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40 billion $$ lawn care industry!!!!!

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by jeffex, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,933

    Our Sunday paper had an article about the turf industry.40 billion dollar industry WOW. The paper is a liberal leaning RAG so the article leans towards the Eco side. You know the type, if its green its grass, or the ones that plant "native plants and herbs" instead of grass. These types are the ones that look like total crap because the maintenance is 10 times more to hand weed the gardens. The article does hit on one aspect of squirt and fert. companies that I would agree is not good stewardship of the enlivenment. Over fertilization. I have always told my customers that without aeration on the heavy clay soil in our area most of the fert. is runoff. The older ones on fixed incomes I converted to spring -fall fert and fall aeration and seeding. They get the same results for slightly less money and I don't have to try and cut extremely high grass that the high nitrogen squirter's produce. the article also points out the emmissions from the lawn equipment. We've already seen 4-mix engines and strato-charged motors trying to lower emissions . Finally!!! my question to the forum!! Do you think the lawn industry has peaked and is ready for the throw back to less manicured lawns? And do you think its possible to convert lawn equipment to ethanol[fuel made from corn] to get clean burns and keep the power in power equipment?
  2. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,633

    The real intresting part of that article was the quote , that more fuel is spilled filling gas powered equipment than the exxon valdez
  3. Insometry

    Insometry LawnSite Member
    from Kansas
    Posts: 43

    ethanol takes more energy to make then it gives once its made.
  4. Remsen1

    Remsen1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    right. ;)

    people don't have a damn clue. even if it was close the environmental impact is far less, since a drip here and a drip there has much less of an effect than millions of gallons spilled all in one spot.
  5. Surf'n'Turf

    Surf'n'Turf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 326

    Most of the quotes came from a book I read over the weekend that my wife bought me called "America's Obsession with the Perfect Lawn." I'll post author's info later or you can try to goolge it. Interesting stuff albeit only one man's opinion and offers no real solutions for the replacement of turf. The book has a lot of history about how manicured lawns came to be in the US (Started in Levittown, Long Island!) as well as a lot of other 'controversial' issues the face the green industry. Also has a lot of insight about Scotts and how they marketed their products over the years. I found it fascinating beacuse I have not seen this written anyplace else. Author even pulled a quote from someone off this board, from NJ no less. Copyright is 2006, so it is fairly up to date.
  6. Duramax99

    Duramax99 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 203

    But we don't have to go to Iraq to get it.

    American Farmers can produce it
  7. Surf'n'Turf

    Surf'n'Turf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 326

    The Author's name is Ted Steinberg. Most LCO's will not be real happy with what he has to say and may view as a threat to their livelihood, but read between the lines and keep an open mind. He cites the biggest threat to the lawn is water (or lack thereof in the future). Here as a excerpt I found printed recently in a Maryland newspaper:

    Grass is greener on 1 side in turf war
    Plush lawns inspire some, bother others
    By Douglas Birch
    Sun reporter
    Originally published March 26, 2006
    As the first green shoots sprout through the soil this week, lawns across America are coming back to life, cherished symbols of summer leisure and childhood innocence. But even the family's backyard oasis is no longer a refuge, it seems, from America's culture wars.

    The $40 billion lawn care industry, environmentalists charge, has persuaded too many homeowners to strive for a lawn too perfect for Mother Nature herself - weed-free, trim, uniformly thick and dazzlingly green.

    The expensive care that these pampered patches of grass demand has fouled the air, wasted water and helped pollute rivers and estuaries, including the Chesapeake Bay, critics say.

    To which many lawn lovers reply: Give us a break.

    "Some of this is pretty silly," said Peter H. Dernoeden, a plant scientist and professor at the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "If someone wants to have a nice-looking lawn, why shouldn't they?"

    America's turf battles have intensified to the point where some homeowners have thrown in the trowel.

    Pam Townsend, a senior editor and spokeswoman for the University of Maryland's agricultural service, decided there was no way she and her husband could keep up with a neighbor who mows his emerald grass in a crosshatch pattern - the kind groundskeepers shear in baseball fields.

    "We call him the Lawn Ranger," she said.

    So the couple replaced a lot of the turf around their College Park home with native and low-maintenance plants, such as butterfly bushes, hollyhocks and foxglove. In the grass they still have, they've decided to leave the clover and moss undisturbed.

    "We've decided if it's green, it's OK," Townsend said. "Without this chemical stuff, you can't get a good lawn."

    Sam Helms, owner of a rowhouse in the Glendale-Glenmont section of Baltimore County, worries about the health of the Chesapeake. So he maintains his small patch of grass, surrounded by shrubs, without pesticides or herbicides.

    "You will find people who are just fanatics about doing away with lawns," he said.

    Five years ago, Mary Streb of Wood Elves Way in Columbia ripped out her front lawn. A graduate of the state's master gardener program, run by the university's Home and Garden Information Center, she planted sweet bay magnolia, crape myrtle, chives, rosemary, parsley, thyme and lavender.

    Since then, she has become an evangelist, preaching the gospel of replacing lawns with native plants. Mostly, her fellow gardeners have been sympathetic - although fewer have followed her example than she would like.

    "I think we've kind of awakened some people," she said.

    In his new book, American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, historian Ted Steinberg joins a chorus of critics who say America's love affair with greener grass has become a destructive obsession.

