View Full Version : Those who scalp warm season grasses...

01-07-2004, 10:20 AM
I know many of you that are from OK do this and others also, but I was wondering what is the earliest you get started. Last year I didn't get started until late March/early April, which made it difficult because it coinsided with regular mowing (fescue). I was thinking of trying to book clients at the beginning of March....is this too early? When do you usually get started?


01-07-2004, 10:43 AM
I usually cut my bermuda down in March. After that the bermuda is starting to green up already. If you cut it down early it will start to green up faster and you get an extra cut or 2 in for the year.

01-07-2004, 03:13 PM
March, even early April, whenever time allows. Not before the freezing weather is past, not after the Bermuda or Zoysia starts to come out of dormancy.

How are you charging for scalping in comparison to your charge for a regular mowing of the same lawn?

Gene $immons
01-07-2004, 03:49 PM
I start March 1st. I also send out a letter around mid Feb. to let customers know our plans, the ones who want to wait have a few weeks to call and say so. I have scapled bermuda lawns, and then had a foot of snow the following week, and found no damage or problem with scalping early.

01-07-2004, 04:16 PM
Last year it was the 3rd week of march and we had a early spring.1st week of march is too soon here.Weather too cold and might even have snow on the ground.Rule of thumb here is anytime after St.pats days

01-07-2004, 05:07 PM
Originally posted by mbricker
How are you charging for scalping in comparison to your charge for a regular mowing of the same lawn? Scalping is hard to bid, unless you do it like leaves and bid by the hour. Last year I did only 12 lawns and only cut one of those lawns on a regular basis. The one I do cut is around 3500sq ft. I cut for $25 and scalp for $90. I did one scalp last year...charged $300 and took me 2 hours....did another one for $300 and took me 10 hours (got burned on that one). Overall I averaged $68 an hour, but keep in mind how hard this is on your equipment. I am going to go out today and get address of new lawns (just drive around) and soon will be sending flyers. I was thinking of offering a free dethatching for anyone who books during the month of March. I think this will help get new business and give me a months worth of business that I would not have otherwise. I will add part of the cost into the estimate and this will be a one time offer to new clients only. Most people that get their lawns scalped have had a few different LCO's do them. Once they find someone that can do a good job and done right, they will keep them.....and that would be me. I had an old time last year tell me that in the 15 years he had been living there he has never had anyone come out more equipped to do the job. He said every year that him and his wife would have to go back to do the job again. He also said that I was the most expensive one to ever do the job...lol

Thanks for the info....guess I better get busy marketing.

01-07-2004, 05:10 PM
I have absolutely no idea of what "scalping" is (I'm a joysee guy). Would someone explain it to me in layman's terms?

01-07-2004, 05:15 PM
Cutting warm season grass (bermuda & zoysia) about 1"-1.5" and removing debris. The only thing I can see that it actually does is cause it to green quicker or since it's cut so low you can see the green shoots quicker. I do this mainly for older folks and they are very anal about it......"it has to be done every year" and done to their liking.

01-07-2004, 05:21 PM
So you have to vac or rake up all the clippings I take it? And is scalping a one-time deal each year?

01-07-2004, 05:31 PM
Yes..you have to collect the grass and haul (I use my Walker in combination with my leaf loader). Yes....one time each year. Some feel that it only needs it every other year. There has been many of arguments here on LS about the pros and cons to this, but you can do a search if you really want to....I really don't want to get into it...lol

Gene $immons
01-07-2004, 08:09 PM
Scalping is a nasty, dirty, dusty job. Bermuda is cut on the lowest level, and it has to be bagged. A very slow process.

Not scalping bermuda lawns will keep the lawn thatchy and looking like crap all season. Every little bump you hit with the mower will show a big scalp mark if that thach is still below the leaf blade surface.

The problem with scalping is that most of your new crew members for that season, will have this as their first job. Its a good way to weed the weak employees out.

We use Toro 21"s to do scalping with.

01-07-2004, 11:34 PM
Yeah...that stuff get into every orfice above the neck. Doing leaves is a vacation compared to scalping uhhhh?

P&C Lawn Care
01-09-2004, 10:10 AM
I have a few that call every year and want their burmuda scalped. I do not think this is the best practice (but the older folks always seem to want it done) but it does get up all the dormant upper growth and any leftover clippings. The burmuda does green up sooner but the weed seeds germinate quicker too if they haven't pre-emerged. I only do these because it puts me to work. I never scalp my own lawn and it looks better than the scalped ones. This is usually done in March time frame. I generally take whatever I would charge for the normal mowing and multiply that by three. It takes about three or four passes to make a nice scalp job. Then you have to haul away all the cuttings. Very nasty dirty work, and in OK it is usually on a very windy day.

DFW Area Landscaper
01-09-2004, 11:37 AM
I charge 50% more than the normal weekly or bi-weekly price.

I scalp in late February/early March. The mowing season starts for me in late March.

I make sure the grass is very dry before I start scalping. If it's wet, it's just too much for the engine.

I do not pick up the clippings. I disperse the clippings with a back pack blower.

I scalp every lawn I do. The reason is because with Bermuda, you have to do what I call "chase the grey". You see, Bermuda is supposed to be mowed anywhere from 3/8" to 1-1/2". Some universities recommend as much as 1-3/4". The problem is, bermuda doesn't like to have more than 1/3 of the grass blade removed in any single mowing. If you analyze the plant, you'll find that if the entire plant is 1" tall, the leaf blade is only about 1/4". Underneath that, there are stems. If you cut stem, you'll get a grey color when you're done mowing. The color of the lawn will actually be less green after you mow it than it was before. Now, in order to keep bermuda at 1-1/2" and never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, you really need to mow it every other day. That's how the golf course fairways are maintained. However, it's not practical in a residential setting. Homeowners simply can't afford to pay for fifteen cuts every month.

Now, back to why I scalp. I cut every lawn when I scalp at 1-1/2" in Feb/Mar. That's the lowest setting on my Ferris 32. I will cut my lawns at that height until most start to look less green after I've mowed than they did before I mowed. Then I move the mower to 1-3/4". So on and so forth until I get to 2-1/2", usually around late July. From then on, they just kinda look a little greyer after I've mowed than they did before I mowed. Not much you can do about it.

Hope this helps.

DFW Area Landscaper

fisher of men
01-09-2004, 05:13 PM
My yard is ST Augustine Could it use a Scalping in march?
Central texas
thank you

01-09-2004, 05:27 PM
i'm with rodfather. (northern)

can't you just plug aerate the lawn twice a year? or slice seed? again, i have no idea about scalping. people here would have a sh** fit if i scalped there yard.

01-09-2004, 10:47 PM
I have been scalping all of my yards [Idaho] for years now. I start march 1 and then let them sit until april 1 for weekly mowing. The are the greenest thing on the street by april. It helps to progressively lower the mower as soon as the summer heat ends so I am fairly short by the time the ground freezes. Initial short mow and edging is billed on the clock. I edge with the trimmer the rest of the year.

01-09-2004, 11:41 PM
walker talker

Warm Season Grass Only

When the ground temp reaches a consistent 55 degrees. (mid March or when the Bradford pear trees are in bloom) But after the threat of a hard freeze. ( guessing game)

Don't cut lower than .5"

This is how to determine the time to scalp cut. Its not a particular day on the calender.

Bermuda grass comes out of dormancy at around 60-65 degrees ground temp.

Once you scalp cut, let it grow to the height you plan on maintaining the grass before you cut again.

this method is the same for Zoysia.

Because of the root structure. Centipede can be cut short but not lower than 1" to 1.5" inches
Saint Augustine no shorter than 2"