or water line. Keep your nose alert for the smell from a gas line. Listen for unusual sounds indicating you are digging into something other than dirt.

Safe digging is no joke. I once had a competitor in the landscaping business who lost over $2,500 in repair costs and downtime when he inflicted minor damage to a sewer line during a small landscaping project. Simply following the 4 steps above would have saved him.

If you are thinking about starting a lawn care and landscaping business, visit our main website to read about our professionally produced Lawn Care Business Training Course. It is packed with information and business tools that will help you start (and expand) your own lawn care business.

Start A Lawn Care Business

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2012 Lawn Mowing Contracts Are Coming Due

Bidding Lawn Mowing Contracts for 2012

Lawn Care Contracts are Great Sources of Extra Money

How to Successfully Bid Lawn Care Contracts

As lawn care business owners, we are all looking for additional sources of income for our companies.
The approach of the 2012 lawn mowing season brings special opportunities for any lawn care business that is either brand new to the lawn care industry or is looking to increase an already thriving business structure. Lawn care contracts are often bid during the January through April time frame. Industrial plants, apartment complexes, retail establishments, and government agencies renew their lawn care and landscape maintenance contracts between now and the beginning of the new mowing season.

The problem with many lawn care company owners is that they do not know how to bid these contracts. Too many lawn care companies mistakenly try to win contracts by simply underpricing last year’s price. This is the wrong way to price a contract and many lawn care companies lose THOUSANDS of dollars each year following this strategy.

Developing a pricing strategy is only one of the problems lawn care companies face bidding on contracts. Procedural difficulties in bidding contracts also cause many lawn care companies to have their bids rejected. This results in downtime and lost revenue for those lawn care companies.

If you want to take your lawn care business to the next level this year, take the time RIGHT NOW to learn how to properly find, develop, and bid on larger-scale lawn care and landscape maintenance contracts. Our company has developed a professionally produced lawn care business guidebook and software package that includes a very detailed look at how to properly bid on lawn care contracts. The package is on sale right now for less than $50.

For more information and ordering instructions, visit our main website by clicking on the link below:

How to Successfully Bid Lawn Care Contracts

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Landscaping Runoff Barrier & Proper Erosion Control

Landscape Runoff Barrier

Possible Landscaping Stormwater Runoff Violation

Your lawn care and landscaping company can be fined for improper barrier control of your landscaping jobs.

We received many inches of rain last week and I came across this improperly performed landscaping job. As you can see from the pictures, rain water is cascading down a hillside and mud is being washed into the street and into a stormwater drain.

I am not an expert on stormwater laws, but the company who performed this job is possibly in violation of a number of ordinances which address stormwater runoff, landscaping debris (including mud and gravel) deposited onto a city street, and muddy runoff into a stormwater drain.

A number of easy modifications to this landscaping job would have prevented this problem.

1) Heavy rain was forecast for the same day this 1-day job was to be completed. The company could have rescheduled this work until after the heavy rains.
2) A runoff barrier at the top of the landscaped area would have prevented water from gushing through the recently disturbed soil.
3) Though some straw was scattered above the ground, a heavier straw layer would have reduced the runoff problem.
4) A runoff barrier at the bottom of the landscaping area would have prevented mud from entering the roadway.
5) Bales of straw placed around the storm water drain would have prevented mud from entering the storm water system.

Landscaping runoff enters a stormwater drain.

Landscaping runoff enters a stormwater drain.

Not only did this company’s workers cause a big mess on the roadway, they also left their customer with improper landscaping. There are gullies in the ground where storm water washed through, the plants have bare roots exposed, and grass seed has been washed away.

Improper landscaping erosion control.

Improper landscaping erosion control.

A little bit of planning on this landscaping company’s part would have prevented a big and costly headache of possible storm water runoff violations. Stormwater violations are becoming increasingly scrutinized and fines are often very large.

Do you want to learn how to properly operate a lawn care and landscaping business?

We have developed a lawn care business toolkit including lawn care business manuals, an excellent software toolkit, and lawn care estimating calculators. To learn more about the program, visit our main lawn care business website:

How to start and operate a successful lawn care and landscaping business.

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You've Goat To Start Your Own Lawn Care Business

Starting a Lawn Care Business?  Think about alternative and creative services to offer your customers.

Once again, cities around the country are using goats to gain control over weeds and other vegetation in hard to mow areas.

In our city, Chattanooga, Tennessee, goats have been employed for the last 15 years to fight the relentless creep of kudzu vines.  Kudzu was imported many years ago to help fight erosion on the steep mountainous terrain that circles the city.  Kudzu is great at stemming erosion.  The downside is that it grows rapidly and engulfs trees, telephone poles, and roadways.  Since it is often planted in hard to reach areas, there is no practical method of using lawn mowers or trimmers to keep it at bay.