    Steinberg, a historian at Case Western Reserve University, said he was shocked when he moved to affluent Shaker Heights, Ohio, and saw the extremes his neighbors went to in pursuit of gorgeous grass. "The lawns of my neighbors just don't look like putting greens - they are putting greens," said Steinberg.

    He argues that the post-World War II lawn-care industry created the dream of the pristine lawn - a dream impossible to realize without chemicals and power equipment.

    Big-box stores around the country are already setting out stacks of fertilizer bags for the spring. Retailers and manufacturers routinely urge the nation's lawn keepers to weed-and-feed four times a year.

    But Steinberg notes that horticultural experts recommend fertilizing grass just once a year, in the fall. Spring feeding, he says, promotes shoot growth at the expense of root growth. That creates a thick green carpet in the short run but leaves the grass with no way to tap the deeper moisture during the droughts of late summer.
    During dry spells, Steinberg says, homeowners typically overwater the burnt dry grass, leaching nutrients from the soil. That sends them back to the store to buy more fertilizer. Obsessive sweeping of lawn clippings is also a mistake, he said. Left nestled among the stalks, the clippings can enrich the soil.

    Until recently, he said, the American lawn industry routinely recommended non-native species, such as so-called Kentucky bluegrass, that are difficult to nurture in much of the United States. (Despite its name, the grass is native to the colder regions of Europe.)

    Marketing experts have also turned clover into a weed. "Clover captures nitrogen from the air and adds it to the soil," Steinberg said. "So it's a useful plant to have in the lawn."

    Steinberg recites a slew of statistics to bolster his assertion that Americans are obsessed with turf. There are 58 million home lawns, 16,000 golf courses and 700,000 athletic fields in America. Stitched together, they would create a green space the size of Florida.

    About 75,000 Americans are injured every year while cutting grass, making the job almost as perilous as shipbuilding.

    Each year, Steinberg said, Americans spill enough gas and oil just filling the tanks of their mowers and other garden power tools to equal the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

    Steinberg's book is only the latest broadside against the American lawn. It follows anti-grass tracts such as The Lawn, A History of an American Obsession (1994) by Virginia Scott Jenkins and Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony (2001) by three forestry experts at Yale University.

    Tom Delaney, executive director of PLANET, shorthand for the Professional Landcare Network of Herndon, Va., said the industry has spent heavily on research to reduce the environmental impact of a handsome lawn.

    Plant scientists, he said, have developed turf varieties that need less water and fewer chemicals.

    Lawn professionals don't use expensive chemicals when they don't have to, he said, although he dismisses once-a-year fertilizing as "scant lawn care."

    Dernoeden, the University of Maryland turf specialist, says lawn critics make some good points. "If you see a homeowner out there on a nice day in April putting a couple of bags of fertilizer on the lawn, they're probably promoting shoot growth versus root growth," he said.

    But he and other lawn supporters argue that wild clover, for example, adds little nitrogen to a lawn - and, worse, attracts bees. Yes, Kentucky bluegrass requires a lot of watering and fertilizing. But Maryland homeowners have in recent years switched to tall fescue, which is better adapted to the local climate.

    Although a few fanatics may be obsessed with their lawns, Dernoeden said, the majority of homeowners are not. "Most people want a decent, functional lawn," he said. "I guess I haven't thought of this as a terrible social problem before now."

    Concern about the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay has sparked a debate over whether homeowners in the bay watershed should replace lawns with gardens.

    The jury is still out on that question, said Jon Traunfeld, senior agent and regional extension specialist at the University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information Center.

    But Traunfeld said that Steinberg gets it right in American Green: An obsession with the unattainable can be destructive.

    "If you want a perfect lawn, you are going to be applying herbicides and insecticides and fertilizers," he said. "And you probably are going to be putting down more than you need. And those are negative things to do to the environment."

    That message may have sunk in. Many garden experts say that "lawn rangers" tend to be men with graying hair. The young, it seems, aren't interested in spending as much time or money on their lawns.

    Steinberg noted that communities in Canada have limited the use of chemicals, and some American towns are thinking of following suit.

    "You don't have to look at a crystal ball to figure out something is going on here," he said. "The perfect lawn is at a vulnerable point in this juncture in history."
  8. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,933

    I don't think the green industry has even come close to peaking. I would agree that water will increasingly be an issue for some areas but where I cut its still cheap. The problem is people just don't water. I am doing lawn restorations this week from people too lazy to water last fall when we had a mini drought. Pay me now and pay me later. I just was out this evening and a neighbor of a lawn customer said to me "I want my lawn to look like his. How much? " bingo baby!!$$$ Americans love thier lawns. Thats the big problem over in Iraq. No lawns to cut , no sports, towels wrapped around their womens heads, and no beer. We're too busy over here to worry about gihad!!
  9. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    ConfuGrassus say:

    "As long as there is grass, there will be someone somewhere willing to pay a lawn monkey to cut it." :laugh:
  10. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,226

    i love that part the chemicials they are talking about are the macro nutrients that all plants need. the major ones being n-p-k.

    this industry is going to continue to grow with the baby boomers getting older. more family's spending more time at work than home. kids and grandkids spending more time in front of the t.v and playstation. all the new growth in housing construction. and maybe regulating what lawn chemicals homeowners can use this industry could double in 10 years.

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