Episode 25 - How to Grow the Lawn You've Always Wanted
Colin and Jimmy welcome Kevin Kapfer, owner of Rooted Lawn and Landscape. We talk lawn care, synthetics vs organics, the best lawn tools, and more! We cover tips, insider insight, everything that you want to know. Watch the video on YouTube or check below for the full transcript.
*Kevin Kapfer can be reached at 860-908-4740.
Full Transcript of Episode 25
Megan*: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another episode of Behind the Studs. Give it up for your hosts Colin Shaw* and Jimmy Driskel!* [Crickets] Damn it, wrong button. Oh, there we go! [Applause.] Here’s [laughter] can I be done? [Laughter]
Colin Shaw: Thank you Megan, always a great intro from her, huh? Isn’t that nice?
Jimmy: Good job!
Kevin Kapfer: Well done.
C: Last time you were here, there was like this different type of an intro. Now, this is kind of like a full production.
K: You guys are doing good. I’m impressed.
J: We’re up to four! [laughter]
C: Four thousand?
J: Ehh, a little shy. [laughter]
C: Hey everyone, I’m Colin.
J: Oh, I’m Jimmy! How are ya? I just got lost in the number! [laughter] I’m sorry.
C: You’re already spending that money.
J: I’m telling you.
C: Look at you.
J: Snapping bands.
C: So yeah – snapping bands, absolutely. We haven’t talked about our rap career in a while, either.
J: No, we can leave that behind for a while, too.
C: It is?
J: Well, you know, we’re not playing in the band anymore.
C: Yeah that’s true. Yeah, yeah, music’s just not what it used to be.
J: Yeah it’s not [imitates bass sounds] [laughter]
C: Aren’t you glad to be back?
K: Oh yeah.
C: So, sitting here with us today is Kevin Kapfer.
J: Kevin Kapfer!
K: How we doing?
K: How’s my volume?
C: So far so good. Yeah, you’re good man. Just relax and enjoy.
K: I’ll try not to yell.
C: Nah, don’t worry about it. Jimmy will yell a couple times anyway.
J: I mean, probably.
C: A few times. So, Kevin’s with Rooted Lawn and Landscape. Is that correct?
C: I got it right, good. Some of the things that you do in your company, pretty much full-service lawn care and maintenance?
K: Lawn, garden, plants, any sorts of horticultural stuff, yeah that’s us.
C: Cool, so you do more in the planting side of thing or more in the maintenance?
K: It’s 50/50.
C: Oh, cool.
K: All across the board.
C: And the last time you were here you were more into the landscape and design, and the plantings and things like that.
K: Yeah, so I got into it initially doing lawns heavily, but got into the design and garden stuff a little more. It just allows you to be more creative, and just gives you a little more variety.
C: Yeah, not the same thing every day.
C: That’s cool. And of course, Kevin takes care of my lawn, and it looks beautiful.
K: Thank you.
C: It’s January now, and it’s still green.
J: Jesus, my lawn is a complete disaster. [laughter] It’s terrible.
C: So, he needs to be over there at some point.
K: Bro, I’ll help you out.
J: Do you sweeten lawns now with lime, can you do it now since we don’t have any snow and the ground’s not frozen, would you do it now? I had some guy tell me that the other day. He was over for dinner and he was like “I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna sweeten my lawn. I’m gonna throw some lime down.” [laughter]
C: He’s a partier.
J: And I’m like cocktail? Can I get you another cocktail? [laughter]
K: If you have a couple weeks where the weather’s okay, where it’s not frozen, I would say you’d be okay. But I wouldn’t recommend it. I would do it in either the fall or spring or any time over the summer.
J: Early spring.
K: Yeah, early spring sure. Late fall. You can really do lime any time. But it’s a good thing to do before you start all your fertilizers. Because your lime is going to balance your pH.
K: Which is the measure of the acidity in your soil.
K: So, if your pH is off, then your fertilizers aren’t going to be as effective. So, say you have a pH that’s like five, which is considered very acidic, you’re going to add your inputs but they’re not going to all be taken up by the plant. A lot of it’s going to be wasted because your pH is so low.
J: Are the plants dormant now, since it’s the winter?
K: For the most part. You know we’ve had a couple days where it gets up into the 50s, they might green up a little bit. But they’re– at this point it’s all done. But yeah, so the lime you really want to balance your pH before you start putting your fertilizers down, because you want to get the most out of your fertilizers.
