56- More Water Is Not Always Better, Even If It's Cheap

Are you lucky enough to live in a place where water is cheap? That's awesome! But you still shouldn't run your sprinklers too often or too long. Besides the waste of resources, you could be opening your lawn up to a whole host of issues. In some cases, more water means more problems. To learn more, check out today's episode of Eco Lawn Science.

We get this question a lot so, so here's a mini episode with my thoughts.
In Utah (cool season grass) I recommend seeding in the fall when there are a lot fewer variables to work around and the weather is on your side.


Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another quick episode of EcoLawn Science. We get a lot of the same questions. So I'm gonna make some shorter, you know, three to five minute episodes to get more to the point and answer your question. So the question that came in is, "When is the best time to seed my lawn? I have bare spots. I need to repair them." The short answer is: the fall. We are, it really depends on where you're located and what type of grass you have. Are you in the Northern region of the country in the South, East, West coast. It's called the zone. What zone are you in? And you can actually, there's a map online. If you Google "what climate zone," it will show you. Once you have that, you need to understand what type of grass you have.

So in Utah, we've got a lot of KBG, Kentucky Bluegrass, different varieties or species of it. But for the most part, the majority of lawns are that. Kentucky Blue is a cool season grass, which means the best time to seed it and repair it is the fall. There's a few reasons for that. Best time is autumn and that's because the soil is still warm from the heat of the summer. And then you also have your evening temperatures begin to cool down. And so the cool evenings are going to encourage that fast germination. But the, the warm days are going to help it to, to grow, to germinate. Cool season grass like Kentucky Blue, it does best when the soil temperature, not the air temperature is, between 50 and 65. And so this roughly is gonna match the air temperature of 60 to 75 degrees. So for us here in Utah, it's kind of the end of summer. 

The general rule for cool season grass, like Kentucky Blue is to seed at least 45 days before the estimated date of your first frost. So if your first frost is October 15th, you want to back it up 45 days and apply your seed. Now generally it's not always going to be perfect, but that's the best estimate. One of the advantages is you have a lot of natural moisture when you, as you know when you seed a lawn, you need a lot of water and most people are not set up to do it properly. So by doing the fall you increase taking advantage of dew and natural moisture, which is going to significantly help your grass to grow. And so fall is the best time. The second best time is going to be the spring. In the spring you do hit some conflicts. One of them is, you know, you have all these weeds that, you know, the soil temperature start hitting 50 degrees and higher. They want to pop up first, they want to germinate. So you're going to have a lot of competition with weeds if you plant in the spring versus the fall when the weeds aren't as active and you've got them under control. Another thing is if you are using a crabgrass pre-emergent that is going to potentially slow down and work against you with your seed. And so those are the few reasons. A lot of people here love to do it in the spring. I try to push fall, fall, fall seeding, aerating, thatching, renovating, anything in the fall is the best time. 

So one last quick thing is when you seed in the spring, let's say you get it and you time at right. And, you know, you do it as soon as the grass begins to be dormant.But then what can happen is if you have an early summer or heat wave and that lawn, that new seed is not established, the roots aren't deep enough that could come and wipe it out. So one more reason why the spring could be dangerous. Now it could work out, you could have the perfect timing, no heat wave right into July and you've got it made. And that's awesome, but it's definitely more risky and there's more chance of not having the success that you want. 

I hope that answers your questions. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me an email or reach out and our contact info is below in the notes. Thank you.

One of the hottest topics in the lawn care industry is Roundup. Over 42,000 lawsuits in 2019, countries banning it, some stores will no longer carry it, some people are angry and some defend it. In this episode I share some facts and my opinion (over 20 years around the product). 


ELS - #16- The RoundUp (glyphosate) Debate Transcript

Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. It's a wonderful blue sky ski day here in Utah with fresh powder. My wife is up on the mountain and I am here making another episode of the show for you.

Today we're going to jump in and talk about, well, probably the most controversial issue in the industry at this time because it's been all over the news and everything for the last year. 2019 was a brutal year for this product, but even before then, all kinds of issues and problems and science that backs up both sides of the arguments. So today I'm bringing in some, some facts and I say facts but take it with a grain of salt because as you know, there's facts on both sides of everything nowadays. You could watch one doc...An example is I've been on this ketogenic diet for almost two months and I've seen enough documentaries about how eating fat can burn fat and help your mental health. And then I watched one last night about how it's going to kill you. So there we go. So, but I've got some facts that I'm bringing in from some official, some real deal research. But take it with a grain of salt. I'm also going to spin my opinion of someone who's got over 15, oh 20 years, around the product. I'd love to bring some of my thoughts in it as well, but ultimately, I'm just trying to have this conversation here because there's so much back and forth and fighting and arguing on this topic. And yes, we're talking about Roundup.

Roundup herbicide weed control was founded or created by a company called Monsanto back in the mid seventies, and they actually sold it 2018 in the midst of all kinds of lawsuits, litigations, and negative press. They managed to sell it for a ton of money to Bayer here in America.

