In the mid 90s, I bought a property, bordered by a small lake. And of course, like any owner, I wanted to enhance the beauty and value of the house and the landscape around it. Unfortunately, the lawn was in a very bad state. A well-informed neighbor warned me about the by-law prohibiting the use of chemical fertilizers, so he suggested that I use compost, which is considered a soil improvement solution. After some research on the matter, I proceeded to aerate and reseed the soil, and then I spread a full trailer of compost on the lawn with a shovel.
The outcome was simply spectacular! My lawn was green and very dense after three weeks. After these fantastic results, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to learn more about the virtues of top dressing, which consists of spreading a layer of compost all over the lawn. I found out that this method led to many other benefits that we usually do not find with traditional methods of lawn care. In fact, top dressing will supply a lawn with its annual fertilization requirements. Furthermore, compost improves the structure of the soil, increases its water retention, stimulates microbial activity and neutralizes the pH. Finally, compost prevents several diseases and protects the lawn from harmful insects and the presence of weeds.
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My neighbors were so amazed by the results that they asked me to apply the same treatment on their lawn. This is when I realized that there was a real need for this kind of service and that there were no such services in the area or even the state. Grass is the most important element in landscaping and I realized that people wanted a nice lawn and wanted to be able to enjoy it in a natural way and without harming the environment.
Paying attention to people’s needs and wanting to satisfy my own desire to innovate inspired me to establish my own company, which I did the following year, and named it Ecolawn. I performed about twenty top dressings during the summertime. My customers were mainly environmentally conscious citizens, municipalities and enterprises who wanted to make a difference by being environmentally responsible.
In the beginning, my main task was top dressing using only a shovel. I soon realized how strenuous this was and how difficult it would be to maintain in the long-term. In order to perform top dressings in a profitable and professional manner, I needed to find the proper equipment that would perform effectively and efficiently. After intensive research, I found out that this kind of equipment simply did not exist. There were, of course, industrial machines built especially to work on large playing fields but none specifically for landscapers who work in smaller residential areas.
After much struggling with only a shovel, I decided to design a prototype machine to increase the ease and efficiency of which top dressing is applied. With no formal training in mechanical design, I relied on will power and little help from some friends to achieve my goal. My goal was to create a simple and reliable machine that would be easy to use, a machine that would spread compost on large surfaces as well as in hard to reach places.
After trial and error, I finally came up with a machine design that worked perfectly for the tasks I had in mind. At last, this design became reality: the Ecolawn Applicator. With my applicator, I was able to top dress 10 000 sq. ft of land all by myself in less than an hour!
During the time I was designing and building my machine, I attended many seminars and workshops and took specialized courses relating to the topic of ecological land care. Through my research, I discovered that a combination of different cultural methods would help me in ensuring satisfactory results for my customers.
The services I offer to my customers include: providing information and giving advice on how to proceed. I go over the pesticide and chemical fertilizer elimination process. I have established an eco-horticultural calendar schedule and I use the Web to spread the information and make it accessible to everyone.
A rich soil, appropriate conditions and the right plants are the basis of sound agronomics.
As an example of the services I provide and of what can be achieved using the Ecolawn applicator; here is a typical case: in some areas, where the conditions are not good, it is difficult to grow a nice green and dense lawn. In that case, in order to eliminate the pesticides, I have to go to the heart of the problem and start from scratch. I use wild thyme as a ground cover on sandy slopes that are exposed to the sun, periwinkle on shadowed area with an acid soil, and dwarf clover on a lawn covering a poor soil, etc.
When I started back in 1994, my peers in this line of business considered me marginal. Today, I help companies provide ecofriendly services in the same way I helped my very first customers, by giving them lots of information and references. I encourage them to follow the same successful path I took.
As a reminder to landscapers looking for business opportunities, let me just add this: In North America, there are more than 160 million acres of lawn. Changing times mean that there are restrictions on the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation, especially in urban areas. A growing number of customers insist on having ecofriendly lawn care. Are you prepared to meet your customers’ needs?
I simply wanted to share my personal experience with others because I am convinced of the incredible potential and benefits that Ecolawn can offer. Hopefully, the Ecolawn Applicator will make your business more successful and profitable as it has mine.