C: Makes sense.
K: Yeah if your pH is off, then you’re really just kind of wasting product, and lot of it ends up turning into runoff, and that’s kind of a big issue these days.
C: Yeah, yeah.
K: With pesticides and fertilizers.
J: So, when you put the lime down, you don’t really want to do it in like full April when there’s a lot of showers. You want to do it when you have some dry days?
K: It’s okay to do it when it’s wet. You don’t really want to put anything down if it’s really going to pour, you know? If you’re going to get a couple inches of rain, you don’t want to put anything down before.
C: Last time you were here we talked about how crabgrass was so prevalent last summer. And it wasn’t because we had a ton of rain, like days of rain, but when it rained it rained heavy, like poured. All of the preventatives were gone, they were washed right away.
K: Right, so that’s what that pre-emergent does for your crabgrass. It’s an application that you put down and it basically forms a barrier in the soil that doesn’t allow the crabgrass to germinate. So, what’s going to happen when you get excess rain, it’s going to break down that barrier and it’s just going to be no longer effective.
J: What’s that stuff called?
C: Crabgrass pre-emergent. They sell it just as that for your emerging crabgrass.
J: That’s all I have! [laughter] That’s all I’ve got!
C: You know what’s funny when I first moved into our house the neighbor next door goes “whatever you do, don’t use weed killer.” And I said “why?” And he said “’cause you’ll have no lawn left. We haven’t used weed killer in my lawn the whole time we’ve been here.” And what’s green is the weeds! But not anymore, ‘cause Kevin took care of it.
J: I want to take a right turn on this, but it’s in the same vein of what you just said. Weed killer.
J: You my friend, there’s a lot of controversy going on. And the results are starting to come through. There’s a lot of medical problems now. And when you say Round-Up people either flare up or go “it’s just water and salt” and other people say, “it’s not- it’s more than that!” And you’re getting effects, you’re getting physical side effects and cancer from it from what I understand. What is your take on that? Back one second. I met a guy, he was working on a condo unit, and he was spreading out some kind of chemical for the lawn to sweeten it, like a steroid. And I’m like “dude do you know what that stuff is?” And he says, “well they told me that there’s no chance of getting anything.” Oh, they told you. He didn’t do any look up for himself. They just told him. He’s probably getting $12/hour if he’s making that to spread this stuff, spraying it out. So, my thing is this: I keep an ear to it, and I hear this. What is your take on all of that?
K: Round-Up’s tough. It’s definitely not good for you. There’s definitely been studies that have linked it to lymphoma.
J: That’s right.
C: Oh wow.
K: And that’s a fact. That’s totally true. The problem is it’s a pretty recent chemical, and there’s not enough research and study that’s been done on it to really show what the long-term effects are on people. So, it’s hard to say, but it’s certainly not good for you.
J: So you don’t use it?
K: Well, I can’t say I don’t. There’s an application for it.
J: And if the client wants it, they’re going to use it.
K: Sure, sure. But if you use your protection and you apply it at the right rates, and you’re not putting it all over everything –
C: Keep the animals off.
K: Knock on wood, I think you’re okay. I think the big scare with Round-Up is how much it’s being used in our food production, which you’re then ingesting plants that have trace amounts of glyphosate is really what the chemical is in Round-Up that makes it effective. So I think the big Round-Up scare is really more towards the food consumption than the landscaping side of things.
J: So being used around gardens and things like that?
K: If you’re around gardens, I can’t tell you it’s 100% safe.
J: I don’t agree with that. And the reason I say that it’s the worst for you, because you’re dealing with it every day. If you’re applying it every day, even though you’re wearing your gloves, you’re breathing it if you’re not wearing a respirator, whether it’s around you. So basically, if the studies are coming out about that, sorry that I’m getting on this for a second. Because I know this is a topic that people pay attention to. And I hear about this all the time, at dinner with family. For some strange reason Round-Up comes up. And I’ve heard both sides of the story. Saying “oh yeah, they use it in the salt marshes to fill the hummocks, and to flatten it down, it’s just water and salt.” But what I have to say, from what people who told me who live in Iowa, who used, where not just bugs but animals become sterile from it. So, what’s it doing to human beings, whether you’re spraying it, applying it. Okay fine, you’re killing plants, but if it rains, does that go into the soil. Does that get into your drinking water?