In the 1990’s, our public works department made a contract with a local goat farmer.  He brought his goats to areas of heavy kudzu growth.  The grazing goats worked non-stop at gnawing the tenacious vine.  Though there were several problems with the goats (wandering off, chased by dogs) the goats proved beneficial to the landscaping upkeep of the city.

We are just one of hundreds of communities using goats for various lawn care and landscaping upkeep duties.  There are even many environmentally conscious corporations and small businesses that use goats as their lawn care companies.  This goes to show you that if you are thinking about starting your own lawn care business, you shouldn’t rule out alternative services to offer your customers.

Though we have never used goats in our own lawn care business, we have been involved in the industry for 18 years and we always enjoy learning about new and creative ways to make money mowing grass.  If you are looking to start your own lawn care business or if you are just looking to make some extra money this summer mowing grass, you will benefit from our experience.  We have produced a very helpful lawn care business guidebook and software package. 

The lawn care business guidebook and software package is for sale right now through our main website and you can read more about it here:

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Protective Landscaping


What are your selection procedures when choosing landscaping plants and materials?

As landscapers, we have great opportunities to make significant positive differences in our customers’ lives.  It goes without saying that one of the differences we make is for the simple aesthetic beauty of their properties.  We also make nature areas for increased wildlife and song birds, properly prune shrubs and trees for better health of the landscape, and clear scrub brush and over grown shrubs to give an open feeling to the yard and better views of surrounding landscapes.

Using pathways, watergardens, and sitting areas, we help our customers enjoy their property with areas to relax after stressful days in their jobs.

You may have never thought of it before but landscapers can also help our customers feel safe within their homes.  There are certain landscaping techniques that can help protect a home and make its occupants feel safe. 

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, homeowners should trim shrubs and trees that might give criminals a place to hide or climb to second stories.  Thieves often hide behind dense or tall landscape plants that hide windows or other entrances to homes.  Lowering the height of and thinning these shrubs reduce the invisibility that robbers seek.   Planting prickly shrubs is also a great idea.  Plants such as this Adam’s Needle will help deter people from snooping close to windows.

Protective Landscaping for your Lawn Care Business

Knowing your landscaping customers’ desires for their landscaping will help you make suggestion on types of landscaping.  The Adam’s Needle pictured above was planted for a single female who was living on her own.  The deterrent offered by the plant makes her feel safer in her home at night as it offers some protection against people trying to spy through her window.

Do you want to make money with your own landscaping and lawn care business? We have developed a very detailed account of how to start and operate a successful lawn care business. You can read more about the course at:

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Lawn Care Business Owners Face Alien Invaders

Today’s Trivia Question: What’s on this leaf?

I love coming across new information in the field of lawn care and landscaping. The challenge of a new discovery keeps the lawn care business interesting. Anytime you are working in a customer’s lawn, I challenge you to be on the lookout for new discoveries.

Last weekend, during a mountain bike ride and hike on a local mountain trail, I was surveying the trees and plants as I rode by. I came across this interesting leaf and I though it would be fun to see if the readers of this blog know what is growing on (out of) this leaf.

invaders on a plant leaf

Is it alien invaders?

Homicidal Spores?

A fungus never before seen by man?

We would love to hear your guesses. Comment on this post or send it to your favorite landscaper to see if he/she knows the answer.

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Landscaping Trees and Power Lines Don't Mix

If you are a lawn care and landscaping business owner, you probably already know the problems encountered when trees are improperly planted underneath power lines.

Once trees interfere with or become a potential hazard to power lines, they are trimmed or topped by electric companies. These trimming jobs are often far from ideal and the trees are often horribly deformed and weakened.

Proper pruning is often very expensive and time consuming compared to the hack-jobs performed by contracted tree trimmers. It is easy to blame the electric company for tree-topping. However, a better solution exists long before trees need to be topped and improperly pruned.

As landscapers, our jobs include suggesting proper plants, shrubs, and trees to our customers. Knowing potential heights and canopy spreads of the trees we plant helps us suggest the correct trees depending on the closeness of power lines to our customers’ yards.
Typically, power lines are strung about 20 feet above the ground. Gullies and hillsides may have differing power line height but 20 feet is a good approximation for level ground. Since we can forecast mature height and canopy spread of most landscaping trees, we can give our customers good recommendations of which trees to plant depending on their proximity to the power line.

Trees planted directly under or within a few feet of the power line:
Crepe Myrtle, Dogwood, and Little Gem Magnolia generally have a mature height of 20 feet or less and can be planted under high power lines without much risk for future endangerment of growing too high and having to be improperly pruned.

Trees planted at least 30 feet from power lines:
Honey Locust, River Birch, and Slippery Elm trees grow to about 40 feet tall yet do not have a canopy spread (radius) more than 30 feet. These trees can naturally grow to their mature height without becoming a threat to power lines.