And so anyway, we've got some different, there's all kinds of different sides of this topic. And I'd like to offer my opinion and some facts and let you kind of come up with what makes sense for you. So Roundup, let's start at the beginning. What is it for those of you who don't know. Roundup is a nonselective systemic weed control. That means it doesn't select what it kills. So if you had 5 dandelions in a nice lawn and I spot treated it, so I hit those dandelions with Roundup. Because it's non-selective, it's going to kill everything it touches. So therefore you're going to have five big nice dead spots. Could be, depending on how you spray it, it could be three inches, it could be a foot wide. You see them all the time. And I always wonder how in 2022 people do not know that Roundup is a non-selective, cause I see it every year in my neighborhood, around. I see homeowners burn holes in lawns and I think how, how does that even happen? Who doesn't know that? But apparently people don't. I've been around this stuff, so I guess I've seen it.

And so it kills whatever it touches. So if you want to use it for, if you've got to kill off some grass to replant grass or whatever, rip out your lawn and put in xeroscaping you're going to, you could use that. If you have to kill off weeds in a flower bed, driveway, mulched area, you're going to use it. No you gotta be careful. It is systemic, so there's, it stays in the soil for a bit, but we'll talk about that in a little bit, et cetera. So it's got all kinds of uses, but you're not going to use it on an, on a nice lawn. You're not going to use it around flowers or plants that you don't want to kill if you're trying to kill off of them, you can use it. That's the purpose of it.

The active ingredient, which has caused all the heat and these arguments is glyphosate. And so Roundup is basically, depending on the percentage of active ingredient involved, it's glyphosate combined with different types of surfactants. Now I want to say this right off the bat. I actually use a very, very, very little to none of this product. I have for years in the past. But as a personal mission with my company Eco Lawn, I have been trying to get us to where we can again, have great landscapes, make homeowners happy without using, you know, with using more organic based or fully organic OMRI-listed products. And so I have an alternative to Roundup.

It's a non-selective, weed control. Works just like Roundup for the most part. The only downside is it doesn't have the systemic residual that Roundup has. But anyway. So I have been, I would probably say I'm at 90% of this other product and, and I'll tell you the name, it's called Finalsan. Very expensive here in the States. But I bring it in in large quantities overseas in 250 gallon totes. And so I can get the pricing down to where it's, it's even close to being affordable to use on my clients. And so that's where I stand. I use very little. We still have some situations where either there's a job that has to be done and the client can't quite afford for the Finalsan. It's just out of the price range or there's a few other circumstances that we may have to, but we're on a mission to be 100% of the Finalsan, a 100% organic non-selective.

And we are very close and we've been getting closer each year. So I hope by 2021 we are 100%. Anyway, so that's where I stand. That being said, I have seen both sides of this argument and you know, so last year in 2019, Costco stopped selling Roundup and... Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, Roundup is the brand name. So the product is glyphosate. That's the active ingredient, but Roundup is just the product name that Bayer now owns. And so there are all kinds of products that are the exact same formula, but they're not called Roundup, right. They're made by different companies, same formula, but Roundup is the brand name. It's not the active ingredient. So in 2019, Costco stopped selling Roundup. In 2019, just a few months ago, by October, there were 42,000 people are in lawsuits saying that it caused cancer. In 2019, Roundup 360, which is one of the Roundup products was banned in France and other countries are now working on a ban.

So you can tell this is a hot topic. So you have a lot of issues with this product and this is not new to Roundup, Monsanto or Bayer. Back in 1996, they ran ads that said it was safer than table salt and they were sued for that as well. They also have been caught falsifying test results. So again, yeah, I'll get to my opinion later. They had been caught falsifying test results. So a lot of... In the last it, you know, it's been around since '74, so what is that 40 something years, I should probably be able to count better off top of my head. It's been around, there's been a lot of issues against it. Now, let's look at some of the other things on it because there has been a lot of research that says the toxicity is so low on this product that it is, it is less toxic than aspirin.

There is research that says, because of the way Roundup works, it works on enzymes that human beings don't even have–that plants have–that it has no damage or toxicity to human beings, very little to fish, and none or little to pets. Now there's research that says that, and I'll tell you, there's research that says the exact opposite as well. So anyway, all sides of this argument, I want to share something, my experience and some of my faults on on it.

So over the last 15 years I've worked for myself between here and Jersey, owning my own company. So I've dealt with thousands and thousands of clients and it's one, and I've dealt with thousands of pro-, not thousands, but hundreds of property managers and landscapers and people who are also using it. Many are unlicensed and many are licensed.