K: Sure. Sure. That’s the question. And we don’t really know. Hopefully it’s not too late before we figure out the problems with it, but it should be used very specifically.
J: And cautiously.
K: And follow the directions – and cautiously. And that’s the thing with the food production, is they’re just blanket spraying fields of crops. And the genetic modification of plants – GMOs, everyone’s aware of those, right?
K: That’s a gene that’s inserted into these plants, so they can be sprayed with Round-Up, and they won’t die. It basically makes them immune to Round-Up. So, they can spray the whole field with Round-Up and they’ll kill everything except for these GMO organisms.
J: And then what does it do to your digestive system? Go anywhere in Europe, anywhere in Asia, and they don’t use it. They can’t, they won’t, they refuse to.
K: I eat all organic food, for the record. I eat all organic stuff.
J: You do make good money, don’t you, being able to afford that organic stuff. [laughter] I’m sure you throw in a hot dog from time to time.
K: Oh sure.
J: Gotta keep it honest.
K: I’m not perfect by any means.
J: But I understand with your plants and your greens. You almost have to.
K: I don’t use it every day. I use it in little places here and there and try to really be smart with it. You’re certainly not being a steward of the environment if you’re just going around, spraying it recklessly.
J: I’m sure you have some of your customers who come back and say, “I don’t want Round-Up on my stuff.”
J: “Do you use organic sprays?”
K: There is a decent organic option which is a citrus oil. But it’s the same thing – it’s going to kill everything that it comes in contact with. So, it’s good to use if you have like a stone driveway, or walkways, or even gardens if you can spray the weed without getting it on any of the plants, it’s effective that way. But it’s more expensive, and it’s definitely not as effective. But it’s a viable, safer option.
C: But I would imagine that comes up with your customers too.
K: Oh yeah.
C: Surely they ask that question.
K: Many people are against it, which I prefer. And it’s a matter of managing people’s expectations when it comes to any sorts of pesticides. The only reason we use them is because people want a certain quality of a lawn or garden.
C: That’s me.
K: Many people want perfect lawns, and unfortunately, it’s kind of a double edge sword, where if you want to satisfy that need, you need to use certain things.
J: I have to say though, crabgrass feels good on your bare feet! [laughter] After the rain! I don’t care. I’ll take what I can get right now. I’m sure later on when Kevin comes over to my house, it’ll be like “we’re gonna put down astroturf or something.”
K: And that’s kind of a trend that’s coming around too, the astroturf.
C: Is it really?
K: It’s becoming more and more popular. There’re some really good options that it’s starting to look pretty real, and if you have a small area, it’s probably something to consider.
C: Yeah, and then you don’t need to mow it or anything else. Somebody else would be out of a job. That’s not good. Grass, grass all the way.
J: Alright, anyone else? I don’t want to harp on this.
C: Well obviously Kevin’s very knowledgeable about this sort of stuff, so what’s your background? How did you get started in this?
K: I went to UConn, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Turf Grass Management. I spent some time working with some local companies doing landscaping. I spent about a year and a half, two years doing exclusively organic treatments on lawns.
C: Oh no kidding.
K: Yep. And I just recently started my own company last year, and I’ve been on my own for about a year.
J: Dude pump that, you should pump that. ‘Cause people dig organic. They do.
K: Totally. And I’m a total fan of it. And I hate to say it, but it’s a little more expensive. And the effects aren’t there. The realistic thing about organics is, you could do a bunch of treatments all organically and see hardly any improvement in the lawn sometimes.
J: It’s a 50-50 mix then.
K: K: You almost need to use synthetics at the beginning to get it going, to get you into a place where the lawn is really almost perfect. And then you can transition over to organics. And that seems to be the most effective way of doing it.
C: Interesting. Now would you say most people would go into landscaping with your degree, or do they do something different?
K: Most people I went to school with go into the golf course industry, or athletic field maintenance. So, I took an internship with a landscape company senior year, and I liked it, and so I kind of decided to keep going.
C: Didn’t want to do the golf course thing, huh?
K: Not so much. Golf course people can be pretty uppity, and hard to please, and it’s a pretty stressful job. A lot of my professors were golf course superintendents and –
C: They decided to teach instead.
K: It’s hard to keep those guys happy. They pay a lot of money to go out there and
C: And I’m sure if you’re in a public course that’s probably a lot less stress than one of these high-end country clubs.
