Homeowner fert program out of hand - what to suggest

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Roger, Jul 14, 2006.

  1. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    I have two homeowners who do their own fert program. They also do all their own maintenance work. Both are expensive homes, and the grounds are kept very well. In one case the husband and wife spend all weekend on their property and it really shows. In the other case, he does a huge effort in the Spring, and most of his grounds are shrubs or other plants not requiring much effort to keep up.

    But, in both cases, they do their own fert program -- with the notion that "tall grass is good grass." The quality of turf in case 1 is superb, a bluegrass/ryegrass mix that is thick, lush, and without a weed. In the second case, the quality isn't quite as good, but far better than most others.

    Both have done second/third(?) round of fert about two weeks ago. In the first case, I show up today with "amber waves of grain" blowing in the breeze. I have been double cutting recently, but that was out of the question. The problem area is behind the house, about 15K sq ft of turf. I cut it today with my Exmark w/b, 36", 10 Gobblers of clippings. The area is surrounded by deep beds with dyed mulch, so great care must be taken to keep clippings from the bed. I know he uses a Lesco spreader, and I know I have seen Lesco bags on his property,but I don't know what was put down a couple of weeks ago. In the past two weeks, we have had about 3" of rain, so the ground is very wet.

    In the second case, he confessed he put down Scott's Turf Builder in the Spring. Here I have about 12K sq ft in one area. Earlier in the season, 2-5 weeks after the Turf Builder, I took off 10-12 Gobblers of clippings. Two weeks ago, the speader was out again, but I don't know what he put down. Today, I had 10 Gobblers again. For the past few weeks, it has been 5-6 Gobblers.

    After his first episode with Turf Builder, I suggested strongly he use a better, controlled release nitrogen product. He claimed to understand, but I'm not sure he acted on my suggestion. His spreader is also a Lesco, and he has other Lesco products.

    How do I strongly suggest these folks change their ways? Mulching is out of the question. These are cool-weather grasses, and when they growth this fast in a week, the clippings are very sappy. Today, in both cases, I had trouble getting the sappy clippings into the Gobbler -- mulching would merely make mush of the clippings.

    Double cutting is also out of the question for the second one. He has so many beds, pennisulas, etc, there isn't very much room to discharge. This entire property is about 0.75 acre, and it takes me about 35 minutes just to trim all the edges (many beds, pool, large turf area inside a fence around the pool, ....). Also, neither would even consider a frequency of less than 7 days, and I don't want it either (destroys my weekly schedule with others).

    I truly believe these folks are sincere in what they are doing, but I don't think they understand the fallout when I show up to mow and deal with the "hay crop." And, I don't think they are on a "power trip," that is, get their joys of watching me deal with the mess they've created. Neither have mowed their own lawn for a long time, except perhaps the first one of the season before hardly any growth happens ("... I just wanted to clean up the Winter debris."). They both have tractors with baggers, but only use the tractors for pulling carts, or other utility work.

    No, I don't want to drop them. When things go well, which is most of the time, they are good $/hr jobs, especially the first one. Both are part of others (first one, I work the property next door at the same time; second one, one of four I work together next door/across the street).

    How can I talk intelligently these two men about this problem? Other efforts have gone on deaf ears. Both are well-off, smart (one owns his own substantial business, other is CFO of a large regional company), and really enjoy working their property. Both vacation in the Summer, travel often, so want to be sure the grass cutting is covered each week, hence, they hired me.

    Maybe I'm a bit frustrated today because the schedule happened to put them back-to-back, and it was the most miserable working day here of the season (hot/humid). There seemed to be no end to the Gobblers ...., and my Gatorade supply ran out!
  2. TurfProSTL

    TurfProSTL LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 693

    Are you charging them for bagging? If not, make it worth your while. $5 per basket might be a fair price if you're hauling it off, too.....

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    I think you have to tell them that the price is based on "normal" growth...funny how customers think we enjoy mowing 8" tall thick grass.

    Anything much beyond normal should be charged more, that's how I would deal with it.
  4. Ric3077

    Ric3077 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,113

    Yea Like Turf Pro said charge $5/gobbler if your hauling it and dumping it for them or $3/gobbler if you are leaving it in a customer provided bin or dumping it in their woods. I don't have a single bagging customer luckily. I hope you are getting some decent cash to spend that much time trimming and mowing and bagging. Tell the customer that if it grows real long you won't/can't take more than a third of the blade off otherwise it will be prone to disease. Start cutting the grass long...Better yet sell them a fert program so you can do it how you like. :clapping:
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    This is the exception to the rule of don't cut so often :laugh:

    Cut them more frequently, but yes I understand it is hard to keep up with their stupid fertilization habits, I had a guy did this to me and 2-3 times a year it would catch me by surprise but once caught, I'd cut it every 5 days if need be to make sure I didn't get messed up.

    You lose some when it first happens, but for the next 2-3 weeks you make up for it.
    So, as soon as you notice they done fert'd again, reduce the time interval between cuts.

    If the yard is all wet, I hate to say it but the fertilizer actually helps by boosting the grass (which needs water and lots of it)... Of course the guy probably sprinklers it daily even when it's always raining, too. You win some, you lose some :confused:
  6. Just add an excess labor charge to the bill.

    If they're as well off/smart/successful as you say they are the already know you're busting your hump for a few bucks per week. If not they can learn.

    They've gotten you boxed in. Cut every 7 days. Fixed rate. Piling on more work.

    Don't work for nothing. Surcharge them for added work.
  7. upidstay

    upidstay LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CT
    Posts: 1,346

    Explain to them that they are asking for a disease to strike. Most of the really destructive lawn fungi just love overly fertilized turf. Tell them that they can achieve a nice green lawn by using a quality product, withn a high slow release nitrogen ratio, and a good shot of iron. Lush top growth plus several days of hazy hot and humid will often equal a nasty fungus. Also, it is not a good idea to cust that much grass off at once. Stresses the plant. Tell them to lay off the quick release crap.

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