And I want to speak to that for a minute. I had a conversation, you know, people get so mad about this product. They watch a documentary and people get so worked up that we're being poisoned by these giant chemical companies. And I'm not, and I think there actually is some truth to that, but there's more that I want to say. And so as I've been watching this, and you know, I'm familiar with the product, I know that if you follow the rates and applications correctly, you use very, very little. It's very effective at what it does. It does a great job with very little amount of active ingredient killing those weeds and keep it and helping you, you know, whether you're on a crop, a farm, whether you're doing your home. So it does a great job at what its at, and I've noticed everyone, you know, when the documentary or news comes out, everybody just loses their mind. They get angry. And I've even had clients call me this year and say, Hey, you know, we sent an email, "Hey, we're coming out to treat your lawn tomorrow." And I've had clients say, "Hey, is there any Roundup, are you going to use Roundup?" And I just thought, wow, like first of all, no. Secondly, Roundup doesn't go on lawns, you know, so I see people getting emotionally driven and angered and outraged without even understanding the product, without having any really true research or just knowing what it is. And so that tells me, you know, I don't know, that tells me there's a lot of truth and a lot of nonsense out there because it's very...it's emotionally driving everybody because they hear, okay, this person got cancer and there's 42,000 cancer people rising up against it, right out of the billions of people who have actually used it and so therefore it's bad. And I'm not saying it's not bad, but what I'm saying is I would love people to take a little more time to understand the product and understand more about it, get a little deeper. There are things that I don't like that I haven't liked about Monsanto on a personal level, especially when it comes to crops and GMOs and things like that. And that's a whole other conversation. But you, you have the choice to go buy organic, locally grown and sourced vegetables and fruit. And that's an easy one. You just pay a tiny bit more than you can have that and you don't even have to deal with that. But I think, you know, there's just a lot of lack of understanding on what's going on out there. And one of my observations of dealing with thousands of people, hundreds of property managers and landscapers is people are not following the label properly.

So whether you love the product or you think it's the most dangerous thing in the world, I'm not so much speaking to that, but I was speaking to, I think one of the biggest problems is the lack of education and the lack of following directions. You know, any product, whether it's a lawn care weed control, pesticide for killing bugs, it's the same thing, right. I've been, and I've seen people get a bee at their house, pull out this huge can of aerosol, you know, bee pesticide and use half a can on a bee, you know, and I go, okay, so you didn't read the dosage, you didn't read the, you didn't follow application instructions. And you know, that's what scares me is, is the misuse of products. I don't know. I haven't followed every detail of the cases, of the lawsuits. I don't know if the people that are suing were drinking the stuff, you know, I don't know if they were applying it without the proper, uh, PPO without the proper pants, boots, et cetera, which is set on the label.

I don't know any of that. I don't know if they were having the correct application rates, but I do believe if you're not following that, that's going to be an issue. You're going, I could absolutely see that being an issue. But you know, first of all, that's on you. So I think there's a big education needs to happen a lot of times. I have many times here in Utah, I've spoken with property managers who bring me in and they say, oh, I remember many times I had this conversation, "I can't kill these weeds. I've dumped gallons of Roundup on it and I just can't kill it." And so they're hiring me to fix it. And I thought, well, why are you dumping gallons of Roundup? You know, like that is so irresponsible. That is so, you know, not good for the environment, for the community, you know, and, and so because I've seen these characteristics so many times, I'm starting to believe that the first problem we need to address is we need to educate people who are using the stuff.

And one of the scariest things to me and I, I mean no offense to homeowners because you have all the right, but you know, as a licensed professional, I have to take tests, I have to report certain things. Everything we buy, I have to be accountable for it. Where my neighbor could go. And any of my neighbors, if you're listening, I'm not talking about you obviously, but my neighbor could go and buy 3 gallons of the same product and dump it all on, you know, a driveway where I may go in as a professional and use 10 ounces. And so I've found a lot of the environmental impact is coming from the misuse and misunderstanding of how to use the products.

I have run into many landscapers in Park City, Utah, I won't call out any names who I see driving around and they are not following the law and Utah, and maybe it's changed, but the last few, you know, cause they update, I think they did an update this year, but you have to have certain things on your truck. If you were carrying a product like Roundup, you would have to have your pesticide license number on the truck. You would have to have it secured in a certain way. You would have to have the name of your company in certain size lettering on your truck. You know, all these things. I can't tell you how many times I see guys with lawn mowers out there and I look in the trucks in the back, it's four backpacks and I see bottles of Roundup just laying there, maybe rolling around. And so I go, okay, well the truck has no, no label. I know the company, they're not licensed to apply, so therefore they haven't taken the proper tests or training to apply this. So are they even qualified to touch this, right.

And that's part of the problem. I'm seeing all this, I'm seeing homeowners misuse it. I'm seeing other companies that are not, not legally allowed to use it, using it, right. You have to have certain licenses and pay certain dues and prove that you understand it to use any of these products. And I'm seeing people all the time not using it as a company. A homeowner can go use it. I'm also seeing other companies that have licensing misuse it as well. So it's all over the place. But my theory is this. I think the biggest thing we could do to clean this up and you know, yes, there have been 42,000 issues of people saying I've got cancer from this product, but again, I wasn't there. When you were applying, what were you wearing? What was the application rates? What was the weather? Did you follow all the label to the T? I believe that education would be the best thing we could do right now regardless if you think it's the most toxic thing or you think it's safe.