K: Sure, sure. But then there’s budget constraints if you’re working on a municipal course. You’re only working with a certain amount of money, and you still have to keep people happy. So, there is a big turnover rate with superintendents in that respect.
K: And they probably do as much work as a business owner, to be honest with you. They really put in a lot of hours, and it’s a labor of love. The people who really do it really have to love doing it.
C: Nice. So now, as the expert in the room--
J: Who you?
C: No, not me.
J: Oh, okay.
C: Jeff. No Kevin, Kevin. [laughter] You’ll see the promo, you’ll understand later. So, a homeowner that’s listening says “you know what, I can’t really afford to hire somebody to take care of my lawn and get it the way I want it to.” What are a few things that they could do on their own, to at least see some sort of an improvement? Obviously, it’s not going to be at the level of what you can do, but what can they do to get started?
K: Okay, so, there’s a few things that I think a lot of homeowners do wrong that can make a big impact on the quality of your lawn. The biggest thing is mowing.
K: Mow your lawn frequently and mow it properly. What I mean is in the springtime if your lawn’s grown 6 inches a week, and you’re only mowing it once a week, and you’re going out and you’re hacking off half of the length of the blade of grass—
J: That puts stress on the grass.
K: Yeah, and you’re leaving clippings all over the place, and you just have a mess. So, the best way to mow is to follow the one third rule. So basically, you don’t want to remove more than one third of the leaf blade at a time. So, say you’re mowing your lawn at three inches, a third of three is going to be one inch, right? So, you want to cut it every time it gets to four inches. And you just want to take a little bit off every time, and that’s going to ease the stress. ‘Cause imagine if you took yourself and just cut it completely in half. It’s going to be much more stressful than if you take a little bit off here and there.
C: I’ll take your word for it, but yeah.
K: So that’s a big thing, and then bagging—
C: Get right into that.
K: Right into bagging your clippings. So, it can be kind of a misconception. There’s a school of thought that you should always return your clippings into the lawn when you’re mowing.
C: Yeah, I’ve heard that.
K: That you shouldn’t bag them and take them off. And that’s true to an extent, but if you’re the type of person like I just said who is only cutting your lawn once a week in the spring, and when you are, you’re leaving clumps around after, you definitely want to bag it. ‘Cause what’s going to happen is those clumps will not only suffocate the turf that’s underneath them, they also create a really good environment for disease and fungi.
C: No kidding, I didn’t know that. And what do they call that, thatching?
K: Well thatching is more talking about underneath the blade. In between the blade and the soil, there’s a little layer in there that’s considered a thatch later. So, if you go and you pull your blades down, you’re going to see what looks like hay before you see the soil there will be that layer. So, you want to keep that to a minimum as well, because what that’s going to do is it’s going to make it harder for water to penetrate into the soil. It’s going to make it harder for fertilizers to get down in there. They’re going to get stuck in that thatch layer. So, you’re going to want to control that.
C: Now what about a mulching blade on your mower? Is that better?
K: Yeah, it’s certainly better.
J: I mulch, but I have a bag too.
C: See I won’t bag, because mine gets clogged all of the time. It drives me nuts.
J: Oh, frickin’ stop and just unclog it.
C: Yeah like every 5 seconds, I’m down there on the grass, ripping it out.
J: Dude, that’s our exercise.
C: No, no, no.
J: Yeah, bend over, pick it up, shake it, spread it a little. You’re not on a sit-down lawnmower, are you?
C: Of course I am.
J: P***y. [laughter] God.
C: Do you know how old I am?
J: I’m older than you! I do a push mower. So the wheels move, that’s great exercise.
K: And it’s better for your lawn to be honest with you. The less weight that you’re using with your machine—
J: See that? Do you hear that?
C: Are you saying I weigh a lot?
J: Fat b@stard! [laughter] Fat b@stard on your lawn mower.
C: Jesus you turned him against me so fast.
J: Drinking your coffee. [laughter] Not me, not me. I got my sweatband on, [laughter] I’m freaking working it.
C: Oh boy.
K: That goes into another point. If you’re mowing and using a heavy lawn tractor or something, you want to change the pattern that you’re mowing, you don’t want to go over it the same direction every time. Because you’re going to start creating compactions, so you want to switch up your pattern, and that’s important.
C: I’ve got straight back and forth, and then the other way, and the diagonal. I just keep rotating it every week.
K: Yep, yep.
J: Oh, you’re such a good boy.
C: See that, see? And I’m sitting down.
