Lawn care and yard design can be tricky business - from how much to water and when, to what to plant and where. We interviewed Steve Sickles of Sickles Landscaping Co. to fill you in on the who, what, where, why and how of growing - and keeping - a healthy yard looking good. Read what he has to say about:
Being a seasonal business, you have to be prepared to ramp up from 0-to-60 really fast. Winter is relatively quiet and then all of a sudden we're flying. The phone usually starts ringing mid-March, and all it takes is one nice day in April and the phone is off the hook. Birds start singing and the phone starts ringing!
Our goal through it all is to keep every one of our clients happy.
About 10 years ago I started hearing more about the green movement. I do see more requests for fertilizers that are more environmentally friendly, organic lawn food, and grass varieties that require less water and/or fertilizer. I would say I had a small surge in green requests about five years ago, but it has leveled off a bit since then. I think 'green' has become very commercialized, and green marketing has made it confusing for consumers to understand what is truly beneficial to the environment, and what is false advertising.
Almost 100%. My main supplier for compost and mulch is Lalicata Landscape Products in Arlington. Wagon Wheel Nursery, and Shemin Nursery in Lexington are also included in my top go-to businesses. What's your number one secret for helping clients maintain a lush lawn?
And because so many people struggle with their lawns, what are secrets two and three?
To sum it up: Water, maintenance and fertilizing are the most important components for a healthy lawn.
My clients aren't shy - they usually tell me! After they tell me what they're interested in, I guide them through the options that would work best for their home. House style is important, as is what's fitting to the neighborhood. But at the end of the day, it is the customer's decision.
Again, it goes back to the house structure itself. Whether it's a Bungalow or a Colonial, a one-story or two-story - house style sets the stage for the surrounding landscape.
Next, I look at the grades of the land. I do not encourage changing the grade of the land unless there are existing drainage issues - otherwise you can open a can of worms. Ledge is also a consideration in Arlington, including soil conditions.
Given the attention it's been getting in town, we have to ask: What's your take on the leaf-blower ban?
Someone in a town meeting said, "10 minutes of raking is good for mind and soul." I think sometimes people forget that we're not a bunch of kids running around with some lawnmowers. We are no different than sales representatives, accountants, retail staff, or anyone else that provides a service. We are professionals trying to run a business and we need the tools that will allow us to do the best job possible, and give our customers the fastest, most efficient service.
There is not a huge profit in landscaping. It is hard labor and we work within very tight margins. We always leave a yard - and the street - cleaner than when we found it. Going back to brooms would make this near impossible. I hate the thought of passing along the costs of clean-up to customers. I have a lot of long-time customers - many elderly - and some who are on the brink of not being able to afford services. This will not only impact those people, but the people on their street and neighborhood if they are not able to physically keep up with their yards.
Of course many people are asking, "What's next?" No chainsaws? No gas powered lawn mowers? No tractors? We should all step back and think about the possible snowball effect that could take place if we start down this path.
About 20 years ago in Maynard we built an exercise trail, or 'fit course,' through the woods a on a 20-acre piece of property. We worked all through the winter on 13 or 14 stations, and we did it all by hand.