I do think we all need to do better at educating ourselves. I know for me over the last year or two I've taken a lot more time and read deeper into the research, the toxicity reports and the labels into this product and probably any other product and I would recommend it if you're a service company out there and you do use this now take time now. You see the warnings, you see the concerns? Get in there, start reading and really understand it. Make sure you are up to code and for all the homeowners or people who are not licensed professionals out there treating it, read the labels, call a professional, hire a professional, you know, go to the source, call the manufacturer, but figure out how to do it correctly. I really believe if we just started there, this would get cleaned up so much. And I actually think that's a lot of the hatred and the attacks on the lawn care industry is because of this is if we could train people, if there was more education, I think you'd see a lot more of a cleaner environment and a lot less impact.

But unfortunately now it's like I have trucks, they might be spraying a compost tea, all organic and people get upset. Well, what are you spraying? You know. And so there's this whole weird energy coming off of people. And again, back to the, the thing I'm talking about, they don't have an understanding. They don't know what's in these tanks. They've just jumped to an accusation, without any data or knowledge, that we're poisoning the earth, where maybe we're applying a compost tea, rebuilding microorganisms in the soil. So I just wish everybody could hear this and, and look at themselves. Stop pointing the fingers for a minute. Look at yourselves and clean up your act. Okay.

A couple of last things. One is if you feel like you have some type of glyphosate, if you've been around Roundup a lot and you're concerned about it, you can actually go on Google and type in glyphosate blood testing and you can get your blood tested and they will tell you how many parts per million or whatever the metric is they use, how your blood is doing. I had a friend who did this, who is actually around some of these products a bit and actually came back very negative. And then I've had people who ate certain foods and it came back high. So if you're concerned or just curious, you could go ahead and put that in. Take a test. It's not expensive and find out exactly what's going on in your blood.

The last thing I want to speak to is alternatives to this. Now, yes, there's this huge debate. Whatever side of the fence you are on this. I, again, my vision was to become focused on more sustainable organic products. So I did mention it earlier. There are alternatives to Roundup. I just want to talk about a little bit about the pros and cons of them. I'm trying to get some research done now on the toxicity, like a report comparing the glyphosate as an active ingredient, the Roundup versus some of these organic alternatives on the impact level, but we still don't have that. But there are products, like I mentioned, Finalsan. It's a great product made from fatty, it's OMRI listed, so it's an organic certified product. It works fantastic. I have used it in flower beds, I've used it in driveways, and within two hours I have seen the plants curl up. Black as black. And within a day they are wilting and they're gone. They're just melted up. Really fantastic. The downside is on these organics, there's two downsides that I have found. One is they don't have the systemic, they don't stay in the soil as long, right. So they struggle when it comes to more of these deep rhizomatous grasses like you know, wild bluegrass or even with a weed like morning glory, they don't do as well. So you do have to hit them more often. Where a Roundup, you might be able to hit this grass and not have to come back for 8 weeks with the organics. You need to be back in three or four weeks later. So there is a little more. You have to use more of the product. The second thing is you have to use more of the product. The first application., I mean all of them. And an example is, you know, let's say you're targeting some easy to kill, you know, not too mature weeds in a flower bed.

If you going to use a product with like a Roundup or glyphosate, um, you might be able to get away with two ounces per gallon, right, of active ingredient and have fantastic kill in some situations when you're dealing with the all organic, that 2 ounces per gallon, now you're looking at sometimes 15 ounces per gallon. So there is a lot more of the product that you have to use. And that's what I said, that's what I meant when I said I'm trying to get research on the overall impact because yeah, it is organic but we have to apply more of it, right. So we're working on that. I'm trying to talk to them to get more info. But overall you've got Finalsan, you've got products like Avenger. Avenger uses different type of, I don't have a label in front of me, but like citrus oils. There are clove oil products. So there's a lot of oil-based products that found to work really well.

I will say this as far as dependability, consistency and effectiveness, Roundup is incredible. Put aside how you feel about it. The product works. When you're dealing with the more organic products, they're getting closer. Like Finalsan is the best one I have seen. That works really well, but it's always, it's not as consistent and as effective. But for me personally with the technology that's coming out and the advancements in organic weed control and looking at the impact and being a steward over the environment and the, the responsibility that I feel, I am driving my clients and I have been pushing for years to get away from these big company products. Get away from, you know, the mega companies, get away from, you know, the chemical manufacturers because I know that their research will also be biased. And so I choose to walk away, you know, to go a different direction.

But I don't have all the hatred for them. I am uncomfortable with the Roundup ready crops on my food, anything like that, I'm uncomfortable. But what makes me the most uncomfortable is the people that don't know what they're doing that are using it. The unlicensed companies, the homeowners that are out there just dousing it on little plants and going way over application and label. Those are the things that scare me. So that's all I have. You can make your decision. There's a lot more research, but that's a direction that I choose to head in. And I hope that if anything, if any of you are listening and you use this product, just please really study the labels, follow the rates, protect yourself and use it properly and you know, don't... Just be smart with it. And that also goes for other companies. And if you're a company, you're applying it, you're not licensed, get licensed or find a licensed company and have them do that work.