J: Yeah! And you’re sitting down.
C: And I’m sitting down.
J: “Oh hon, I’m exhausted from cutting my lawn on my tractor. Aaah.”
C: You know what’s funny? When we first moved into my house – you’ve seen my lawn, it’s a good big-sized lawn to mow, push and everything else – so I wanted to get a tractor. And she said “no, it’s good exercise, I’ll mow it.”
J: Oh, she didn’t do it.
C: Oh, she did. For about three years. And then she was like “I think we should get a tractor.” And I go “no it’s great exercise, I don’t think we need a tractor.” As soon as we got one, I took over.
K: She was cutting it exclusively for the first three years?
C: Just her, yeah. Because she wanted to use the push lawn mower, because it was great exercise. About three years later, not so much.
J: Well mine’s not push. I gotta motor.
C: Oh, stop it.
K: It’s self-propelled.
J: It helps going up the hill. [motor sounds] Up the hill, up the hill asshole. I’m telling ya.
C: Oh please, Mr. Exercise.
J: Yeah, well when I’m going up the hill, I could use a little help. I’m 58 years old, shut up!
C: I use a car to get around too, so yeah.
J: Oh my god. [laughter] Oh my god.
C: Anyway [laughter]
J: Do you get stung by bees a lot?
K: A couple times a year.
C: No, really?
K: Knock on wood. I haven’t gotten it too bad, but it happens.
C: Have you ever hit a full nest?
K: Yep, yep. You just kinda
C: Run quick.
C: Was there a pool nearby?
K: Nope, no pool nearby. But yea, I got Lyme disease a couple years ago too. That was terrible. That was bad. So that worries me a bit.
J: So, it’s still in your system now.
K: Right, it never leaves. Right.
J: I think some people just get it and some people just don’t get it. And I’m knocking on wood. I’m like wow, I’m in the thick of it all, and that’s never happened, as far as I know.
C: I had it once. Many years ago. So I’ve been fortunate it hasn’t come back.
J: Do you get flare ups?
K: No, I haven’t, no.
K: Knock on wood. But I’m more conscious about things now. Before I got it, I wasn’t too concerned about it. But now if I think I’m in an area, I’ll wear long sleeves.
C: Yeah, smart.
K: And all that kind of stuff. Yeah it was bad.
C: It’s no fun.
K: Yeah it was no fun. I never felt sick like that before. But those are the elements. You’re dealing with sun, you’re dealing with hot days. There’re definitely some physical elements involved with it.
C: My good friend who I grew up with who started a landscaping company years ago, his son is running it now, the sad story of it is that a few years ago, for some reason, he went and got a checkup and the doctor saw a freckle on his calf. And he said, “you should get that checked out.” It was almost nothing, but the doctor caught it. Took a chunk out and he had melanoma. Well sure as shit he’s got it again, really bad. He’s on chemo running through his body. He’s got lymphoma, melanoma, stuff like that. And that’s from the sun.
K: I’m guilty of that too. You’re in a rush, you’re in the sun, and you’re not always thinking about taking care of yourself.
J: It’s a thing you gotta do. You can’t do nothing for nobody if you can’t take care of yourself.
C: True. But you know in our line of work we don’t always take as many precautions as we need to.
J: In this day and age – I was putting a subfloor down today. I got my safety glasses on, I got my ear protection on. I got guys in there using the cutaway saws.
C: Yeah, those things are loud.
J: With nothing on their ears. And they’re like “Whaa? Huh? Hmm?” [laughter] It’s terrible, it’s awful.
K: I’m that way, but I’m gonna be turning 30 this year so I gotta start looking after myself. Earplugs, sunglasses, you know.
J: Behind the Stars after 10 years, we’re gonna have Kevin back on the show. Kevin’s got glasses on [mimicking] “It’s nice to see you.” He’s all twisted up “my Lyme disease just kicked in.”
C: Wow you paint such a nice picture of it.
J: [mimicking] “I’ve got a lot of guys working for me now. I sit in my office like Stephen Hawking.” [laughter]
K: Hey man it’s a possibility I suppose.
J: Just take care of yourself man, we need you bro.
K: You work in an office and you get carpal tunnel. It’s something somewhere. The grass is always greener on the other side. I look at it more seeing the benefits of being able to spend my time outside.
J: I know two people, two widows, I worked on their houses. Both of their husbands dropped dead on their lawnmowers, sitting on their tractor. [mimicking] “Get of the tractor, asshole. Get up and start pushing!” She came out there and [grunts].
