As the general public gains interest in more environmentally friendly ways to manage turfgrass, resourceful landscape contractors are positioning themselves to capitalize on what could be an impending spike in demand for turf renovation services.
Some manufacturers of turf renovation equipment are already seeing that positive momentum, particularly in areas where weather patterns, soil types and turf varieties make services such as aeration critical to maintaining a quality lawn.
There’s also the effect of the green movement. “Efficient water and fertilizer utilization are key drivers behind the growing popularity of aeration,” says Nick Cusick, president of SourceOne Outdoor Power Equipment. Many contractors are adopting the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to lawn care, which stresses the importance of responsibly using fertilizers and chemicals, smart irrigation, effective mowing practices and, you guessed it, aeration.
However, consumers generally aren’t aware of the benefits of aeration and other turf renovation services. State and regional landscape associations are helping play a role in consumer education, as are equipment manufacturers and dealers. “But it’s really up to the entrepreneurial contractors to promote these services and communicate their benefits,” Cusick reminds.
According to PRO research, the number of landscape contractors who perform aeration services has remained relatively unchanged for the past few years (roughly half of landscape contractors). But over the next several years, the number is expected to climb for a variety of reasons.
While consumer education remains an ongoing challenge, more homeowners are becoming aware of the benefits of “total landscape maintenance,” which includes lawn aeration and dethatching. Also, IPM is expected to continue gaining traction, which further heightens demand for aeration.
Down South, it’s simply a matter of timing. “We expect to see an increase in demand for aeration this fall, especially in extreme drought areas where the ground has been too hard to aerate these past couple of years,” says Jeff Hill, a regional manager for Billy Goat. “Areas in the Southeast with high clay content should see the biggest increase because this type of soil needs aeration on a regular basis to promote root growth. But in other areas of the country where the need for aeration is less pressing, some consumers have opted to put it off due to the economy.”
Still, that hasn’t stopped resourceful landscape contractors from trying to branch into this business already. “With the current economic situation causing contractors to lose accounts due to budget restrictions and even property foreclosures, more contractors are looking at additional avenues to generate income with the accounts they still have,” says Nathan Antons, national sales manager for SourceOne.
Other contractors are thinking more long-term, searching for ways to diversify their service offering and provide more value to their customers. And down the road, as the economy strengthens, these contractors hope to be in a position to serve a rapidly expanding market.
Linda Beattie, commercial public relations director for Schiller Grounds Care (manufacturer of the Classen and Ryan brands), says that of the 85 million U.S. households with a lawn, roughly 50% hire out lawn care services, which include aerating, dethatching and overseeding. “With a population of aging baby boomers and a longer life expectancy, the need for turf care services will continue to increase,” Beattie says.
Beattie also points out that further stabilization of the housing market will also fuel demand for turf renovation services. “Maintaining a healthy lawn can increase property value anywhere from 5% to 15%,” she says. “Plus, it’s proven that well-landscaped and maintained properties sell 27% faster than properties that aren’t.”
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