Turf Talk
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Do You Use a Lawn Care Service?

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THE LAWN CARE landscape (no pun intended) has changed drastically in the past two years with the introduction of a bylaw implemented by the previous NDP provincial government, restricting our options for weed control. The bylaw, implemented in January of 2015, was the biggest change the lawn care industry has seen in over 70 years. Until two years ago, things were pretty stable in Manitoba with about five major lawn care providers dominating the industry. These five were relatively stable with very minimal shuffling going on in the top ranks. But the introduction of the new pesticide bylaw has forced everyone in the industry to re-engineer their companies and re-imagine how they’re going to move forward or, in some cases, how they’re even going to survive.

Under the bylaw, everyone in Manitoba, lawn care providers and homeowners included, have only one option to treat weeds. The only product we can now use is called Fiesta. Fiesta is extremely expensive for two main reasons. The company that manufactures Fiesta has a monopoly on the market with a patent on their formula insuring no other company can compete with them, and Fiesta must also be used in large volumes for effective results.

Needless to say, the high cost of Fiesta had many lawn care providers wondering if their customers would be willing to pay a much higher price. One of the very positive outcomes since the implementation of the bylaw, is that many, less credible lawn care providers, along with many unlicensed providers quickly went out of business, or simply stopped offering weed control as part of their services. In essence, the bylaw has professionalized the lawn care industry by weeding out (again, no pun intended) the operators who probably should not have been in the business to begin with. Entering our third year under the restrictions, there are clear signs that some of the bigger lawn care providers are desperately trying to stay alive by taking their customers money for little to nothing in return.

lawn mower

“Under the bylaw, everyone in Manitoba, lawn care providers and homeowners included, have only one option to treat weeds. The only product we can now use is called Fiesta.”

Before the bylaw, lawn care providers all seemed to provide very similar programs, at prices that were merely dollars apart from one provider to the next. There is no question that the new, higher cost of lawn care, as a direct result of the cost of Fiesta, has made lawn care service an expense that some homeowners can no longer afford. The obvious result is a smaller market of customers for the remaining lawn care providers to compete for. For some lawn care providers, this has led to desperate times and some desperate measures. Those desperate measures are taking the form of lawn care programs and claims that are simply too good to be true, and customers buying into these claims and deals, are finding themselves out of pocket hundreds of dollars for little to no results.

Today’s lawn care providers are offering programs that are all over the map. Some have chosen to offer bare bones pricing with bare bones service in the hopes of hanging on to the few customers they have left and with the intention of snagging a few bargain hunters. Other providers have learned quickly, that successful weed control now requires more vigilance than ever and that cutting corners ultimately cuts down revenues.

One company has left their fertilizer program unchanged. They indicate that they offer unlimited weed control, but only offer a minimum of two treatments. There is no indication whether the weed control is provided as a blanket application, as the manufacturer recommends, or as a spot treatment, which any honest lawn care provider will tell you, does not work to effectively control weeds. One is left to assume that unlimited weed control mean that after two weed control visits, one must continue calling to complain for any further weed control.

Two other companies have introduced new fertilizer products with the claim that just one or two applications will feed your lawn for the entire summer. As a customer, is that what you really want? Less visits? Less attention? As a veteran of the lawn care industry, I have never seen such a product and I have a hard time believing that less is more when it comes to making fertilizer last from spring until fall. Both companies also offer up to three weed control treatments but again, no indication as to whether the treatments are blanket applications as recommended, or spot treatments which simply won’t keep up unless preceded by two blanket applications. Knowing that blanket applications provide more comprehensive weed control and knowing that this is what customers want to see and hear, you would have to assume that if the term ‘blanket’ is not used, then a blanket treatment isn’t what you will be getting from this lawn care provider.

Another company offers several visits but at prices that are simply too good to be true. In fact, their prices have barely changed since the bylaw came into effect. This has left many in the lawn care industry scratching their heads as to how this company can possibly deliver what they claim, with prices that clearly cannot cover their costs.

Finally, there is one company that has taken an opposite approach, offering their customers far more than any lawn care provider has ever offered before. More visits, more attention, more fertilizer, and more weed control. One company very clearly spells out exactly what you will be receiving. One company that offers two blanket applications of weed control combined with spot treatments with every additional visit of their programs. Only one company has adopted a customer oriented philosophy of more is better with visits taking place far more often than any of its competitors. This company has grown by 28% since the bylaw came into effect. Coincidence? I should think not. Their customers have bought into the fact that the only way to keep your lawn as close to weed free as possible is with lots of attention and that’s exactly where this company gets it right.

As a consumer considering the purchase of a lawn care program, the details should be clear. Any company that isn’t clear about what you will be getting for the money you are spending, doesn’t deserve your business. Why are some lawn care companies so vague about their weed control, but so clear on their price? Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a lawn care program that doesn’t deliver. ‘Cheap’ is not slang for high quality or better service. You get what you pay for, or, when it comes to lawn care programs, you won’t be getting what you won’t be paying for. Not a season goes by that we don’t hear the cries of many a homeowner, hundreds of dollars poorer and hundreds of dandelions richer.

tim muys
Tim Muys of Green Blade Lawn Care has over 26 years experience in the lawn care industry.

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