C: [laughter] That wouldn’t be so bad. I’d be ok with that.
K: A lot of people really like cutting their lawns.
C: I do, I actually do.
J: I do to. I think it’s very therapeutic; you clear your head, your good to go. You’re clearing your head all day when you’re out there. But if you’re doing what you love, then that’s great.
C: So, back to more informative information.
K: Oh, the mulching blades. So, they work, but the big thing is once you’re done mowing, take a step back and look. You don’t want to be able to see any clippings. If you can see some clippings, then you gotta bag it or go over it twice. If you’ve done it once and there are a couple clippings out there, go and cut it again. But the big thing with the mulching blades is just to reduce the size of the clippings, but that can all be told just by visual appearance. You’ll know if you should do that or not.
C: I use the backpack blower after I’m done mowing to blow the clippings around.
K: That’s something I do quite a bit too because it takes longer to bag a lawn, so I have a certain amount of lawns that we cut and sometimes it’s quicker to go just over it twice. And then if there are some spots with some clumps you take the blower and blow the clippings away and to me that’s a quicker way of doing it. So that’s an option too if you do have a leaf blower you can do that as well.
J: What’s the grass my neighbors have – it turns brown in the winter but when it comes up it’s beautifully green, it’s thick, it’s almost like golfing green.
J: No! It’s not, it’s beautiful!
K: That’s a Zoysia grass more often than not, up here that’s gonna be a Zoysia grass.
C: Is that what you’ve got in my yard?
K: No, that’s a bentgrass which is similar but not the same thing. Zoysia is a warm season grass, so it thrives in hotter environments. That’s what they grow down south.
J: It’s really thick; it’s got a good body to it.
K: Yup, yup, it’s like a carpet. If you look at the roots, the roots are almost like wire. They’re very tough, and it allows them to withstand drought, high temperatures, so you will see them around here. Some people prefer to use them up north because they don’t get the burnout that occurs with a cool season grass in July and August. It’ll look great then, but it also doesn’t green up until about June and then it goes dormant in October, so you really have like a 6-month window that your lawn is looking green. The other thing is that it’s so pervasive that it’s really hard to get rid of. Once you’ve planted it and it’s established, it spreads like mad. It spreads a foot, maybe 18 inches into the soil. So to get rid of it you have to excavate about 20 inches of soil to really have gotten it out.
K: Yup, that’s Zoysia. St. Augustine is another warm season, Centipede is another warm season.
C: Quackgrass? [laughter, quacking noises]
K: [laughter] Well those are also, crabgrass and quackgrass also warm season. As you can tell, they also thrive in July when it’s really hot.
J: Did you find out the difference between the quack and the crab?
C: Well it says that crabgrass is a warm season annual grass, while quackgrass is a cold season perennial.
J: I really don’t know what that means.
K: Well the warm season is just like the Zoysia we just talked about. A cool season perennial would be like any variety of lawn grown around here like ryegrass or bluegrass. Most of the plants around here are obviously cool season because that’s the environment we live. The warm season stuff is mainly introduced with the exception of crabgrass and a couple other thing that only come up during a short period of the year when it is hot. But there are also anatomical differences between crabgrass and quackgrass and there are a lot of these varieties that are within the same family that to the blind eye they might look the same but if you get up to them the leaf blade might have a different pattern on them, they might be curled a different way, they might be purple on the stem.
J: And the homeowner doesn’t even give a crap, just get rid of it.
C: But it’s got a nice little shade of purple.
J: [mimicking] Get rid of it.
K: I was just thinking about the other improvements that people could make that we started out with. There’s a lot of good information online these days. If you’re a homeowner that’s really interested in your lawn and you want to dig in and do it yourself there’s a ton of channels on YouTube. The guys go really in depth on this stuff and they make it really easy for residential people to understand it. There’s a lot of good information on YouTube – I’ll give one: The Lawn Care Nut. Check out The Lawn Care Nut and then that’ll lead you down another rabbit hole to all sorts of stuff. There’s a lot of information out there now and it’s not as hard as people think. You can do it yourself, it’s not foolproof.
C: It’s a lot of work though.
K: It’s a bit of work and you have to have a little bit of knowledge and timing is important. You can screw it up but it’s doable. I would start with organics. If you want to try to do it on your own start with organic fertilizers cause you’re not gonna over-apply them and end up killing anything.