If you're a mowing company, you're great at mowing. Just mow. Don't bother getting into the chemical side of it and getting licensed and having techs because I've seen it too many times, unless you're really committed, it just becomes a hindrance to your mowing company. And you know, in Utah there are guys driving around, the state is driving around all the time and they are, you know, cause you could actually report people. If you see a truck that doesn't have the proper things and you see a chemical in it, you can take a picture of the license plate, send it in. And so they are checking, especially with all the allegations, all the lawsuits, the next few years it's going to get worse and worse on Roundup. And I am excited that it's going to hopefully make the organic versions more comparable and price more affordable and have more technology and advancement in that.

That's all I got for this one. Hope you guys have a great day and stay safe.

Hiring a company to work on your property takes a lot of trust and sometimes a lot of money. Here we discuss 8 tips to help you find the best company that fits your needs.


Hey, hey, what is up everyone? I hope you're having a wonderful day. For today's episode I want to go ahead and give you a list of 8 things that you should look for when hiring a lawn company, specifically a lawn fertilization and weed control company, because that's the company that I have the most experience with. And so I can help from both sides to help you find the best fit.

So the first tip is: do they have a location near me? Are they local? And how local? And the reason is, is I have found as a service provider that the further the client is from the shop or the depot or the office, the harder it is to respond to them. I'll give you an example. Let's say it's April, end of April, and this is dandelion peak season here. And you know, your techs came out on–I'll make a date–April 15th and they sprayed for dandelions. And then let's say by about 10 days later, 2 weeks, you've noticed most of them are dying, or about a quarter of them are still not dying. So you call your company and say, "Hey, you know what? Just so you know, I got good kill on three quarters property, but the one quarter, I didn't see much progress. Can you go ahead and set me up for a service call?" Now most companies will offer a free service call and so they would schedule it and they'd come out. Again, but the further you are, if you're an hour away from the shop, that's not going to be easy for them. They're going to say, "Oh, when am I going to tie this in? We're not going to be in that area for another week or so," versus when their shop is 10 minutes away or 20 minutes or you know, somewhere around there, it's easy. They can swing by, they can do the touch up for you and you don't have to wait weeks. And so I would ask them, how close are you? Or how close is your location to my property? Because I've found the closer they are, the closer you are to them, the better service you will get.

Okay. Tip number 2: if a mistake were to happen–so let's say your techs made a mistake on my lawn–would you stick around to fix it or do I have to fight you? You know, what's the guarantee there? And I've had that happen before where we've had mistakes. You know, human beings make mistakes and we had one that, a mistake actually caused a couple of burn spots in a lawn about 15 miles away. And the customer called me. I sent someone right out as soon as–we didn't notice it till about a week later it popped up–we figured out what the problem was and we brought someone in to...We just called a third party company. I said, "Hey, go re-sod these little areas. I'll pay the bill," and that's what we did. And make sure that the company you hire will do that for you. Cause that's, that's all they can guarantee is...There's a lot of variables in lawn care mistakes can happen sometimes. And so when you make a mistake, are you going to stick around and fix it, you know, or are you going to try to blame me? What, what, what is your company guideline on mistakes? So that would be the second question.

The third thing I would do is I'd look at their Google reviews and I would look deep. Don't just look at the first two or the last two, but go through them and see if you could find any common threads. Are they, are people being honest? Are the reviews specific? Are there things that people like about this company? You know, maybe they have a great communication and you see a hundred reviews and 30 of them say, "wow, this company communicates well." Or, 25 of them say, "wow, this company's great, but I'm not comfortable with their technicians", you know, so go through the reviews and make sure you have a good feel for who they are. Generally, reviews are going to give you good insight, so take the time to go through them and figure out if it's a good fit for you.

What services do you guys offer, in all, all services that you offer? And the reason you want to find that out... There's a couple of reasons. The first one is if you have a company that says, "Hey, we do lawn care, fertilization, weed control. We also do mowing." Okay, well those are pretty similar, you know, and they can actually be hand in hand. And then "we also do window cleaning." Okay, you're getting further away for me "and we also do home catering and we deliver it to you." Do you know what I mean? And so you want to get a feel for them. Some companies just get too, too spread out. They try to do everything and sometimes when you try to do everything, you're not great at anything. And so there are services that pair nicely together. For example, mowing and fertilization that works because then they're on your lawn every week. Or fertilization, pest-control, tree care: those work. So make sure they're not doing just services that show that they're just trying to get a buck anywhere they can. Make sure they are related and make sure it's not too many. If you see a company offering 10 things, chances are they're spread thin, and it's like going to a restaurant with a million things on the menu. Often those places aren't that great because they have too much instead of focusing on something and doing it well. And when you find a company that just does lawn fertilization, weed control, they generally are going to have experts. They know what they're talking about and they're going to be the best for that.

