How to meet demands of lawn and garden season
After a long winter and wet spring, waterlogged yards begin to dry out and customers begin the annual ritual of renting equipment and preparing lawns for the outdoor summer fun ahead.
After assessing the damage caused over the prior year by drainage, shade, soil pH, soil compaction, high foot traffic, pests and thatch, customers need equipment and sound advice to renovate their properties.
Simple problems — such as thatch, bare spots and soil compaction — are easily solved by renting a power rake also called a dethatcher, an overseeder and an aerator. Proper advice on fertilization, mowing, watering and drainage, however, typically resolves the other issues and improves customer satisfaction, leading to more rentals of your equipment.
Here’s a list of equipment and general advice to keep customers happy, so that lawn and garden rental revenue keeps flowing throughout the year.
- March: Customers are in the midst of spring cleanup of sticks, blooms, seeds and leftover leaves. Leverage the interest in spring cleanup by advertising and displaying items such as outdoor vacuums, chippers, aerators, power rakes, over-seeders and walk-behind blowers.
Recommend a two-step rental process: Early in the month, suggest that customers clean their properties with blowers, vacuums and chippers. Later in the month, before grass starts to grow, suggest that they rent a power rake to remove thatch accumulation from the prior year. Excess thatch prevents water and nutrients from reaching the soil and may contribute to turf disease.
Promoting rental of over-seeders for any thin spots that may appear or were missed by customers in the fall also is a good idea. For shade areas, recommend overseeding with shade-tolerant St. Augustine. For northern grasses, mixes of bluegrass, fescue and rye are most common.
You also might take a moment to offer your customer soil testing as a service or refer the local nursery or garden center to determine acidity. Generally, a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is desired for a healthy lawn. If the pH is less than 5.0, a healthy balance can generally be achieved by applying lime at a rate of 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. Also, determine the right trencher to help repair any drainage issues that may have occurred during the winter and spring. Customers generally set mole traps during this month, so consider placing them at or near the counter.
- April: Customers should apply crab grass preventer by April 15 and start a mowing regimen soon thereafter. If you are asked, setting a mowing height between 2 and 3 in. can help hold in water, discourage weeds and promote deeper roots. At this time, spring aeration should be done if the yard is heavily compacted. Aeration improves root depth as well as air, water, fertilizer and nutrient flow. Customers should feel free to leave the plugs on the lawn as they will be mulched back after a few rains and cuttings. However, if they want to pick them up, they should wait a day or two for the plugs to dry and then rake or vac them up. Watering the lawn the night before aeration is recommended to soften the soil and allow core depths to 3 in.
- May: Keep spreaders available as customers begin to fertilize when the rapid spring growth begins to slow. Most lawns will not need more than 1 lb. per 1,000 sq. ft. in May and again in September. As the season begins to dry out in June, recommend that customers start their regular morning watering routine before 8 a.m., but that they do not overwater as it can promote fungal growth. Just water enough to take off drought stress.
As a rule of thumb, consider no more than ¾ to 1.5 in. total per week, depending on your climate. This also presents an opportunity for rental stores to sell and rent sprinklers. This also is a good time to keep sod cutters visible to rent for all cut-outs required for hardscape projects, concrete flat work projects, landscape projects, sprinkler projects and general patch and repair turf work.
- August: Recommend pesticide applications for grubs only if the population exceeds nine grubs per sq. ft. If the population is below that, they are unlikely to cause damage to customers’ root systems. Keep in mind, if the lawn is lush and healthy, a small population of grubs may be in balance and not causing enough damage to justify the expense. Some customers also might take this time of year to begin brushcutting, so put your brushcutters front and center where customers can see them when they come in.
- September: After lawns take a beating from the summer heat and recreation schedule, this is the time to promote fall aeration, overseeding and fertilizing. September is the best month to rejuvenate cool-season grasses such as rye, fescue and blue grasses because it is a time with minimal weed pressure, cooler temperatures and increased moisture. Aerating, overseeding and fertilizing lawns are a way to rejuvenate grass, so have your fleet ready again. Recommend a crisscrossing diagonal pattern for overseeders, at half the drop rate. Consider new hydrostatic overseeders that improve productivity and eliminate the fatigue factor for users.
- October/November: This is a time to rent walk-behind leaf blowers and leaf vacuums to help customers keep leaf drop from packing and smothering grass. Also prepare for snow thrower rentals and be ready to repeat this process in the spring when your happy customers are ready to return.