Trees planted at least 60 feet from power lines:
Ash, Maple, and Oak are great trees for customers with wide areas that need to be populated with large trees. These trees grow over 40 feet tall and have large canopy spreads which may threaten power lines if they are planted closer than 60 feet.

Knowing which trees to plant will not only protect the longevity of the trees but will also protect the longevity of your business relationship with your client. Knowledge is power but lack of knowledge can threaten a power line.

Please Note: The above information should only be used as a general guideline. Actual height of the power lines in question as well as the cultivars of the trees you are planting will have effects of which trees should be planted near power lines.

If you are interested in learning more about how to operate a successful landscaping business, check out our webpage:

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Girdled Landscape Trees

Girdling occurs when any object encumbers the girth of a tree’s trunk.

Girdling a Tree

Looking at public landscaping spaces this morning, I came across a landscape tree that is girdled by a cable designed to protect a garbage can from theft.


The public works department probably had good cause to cable the garbage can as theft and vandalism are problems in many municipalities.  However, securing the cable tight then leaving it for syears is unconscionable.

This tree is at risk of dying from the damage underway by this cable.  Luckily, the cable is thin and it has yet to be completely encompassed by the trunk bark.  Nutrients are still flowing to the leaf system and will flow back to the roots this autumn.  These actions take place within vascular tissues called xylum and ploem.   If the vascular process is interrupted damage or death will occur.


As landscape professionals, we need to be more cognizant of long term effects of our actions.  Landscapers practicing common landscaping principles should never (or rarely) use trees as securing points.

If you want to operate a BETTER lawn care and landscaping business, our Lawn Care Business package will help you.  Visit our website ( for full information.

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Lawn Care Do-It-Yourselfers

As lawn care professionals we are often faced with prospective residential and commercial clients that would rather do the work themselves.

I came across a new article recently proclaiming residential customers can save money by fertilizing their own lawns.  Since a spreader is only $24 and a bag of fertilizer is only $15, the cost is about $40 vs. $65 for professional fertilizing:

The news article failed to mention three key components of hiring a professional perform lawn care work.

1) Time benefit:

Visiting a garden center, choosing correct fertilizer, reading instructions, donning protective gear, readying equipment,  fertilizer application, and equipment clean all take time.  A home owner can easily spend 4 or 5 hours trying to save $15.

2) Knowledgeable Application

Knowledge of fertilizer types, timing of application (weather), spreader settings, and dispersal densities all increase the efforts needed for correct fertilization of a residential lawn.

3) Professional Material Handling:

Being in the lawn care business since 1992, I have received dozens of calls from homeowners who have tried to fertilize their own lawns.  A typical caller asks if I can come fix their lawn because they either over applied fertilizer, accidentally broadcast lawn fertilizer into flower to shrub beds (killing their plants), or spilled a pile of fertilizer onto their lawn when they knocked their broadcast spreader over or the fertilizer bag split dumping contents into a pile on their lawn.

$15 Savings?

Is all this hassle really worth the $15 a home owner might save by doing it themselves?

Next time you are faced with a do-it-yourselfer let them know they are only saving a few dollars versus the tremendous amount of time, energy, and money they will expend attempting to get professional results.

Start Your Own Lawn Care Business

Have you ever wanted to start your lawn care business or are you hoping to expand your current business?  Our Lawn Care Business program can help you achieve a more successful business.

Check out our home page by clicking the
“How To Start A Lawn Care Business”
link toward the top of this page.

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Landscape Tree Selection

I was recently surveying a landscape design.

All Trees Are Beautiful

While I believe almost every tree is beautiful, I believe every tree should be strategically placed. A white pine shouldn’t be placed 5′ from a side of a house and an oak tree shouldn’t be placed under a power line. These are just examples.

A Clean Lawn Care Company Vehicle

As I was surveying the landscaping, I noticed something falling on my white pickup truck which was parked on the driveway.

Now, I’m not a fanatic about keeping my vehicle spotless but I think a clean truck portrays a professional image for a lawn care business. Current customers and potential clients have a better image of a company when company vehicles are kept clean.

Berries Stain Cars

I had not been parked on the driveway more than 20 minutes. When I returned, I noticed my truck was covered in purplish splotches.

IMGP4854 (Small)

Unwittingly, I had parked under a hackberry tree which was dropping a continuous stream of staining berries on all cars parked on the driveway.

This example serves to reestablish the fact that if you are doing landscape work you should take many factors into account before selecting and placing plants and trees. Improperly placed trees and plants will either die or have to be replaced with more suitable plants by the homeowner.

Landscape Plan

The person who planted the tree (or allowed it to grow) close to a driveway did not plan his landscape design well. A true professional would not have planted a tree so damaging to cars in an area where a much better tree selection could be made.

Start A Lawn Care Business

Planning your lawn care business is similar to planning a landscape job.  If you don’t do it correctly at the beginning the long term effects of poor planning can be detrimental for your business.

For help in starting or expanding your lawn care & landscaping business, visit our home page at:

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