The fifth thing I would ask them or read about is their core beliefs or core values or philosophy. What is your philosophy on lawn care? Why are you in the business? What sparked you to, to start this company and what makes you good? You know, ask the hard questions, especially if you're looking for a long term relationship. Cause you may find some companies have incredible stories, incredible visions, and you may connect with their story. You may agree with their philosophies deep down. I think it's hard when you hire a company that has a different belief system or philosophy than you. Somewhere along the line you're going to have a little bit of a conflict at some point. So it's great to really learn the core values of the company, what matters to the company and then see if they align with the core values of you. For example, if they swear by honesty and integrity and you happen to be an honest person with a lot of integrity, it's going to be a good fit. If their values are making money anyway we can, you know, in a million different services, any, anyone that wants to throw money at us, you might have an issue there. So really get to know their core beliefs and their philosophies on business and on lawn care.

The sixth thing I'd ask them is, what products do you use? I want to tell a quick story. I won't mention any names, but one of our team members called a large national company to ask them about the products. We were back East calling for a parent actually. They were back East at their mother's house and their mom actually needed lawn care. And so, but it was one of my team members, so they called the local companies and it was amazing. They came back and reported to me when they asked what products they use. Most companies had no idea, the people on the phone, some were making things up, they were lying and you can tell when someone's making it up, you know. And instead of just saying, you know what, I'm not sure, and let me find out. They were just making stuff up. Some had no idea. And some actually gave her bogus products that don't even apply. They said, "Oh, we use this type of weed control," which is for a weed that they don't even get back East. And so I think that's an indicator. If they don't know their products, everyone, I don't want to do business with them. And also I want to know about the products. Are they looking for environmentally friendly products? Are they, are they smart? Are they, are the technicians using the products properly? So definitely ask them what they use.

The seventh thing I would look for is look at their sales technique. Are they pushy? Are they in your face constantly upselling. So you go through their website and you get a feel for how they sell and you may pick up the phone and call them and just see, are they just saying, "Hey, this is what we offer. We're confident that we're a great company." Or are they so desperate to get you in the door that they're throwing discounts at you and they're adding things? Are they, you know, during the sales process, are they saying, "Oh, you need this insect and you need this fungus issue," where they don't even know, right? If you're a new client to them, they're just making stuff up. Not everybody needs everything. So see if, you know, if they're pushy, see their sales technique and get a feel for, you know, how they are with business. Because I've worked with large companies and sometimes the frustrating thing as a client is you're constantly every week getting phone calls and robo calls, texts about a new product, a new service they're offering. And it's overwhelming and you actually, you know, you feel like they're just marketing to you where you're already their client. So they shouldn't, they shouldn't be doing that, right? If you have... If they have a couple of solutions a couple of times a year, okay it's fine. But if it's all the time that's going to get annoying and frustrating and it doesn't build trust. I would look at that closely.

And the last thing that I would look at, it's a little bit different than some other lists that you might see, but I would look at what are they doing on an environmental level. Obviously a lawn care company has to do with your environment right around your house, your neighborhood, where your kids play. So just check around what, what are they doing, what are their...are they trying to find new ways, better products to get you that green lawn without, you know, having a toxic environment? Are they concerned about, you know, polluting and runoff? These are a lot of real issues that I think you need to ask them. There is a little bit of environmental stewardship that they have, as you know, people who are helping your environment be, look nicer, you know, protect it from invasive species. But I would make sure that they're thinking about it that, maybe, you know, that they have desires and goals and a vision to where they want to go. Because there are companies out there in every market in America that are, are doing this, that are looking for great ways, looking for safer ways, constantly. And so, I mean if it were me, I would get one of those companies. So anyway, that's the 8 things that I'd recommend you do when you're looking to hire a company. Look in, you know, ask about those things. Really pry. At the end of the day, you're just trying to find a company that fits you. Not every company fits every person, and as service companies, we're not meant to serve everyone, just our target audience. And so go through these 8 things, see what lines up with your core beliefs, with who you are, with what you're looking for. And if it fits, then hire them and have fun with it.

Hope you have a great day and I'll see you on the next episode.

Over the past few years robot lawn mowers have popped onto the scene. They are getting better and smarter each year. Should you fire your crew and go grab some of these? Will they replace humans in the near future? How effective are they? What do they cost? All this and more....


Hey, hey. Hope everyone's doing well out there. Welcome back to another episode of EcoLawn Science. Today I want to talk about something that I've been fascinated with over the last, I guess the last year. And that is robots. 

I went to a conference and we talked about the future of technology in the lawn care industry specifically, but also have gone to some other things since and just looked at the future of bots in all industries and can start seeing the writing on the wall, see what's happening. I could start, you know, you can, once you learn what they're capable of, you can see what kind of jobs won't be around, and you can kind of plan for it. I like the idea. I am not afraid of bots. I think they're coming. They're here and so we need to embrace them and understand them so we can figure out how to best utilize them in our lives. Otherwise, we'll probably get run out of business. You know, there's gonna be some level of automation and bots in your business in the next few years. 

