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  • Organic Lawn Care Business Model

    Happy Friday everyone! My name is Ray and I'm very new to the site here and am finding lots of valuable info... One major question that I have is whether or not to go ORGANIC?? I am contemplating both sides of the fence here and finding it's an all or nothing game. Companies I've come across thus far are either all in with offering organic services or they're not offering them at all. I am thinking it might be one of the most crucial decisions when starting a lawn care business all together.

    Are there any "organic" members here that could give me some insight that may help me make this decision? Has going organic helped with the success of your company? Is there a big enough demand out there for it?? Are people willing to pay more to have a beautiful lawn that's chemical free?? I look forward to reading what people have to say and appreciate the input. Thanks.

  • #2
    We don't see a lot of discussion on chemical applications, I think because it's just getting more and more difficult to perform the service within the guidelines that get more stringent each year.

    Offering organic fertilization services comes up from time to time but organic weed control is something that hasn't seem to yet find a way to work as easy as it's chemical options.

    Have you been experimenting at all with treating your own lawn with organic fertilizer?
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    • #3
      Haven't done any experimenting just yet and know that the effectiveness of organic weed control is fairly week at best. From some of the research I've done it has something like a 60 to 70% success rate during the first year of application. But I keep seeing businesses with a focus on organic so that's telling me there must be some demand for it at least on the residential side of things for those clients with kids and pets??

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      • #4
        I keep seeing businesses with a focus on organic so that's telling me there must be some demand for it
        It could be that there is a demand for it or it could be that the advertiser is trying to create a demand for it as they are getting away from using chemicals.

        A couple of years back on here, we saw a lot more talk about going organic. Now you just don't see much. The absence of discussion on it could say a lot. In fact, it seems the laws are continually creeping towards requiring licenses to apply organic materials on lawns. This could be causing business owners to simply bypass offering the service and focus on others.
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        • #5
          I have been running an all organic business for the past 10 years. The best customers are the one's that want only organic and they are out there. I've had some that want to be one of the Jone's and when organics doesn't work like chemical they can't handle it no matter how you try to educate them.

          If you're interested in learning more about organic land care take the NOFA course or Rutgers is doing one in a couple of weeks too.

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          • #6
            The best customers are the one's that want only organic and they are out there.
            What is your view on the best way to find such customers? Did you do any specific targeted marketing or did you use word of mouth or what?
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            • #7
              I do very little print marketing. I get customers referrals from a local organic garden center, referrals from my customers, and my website.

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              • #8
                Organic

                I have a customer who hired an organic lawn care company to fertilize and treat her lawn for weeds mostly dandelions and clover, some of the easiest weeds to get rid of around here with chemicals. We fertilize and treat turf for weeds but we do not use organic products. Once the new organic guys came in to treat the lawn (we still maintain and mow it) they told her we are cutting it too low it needs to be higher, 3.25 inches was the cutting height we were using and they recommend 4.5 to 5 inches. They said our mowers (exmark 52 and 60 lazer zs) are too heavy and hurting the lawns root growth and that basically the lawn problems were all my fault. Cutting the grass that high having the dandelions and clover spread more and more because the organic products wilt them for a few days but do not in any way completely kill the roots made that lawn look like crap. Green products and Organic products are environmentally friendly and there is a huge appeal for that, but it simply does not work. I attended a seminar on organic lawn care and they swear by it but I have seen the effectiveness of these products and it is poor at best. It is bad trend because as these companies move in and they tell the clients that its the mowing guys fault it is going to create issues. We still have the customer who is happy with the way the lawn looks at 5inches high with nothing but mower wheel tracks and weeds growing in the lawn. It sucks because no one in the neighborhood is going to have us cut their lawn because honestly it looks horrible.

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                • #9
                  I get customers referrals from a local organic garden center, referrals from my customers, and my website.
                  That is fantastic!

                  Do you have suggestion on the best way to treat dandelions and clover spread with organic materials as the previous poster brought up?
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                  • #10
                    I would disagree. Organics does work if you know what you are doing. It's not just putting down organic fertilizer and go on your merry way. It's a science.

                    I would agree cutting grass at 5" is way too high. I mow my customers at 3-3.5" It sounds like they applied something for weeds. There is no 100% organic selective weed control that works great. There are non selective that work.

                    In order to control the weeds you have to understand what is going on in the soil. Get a soil test done at a reputable lab. Dandelions are usually an indication of a pH issue or calcium issue.

                    I'm trying to upload pics, but they won't upload.

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                    • #11
                      I have a customer who hired an organic lawn care company to fertilize and treat her lawn for weeds mostly dandelions and clover, some of the easiest weeds to get rid of around here with chemicals. We fertilize and treat turf for weeds but we do not use organic products. Once the new organic guys came in to treat the lawn (we still maintain and mow it) they told her we are cutting it too low it needs to be higher, 3.25 inches was the cutting height we were using and they recommend 4.5 to 5 inches. They said our mowers (exmark 52 and 60 lazer zs) are too heavy and hurting the lawns root growth and that basically the lawn problems were all my fault. Cutting the grass that high having the dandelions and clover spread more and more because the organic products wilt them for a few days but do not in any way completely kill the roots made that lawn look like crap. Green products and Organic products are environmentally friendly and there is a huge appeal for that, but it simply does not work. I attended a seminar on organic lawn care and they swear by it but I have seen the effectiveness of these products and it is poor at best. It is bad trend because as these companies move in and they tell the clients that its the mowing guys fault it is going to create issues. We still have the customer who is happy with the way the lawn looks at 5inches high with nothing but mower wheel tracks and weeds growing in the lawn. It sucks because no one in the neighborhood is going to have us cut their lawn because honestly it looks horrible.
                      We have looked into organic and even are set up as a vendor, but most of my customers do not want to pay that kind of money for the service. Most go with two fertilizing a year and with organic it's six. One thing good about the organic if given a chance will do a an awesome job with soil and turf strength. But most people want immediate results so it's a hard sell. Maybe better in larger towns.

                      As far as the cutting height, that is flat out crazy. We cut 419 at 3-1/2 and St. Augustine at 4-1/2.

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                      • #12
                        I'm trying to upload pics, but they won't upload.
                        Can you try making the image a little smaller and see if they will upload then?
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                        • #13
                          St. Augustine at 4-1/2.
                          WOW! that is high! Around here St. Augustine needs to be cut no higher than 3.75" I do a few at 4" by request. cutting high promotes a shallow root system and causes a spongy turf. I kid you not on some lawns I mow with my deck all the way up at 6" with 20 pounds of air in each tire just to get a 4" cut. It is crazy.

                          It must have to do with the different soil conditions in our area's...Interesting.

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                          • #14
                            WOW! that is high! Around here St. Augustine needs to be cut no higher than 3.75" I do a few at 4" by request. cutting high promotes a shallow root system and causes a spongy turf. I kid you not on some lawns I mow with my deck all the way up at 6" with 20 pounds of air in each tire just to get a 4" cut. It is crazy.

                            It must have to do with the different soil conditions in our area's...Interesting.
                            Interesting how it's different in other areas. We also have a very bad drought here and the height has kept the lawns alive.

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                            • #15
                              The soccer field was built (approx 100k sq') about 4 years ago by a company that never should have gotten the job. They are a demolition company and this was their first field they built and it shows. I don't know how the soil they brought in was approved and the same with the finish product. There was never any pesticides put on this. Yes, there is some clover, but the customer doesn't mind it. It was a tough long road to get to this point and there is still room to improve.
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