You know what it takes to keep turfgrass healthy. And if you could control all the variables, the turf on your grounds would no doubt flourish. But that's not the case. No matter how well you do your job, outside factors are going to have an influence. As was the case last year when much of the East Coast suffered a significant drought, leaving grounds managers helpless to do more than watch turf wither and die, dragging their mowing profits along with it.

Tom Smith, owner of Smith's Professional Grounds Maintenance, Inc. in Salisbury, Md., remembers feeling helpless last summer as rainless days took their toll.

“With the water restrictions imposed here during the drought, it really impacted my business,” says Smith. “I lost probably half of my mowing schedule during July and August.”

Smith, whose clients include residential customers as well as commercial accounts, noticed that not only did turf suffer extensive damage as a direct result of the drought itself, but that there was another side effect, as well. “The lack of water caused the weed infestation to really pick up, so there were a lot more weeds than normal coming into this season.”

His recommendation to clients? Renovation.

“We began fall overseeding to replace the dead spots of turf and ensure that the turf came back and the weeds wouldn't take over,” he says. “Here in Maryland, we have from mid September until about mid — sometimes late — October to renovate and get seed in the ground before turf goes dormant and ground temperatures get too cold.”

To make the most of renovation efforts, Smith used a slit seeder and a mix of grass seed customized for his region. “Our success rate was excellent. We used an Eastern Shore Mix that is a blend of cool- and warm-season grass seed that works best in our Transition Zone. The slit seeder made the renovations easy,” he says.

And the renovation jobs made it easier for Smith to look at his bottom line.

“We recouped 65 percent of our lost-mowing-schedule revenue by doing renovation work,” Smith says. “We saved on equipment costs because we weren't out mowing every week; and we rented the renovation equipment, so our profit margin was greater. I think it's a service every landscape contractor should offer clients because it's not that hard to do, it doesn't take a lot of time and it helps you optimize turf for the next year.”

Whether a drought is your reason for renovation or whether too much rain has made turf vulnerable to disease and in need of an overhaul, you can find out more about how to turn renovation into revenue in the following pages of this issue of Grounds Maintenance.

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