I got fascinated with bots and then for Christmas my mother-in-law got me one of those Roombas, the bot that runs around your house and vacuums. And, um, I think it's a Shark brand and it's, it’s phenomenal. I just, I'm fascinated with it. I had a great Christmas, but that was probably the thing I was just freaking out about just cause I've been so into bots lately. And, you know, pulled it out, put the batteries in, and within a few minutes, not even, within two minutes that thing was ready to go and we did a test run, and it's incredible. You know, we have two little kids at home, so we're always sweeping the floors because they're always making a mess. We have a lot of visitors, and so we're sweeping one, at least one to two times a day, and we've had it now for a few weeks, and basically all we do at night is we pick everything off the floor, put it on the couch, and let that bought run around the whole downstairs, and it's awesome. I wake up, my floors are clean, but I love my experience with my little robot. I call him Robi, um, and love watching him clean, and I'm just sitting there doing something else, and I think it's exciting and it's really cool. 

So anyway, so let's talk about lawn care, let’s talk about bots and lawn care. So you may or may not have seen: we now have bots, little, like our Roombas, that can go ahead and mow the lawn for you. It's a little complicated, and there's a couple things that I think they still need to create solutions for. But to me it's fascinating and exciting technology. They've been selling them. They've sold over a million of these robots in Europe over the past decade. And so now they're finally hitting the states on a larger scale, and you can get them all over. You can get them, homeowners can go buy them, you know, they start as low as 1500 bucks, and they could go up as high as, I've seen one for 4 or 5 thousand dollars. 

Um, and even more interesting is there’s companies now popping up around America that literally purchased the bots, and they employ them. So imagine your landscaper, but instead of the two or three guys that show up to cut the grass, he just drops off a little robot. And that's happening. So I want to dig into that a little bit because I didn't quite understand it, and share with you what I've learned. So they are limited, these bots, so they can mow the grass, but they can't weed wack, they can't edge, and obviously they can't blow off the mess. So there's a little bit of limited–but what's really neat about them is they just work all the time. So imagine your vacuum robot at home, my Robi, it goes around, and when it's tired, it backs itself up and it docks and it recharges and then it goes back out. 

And that's essentially how these lawn robots are working, but what’s kind of, so what happens is you can call the company to come out. So let's say you're gonna hire a company, a lawn company that uses robots. And so the first visit, they show up and they'd install some type of fencing. It's like a perimeter. It's obviously not a fence, but some wiring that kind of tells the bot where not to go. And there's a little bit of work on the install, and sometimes there can be a price, they may charge you a price extra for the install. 

And then what happens is you're essentially leasing that bot from them each month. So some companies may say, okay, it's 100 bucks a month throughout the growing season, so let's say 7 months. So 700 bucks, I'm gonna set it up, I'm going to, you know, set the perimeter fencing. I'm gonna teach it what it needs means to do. And this thing is gonna be on your property all 7 months of the year working rain or shine. 

And here's some really cool things about the bots: obviously, they're solar. A lot of them are solar powered, so that's just, you know, talk about eco-friendly. That's next level. Even if you have a lawn service, and we get rainy days, they’re behind. With the bots, they can actually cut in a light rain because they're not heavy, they're very light. And so they don't track up, they don't put tracks in your grass like a big mower. They don't damage it, and they can, I think if it's pouring rain, they may, they may go back and dock, but a lighter, medium rain they could still work. 

Because they're out there all the time, they're hardly cutting a lot of inches, so the lawn stays, whatever you program it–let's say you program at two-and-a-half, three inches somewhere in there, a healthy turfgrass length–and the lawn literally stays there, once it gets going, all year. I mean, you don't have to, you know, if your guys come once a week, sometimes for me, by the sixth day my lawn needs to be cut. And so this, it looks perfect all year. They're cutting off little pieces at a time, and so there's no, it just drops the clippings back into the lawn without causing any damage, because it's not like it's two inches of clipping. It might be an eighth of an inch because it's there every day. And so it's cool. So you're recycling the nutrients from the grass clippings without causing a massive thatch buildup. 

And they're incredible little bots. And so one of the cool things is so when you get it, if you hire a company, that's, that's providing the service because you might think, I'll just go by my own. While the company is generally gonna fully ensure that robot, so if somebody steals it, if it breaks, you don't have to worry about it. They put GPS tracking devices on each bot, and so they, to the point where they can actually be notified if a bot leaves your property and it's automatically disabled.

They’re safe for pets and kids, that's a big question. What happens is, it’s got a very sensitive bumper on it. As soon as it taps anything it just stops. So one of the complicated things about it is if you have a gate, you know the bot can’t normally go from front to back lawn. But some companies I've seen have designed their own little patent, like a robot door, and basically it's like, it's a really cool little fence. I haven't seen one in person, but I've researched it a bit. It's a little fence, like, picture a doggy door, but the robot can go under. But then, as soon as it goes under it like locks, so the pets can't get out, the kids are safe, no one's going to get out, but the bot can go back and forth. 