J: Horse manure?
K: Sure, sure. You could use manure. You want it to be composted though.
J: You don’t throw a whole freaking cow flap on there. Or horse flap.
K: It’s gotta be matured, composted.
J: [splatting sound] “What happened? Why’s my lawn dead?”
K: Yeah that’s one of the best things you can do for your lawn is put compost on it.
C: And that’s the iron in it?
K: It has iron, but it also feeds your soil. And that’s really the difference between the organics and the synthetics. The organics are feeding the soil and the soil in return is feeding the plant. Whereas the synthetic fertilizer is basically going straight into the plant. So, compost is really good because it’s gonna help develop your soil. And if you have better soil your grass is gonna be able to withstand stresses better. And once they’re on a strong synthetic program, if you don’t stay on it things can turn quick. In the summer months once drought kicks in they really struggle if you don’t have supplemental irrigation. So, I would say organics is kind of a steadier path where you might not have the peaks and valleys that you do with synthetics and you might not reach the exact level that a synthetic would be, but it’s much more even keel across the board. That’s how plants work in nature.
C: And, would you say, don’t expect results overnight?
K: Definitely not overnight. That’s another thing with the organic fertilizers is that they take a few weeks to even green up the lawn.
J: Like steroids.
K: Exactly, that’s a good way of thinking about it; a bodybuilder on steroids versus a natural bodybuilder.
C: What do you know about bat shit? [laughter]
K: It works.
J: It works really good.
K: It works, sure.
C: You could also call somebody bat shit crazy.
J: I have a friend, he has a theater up in upstate New York, in Stony Point, Penguin Repertory Theatre. It was a barn and now they made it into a theater. Great place to go see a show; sits 60 people. Well when they were renovating it, it was filled with bats. And the neighbors said “Oh my god! You gotta take the bat guano and spread it on your lawn. You’ll have a great, green lawn.” Well they took all of it and they spread it on their lawn. And you know what? Greenest. Lawn. Ever. One problem: they had bats all along their house, on their screens, everywhere. Because it had all the bat testosterone. And the guy was like “No no no, you just want to sprinkle a little bit, not like piles of it.” The guy had bats on his screens, flying all over his house.
C: [laughter] But a nice lawn.
J: Beautiful lawn!
K: “My lawn is so green.”
C: Just have to put up with a few bats.
J: Right! I wouldn’t care; I’d have no mosquitos either. No bugs.
K: That’s great that he was able to just take the raw product and throw it out there.
J: That’s what he did! You don’t want to breed that stuff. That nearly killed Bob Dylan, remember that? He had bats up in his attic and he was scraping their shit off and he nearly died.
C: [laughter] I never heard that story.
J: You never knew that?
K: Bob Dylan was scraping their shit off of his house?
C: Was this before he was popular or something?
J: [imitating Bob Dylan singing] “I’m up in the attic. It smells like bat shit.” [laughter]
K: Any sort of manure is high in nitrogen.
C: Woah woah woah. Easy on that. Any kind of manure? You’re right, but you can’t put chicken shit on your lawn cause it’s too acidic. Or it’s too potent.
K: No, certainly can.
C: I heard it’ll burn your lawn. If you put it in garden and you’re trying to pop up onions boom they’ll pop right out of the ground with chicken shit.
K: Well, sure. Maybe you can get some that’s super strength or something.
C: Which is fine.
C: Okay well that’s another misnomer, then.
K: Again, you don’t want to be putting raw chicken shit on the lawn; you want to get a product that’s been matured, and it’s kind of a tried-and-true, and it’s a composted chicken shit.
J: Pig is good, too. Pig is good, pig is very good. Dogs like pig shit.
C: Do they?
K: I’ve never seen pig shit sold. Bat, turkey, cow, horse, rabbit, people.
J: No! Stop!
K: From Milwaukee.
J: From Milwaukee?
K: From Milwaukee. Great product. [laughter] That’s the one! If you’re a homeowner and you want to start doing some stuff to your lawn go to Home Depot and buy a few bags of Milorganite. Milorganite is 100% processed human feces from Milwaukee.
C: From Milwaukee.
J: From Milwaukee! [laughter] “Hey you’re from Milwaukee! Man, you guys make a lot of money out there, eh?”
K: It’s good, it works good, it’s effective.
J: Only in Milwaukee, though.
C: No, you can bring Milwaukee to your house.