Here's some cool things: it's very quiet. So typical landscaping or lawn mowing is limited to the day hours. You don’t want to be out there 6 a.m. or 7p.m. annoying all your neighbors. These bots are so quiet they can run throughout the night. So really cool technology there. 

As far as, you know, one of the big things I've seen people ask are what about if I have leaves or fallen trees. Actually, these little bots do a great job, some of them, of mulching up small sticks and leaves and moving them out of their way. So if there is a heavy, if you had a big storm and big branches came down, then yeah, you’d either need to hire someone to remove them or you would need to move the big ones. But the little things you don't even have to worry about. 

As far as, yeah, we talked a little bit about blade length. It can cut anywhere from 1 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches, which is awesome. I always recommend a higher, people like to cut their lawns too short–causes a lot of issues. 

So most of the bots that I've seen, on a commercial level, are only able to cut up to about half an acre of grass. So if you've got a four acre property, you're gonna need more than one of these bots, and you're going to set up different, different stations. 

And something else that I thought was pretty cool is you can actually program them at a certain time. So if you're running your sprinklers, if you got your pets out certain times, you could just have these bots work around it. So it's pretty cool. 

So I think some of the benefits to hiring a company is you know, they insure them, um, they have these custom doors, they maintain them because, you're like starting at 1500 for a bot, plus the setup. And so there's a little bit of an advantage on both sides. Now here's the tricky part, is if you hire a company, it's only gonna mow the grass. So if you want your sidewalks and edges trimmed and weed wacked, it can't do that. So what I've seen is the companies that are doing this, they'll deploy their bots and they leave the bot on your property, but they might come over once every other week or every 10 days, and they might edge out the property and do the weed wacking. 

So there's some of the pros and cons of the bots, and I believe the technology is just gonna keep improving, especially over the next three or four years. You know, one of the biggest issues with mowing lawns is, is to have the staff, to have the team and to get the people that will show up on time, will work hard, make it look great. You know, by the time you get into payroll, by the time you get into work visas and all these things, it's really costly. Your margins are shrinking because of your overhead in the labor field. And so, I think with the bots, in my mind, it's an up front cost. So you might spend two grand the first year, or fifteen hundred to two grand depending on the bot, the first year and so you're gonna break even. But then the next year, once that bot is paid for, think about that, if you get 10 years out of it, it's literally like having an employee for 10 years for free, in some sense. And so I really like that concept, especially as labor is getting harder and harder to find. I think that's great. I think, you know, obviously you could scale down your business. 

So here's the tricky thing if you have one bot per property. So let's say you have 100 properties that you mow on a weekly basis. You gotta buy 100 bots. So you're gonna be in that one 100-plus thousand dollars up front. But again, if you have the capital to take that kind of hit, knowing that the second year those bots are paid off and you've got 100 employees really that are out there working and all you're doing is maintaining them, that's a pretty cool little business model. And, and then you just send one, you know, you have a maybe a truck or two that has a guy in it with a weed wacker and an edger, and then you just send those trucks out and they could go through and hit, just because they're doing that, they could probably hit 30, 40, 50 properties a day. So you do the math. I mean, it's really cool, and I think it's exciting. 

Um, there is, one of the leaders in this, in the bot mowing technology is a company called Robin Autopilot, and they're actually a franchise. They're looking for people that want to get into it and start their own companies. I've looked into some of their franchise fees, into what they recommend for insurance, investments, and usually you're gonna come in somewhere around 80-100,000 to really get in. There’s about a $30,000 franchise fee. There's an initial robot package. You know you have to have basic equipment, initial advertising and marketing just your normal business costs. But again, once you get this in and rolling, think about that. If you have 500 bots, think about how many lawns, I mean, think about how you could maintain 500 lawns, really with a small crew, and the best part is those lawns always stay at the perfect length all year. So think about how happy your customer will be. For the homeowners, if you're a DIY kind of person and you want to save money in the long term, you could go by the nice commercial bot. You could spend a little more, three grand, you know, it’s a little more extra to program it. But if you're not afraid of maintaining the bot, if you're not afraid of doing the weed wacking, edging yourself, think about that. You could, you could spend three grand and never have to mow your lawn again as long as the length of the bots. So hopefully that's 5,8,10 years. 

So either side, I think there's a place for this. I think like anything you know, there's still some human interaction that has to happen. We have to, humans have to set it up, they have to maintain them, they have to bring them in for the winter. But overall, I think it's a great tool to have, and I think you could build a great business. And I'm actually very excited about this technology. I hope, I know it's a little bit, it's quite a disrupter. I have a lot of friends in the lawn mowing industry and so I will be anxious and watching to see if they embrace it, if they fight it, and where this goes, and in fact I'll probably have some of them on the show to talk more about it from, from an actual lawn mowing company’s perspective. 

So anyway, there you have it. Exciting tech future is here. Embrace it  or run from it, that's up to you. But I think this is a great spot. I think these bots could play a great role in helping us, either on the business side but also on the homeowner side, just automate and make life simpler. Hope you guys have gotten something out of this. I hope you've enjoyed it. Have a great day and I see you on the next show.

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