K: Maybe you can only make it there or something? I don’t know why they make it there.
J: What do they have? [laughter] They have stalls all lined up. [imitating conversation] “How was your net last night?” “We made chili; we’re gonna have a good product today. A lot of producing today, I tell ya.”
K: I should say that a real organic nut would say that you shouldn’t use human feces because of the metals that are in it, think of all the medications that people take. And that ends up getting into the soil and it doesn’t really go anywhere it just stays in the soil. That’s the downfall that a real organic person would say you shouldn’t do that. It’s quite effective, it’s quite effective.
C: So, what about horror stories, you got any horror stories?
K: I really don’t. I wish I did.
C: No, you don’t. We got way too many of them and we don’t want to have any more of them ourselves.
K: My biggest thing this year has been equipment issues. Nothing really worth telling a story. But I have my hands on everything, you know. I don’t have a bunch of guys out.
J: Here’s a good question: since you’re a landscaper, what are the best tools that you use? What do you like to use?
C: Like brand and everything else.
J: When you go to the dump you always see Toro weedwhackers right there at the metal section. People are dropping off Toros all the time. [laughter]
K: When it comes to mowers, the motor, you want a good motor. You don’t want to have a cheap motor. I like to tell people that whatever the best buy that you can get at the time.
C: What do you use?
K: I use a Scag which are popular, they’re probably the top of the line.
K: Yeah, but I use an old one. It’s an old machine but it’s got a good motor on it. I wouldn’t be too caught up in the brands. Get something that you can get a good buy on. And do some research on them.
C: What kind of weedwhacker do you use?
K: I use a Stihl.
J: That’s what everybody uses. I never see those broken down, I never see those at the dump. Ever.
K: For homeowners, the ECHO stuff is good.
C: That’s what I have for the backpack blower.
K: And Home Depot carries a lot of that stuff. If you’re local there’s a really good company called Vance Power Equipment. And they have a whole bunch of ECHO stuff. So if you’re a homeowner I would recommend going in to upgrade your equipment a little bit. You can get something that’s comparable to a commercial level but at a pretty good price point.
J: I think mine was around $700 or something like that.
K: You’ve got the good one. You can get one that will probably do the job just fine for $300. It might take a little more time, not as powerful.
C: The guy saw me coming and I said, “Which one should I get?” and he said, “You get the best one you can afford. Have you ever heard anybody complain that it blows too much, that it’s too strong?” and I said “No.” he says, “then buy it.” So, I bought it. And it does, it definitely moves stuff around.
J: You got the ECHO? I got the ECHO, too. That stuff is awesome.
K: I would recommend that for homeowners. It’s good quality and at a good price point. You could spend $20000 on a lawnmower easily these days. So, it’s where are you at, what do you want to get out of it. The equipment can be quite expensive. They make diesel motors for mowers, the bagging system to collect the clippings can be $4000 just to add the on. The base machine is probably 16 or 17 grand for some of the top of the line ones.
J: You add the trailer to bring it all around. There’s definitely a cost upfront.
K: That’s kinda my nightmarish stories, none of them were really nightmarish. Equipment hang ups and that kind of thing can set you back and be pretty annoying.
J: Not running over peoples’ pets or stuff like that? That would suck. “Has anybody seen my guinea pig?” bloop [laughter]
K: That kind of stuff happens unfortunately. Not pets but rabbits and stuff. I’ve seen it happen before. That’ll ruin your day real quick. You think you’re a real tough guy until you run over a little bunny rabbit. You come to terms with your soft side real quick.
C: Well alright, Kevin, thank you very much for coming back in. We really appreciate it, we learned a lot again. Hopefully the audio came out good on this episode, so people can actually hear it.
K: I hope so.
C: Come back and join us sometime.
K: Thank you for having me. If you want to check out our company you can check us out on Facebook, Rooted Lawn and Landscape. If you want to give us a call the number is (860)908-4740. We’ll be happy to help anybody out. We serve most of New London county, a lot of the shoreline area. Down to about Old Lyme. Old Saybrook and Essex are off limits, but from Old Lyme to Westerly all along the shoreline. Thank you guys for having me.
C: Jimmy do you want to take any calls today?
J: I will as soon as soon as the show is over. [laughter]
C: Alright everybody thanks a lot for joining us, we’ll see you all next week.
J: A representative from Toro was on the other line. [laughter]
C: See ya.