By Mike Jiggens
By Linda Beattie
Whether it’s running every morning to train for a marathon or earning a degree to land a dream job, everyone takes steps to work toward a greater goal. The same is true for landscape business owners looking to grow their business. One way to accomplish this is by investing in equipment, like an overseeder, to expand services and increase profits.
While herbicides and fertilizer provide a steady annual stream for revenue, overseeding offers the opportunity to supplement income with a new service offering while building a happy and satisfied customer base. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to refresh the turf by covering bare spots and improving the turf’s colour and thickness. Not only that, but overseeding helps prevent the spread of weeds, diseases and insects by incorporating new seeds with greater resistance, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizer. With so many benefits and such broad market appeal, opportunities for additional revenues are endless.
An easy ROI
While expanding into overseeding may require an initial equipment investment, it quickly pays dividends. The cost to overseed a lawn varies by region, but let’s say on average, landscapers charge $0.29 per square foot to overseed. If the average lawn is 900 square feet, figuring conservatively, a landscaper will complete eight lawns a day and make a profit of $100 per lawn after subtracting other expenses, such as seed and labour. With overseeders ranging in price from $1,500 for a low-end machine to around $4,000 or more for a professional grade machine, this quickly covers the initial equipment cost of a professional grade machine after about 40 projects, or five days of work.
However, remember to consider the total cost of ownership and not just the purchase price when selecting an overseeder. For long-term profits, a professional grade machine offers added features to reduce maintenance and increase productivity. Also, keep in mind that you can’t put a price on comfort, which directly impacts productivity, so make sure to invest in a unit that is easy to operate and easy on operators. This helps get more work done in the same amount of time — directly improving the bottom line.
The potential market for overseeding is significant. Overseeding is an ideal solution for old and tired lawns. It also supplements herbicide treatment in a weedy lawn. Apply the herbicide, allow the weeds to die and follow up with overseeding to establish a thick matt and prevent the reoccurrence of weeds. Overseeding also has potential in new lawns that were seeded but did not establish as well as an owner had wished. The overseeding process offers property owners the opportunity to establish a thicker, healthier lawn without the need to start from scratch. But don’t stop at residential and commercial properties. Overseeding is a great method to fill in existing turf or refresh park grass. Overseeding also opens the door for additional services, such as aeration and power raking, both services that supplement and enhance overseeding. The key is identifying the customer and knowing when and how to complete the process.
Get the green light and go
Selling an overseeding job starts with timing. It’s crucial to overseed during the right season for optimal results. This means knowing the region and weather conditions and choosing spring or late summer/early fall when the soil and temperature is best suited for germination. The seed type and location determine the best time for success. Also consider the weather. Avoid any weather extremes including high temperatures, drought, cold weather and excessive rain. For best results, seek a weather time that offers ideal temperatures and moist conditions for germination.
Timing is critical, but it isn’t the only factor for success. Make sure the yard is ideally suited for seeding by mowing it short beforehand. This allows the seeds to reach the soil rather than landing in the grass. Tackling this first contributes to a successful overseeding project, as well as opens the door for more projects and potential profits.
If the conditions are right, the prep work is done and expectations are set, it’s up to the overseeding equipment to deliver on quality results.
Equipped for green
Cultivating a green turf leads to more green in pocket. A key factor in achieving this is having an overseeder built with features that maximize success.
Start by looking at the seed box. If the seed box is too low, moisture on the grass may cause seed in the hopper to clog the opening. A floating seed box enhances quality by ensuring that no matter how uneven or bumpy the terrain, seeds are planted at a consistent and optimal depth. When seeding on hills, an overseeder that allows for locking in place at multiple depths is ideal. Check the tires, too, as turf tread floatation tires offer stability on hills, reduced soil compaction and zero tire ruts. It’s also important for the overseeder to have a tight blade placement for providing the best seed coverage. Closely placed blades result in a thicker turf because there’s increased opportunity for the new seed to reach the topsoil.
Quality shouldn’t sacrifice efficiency. Look for a manufacturer that incorporates productivity-enhancing features. A hydrostatic drive, for example, provides variable speed in forward or reverse. With this, operators can adjust their speed for the specific job’s soil conditions. Not only does this allow operators to efficiently work in changing conditions, but also it reduces grueling muscle-work from manually having to push the machine.
For the seed box, select a model with a clear lid in order to immediately detect if the seed is clumping or if the box is empty. This helps reduce wasted time and energy from working without seed in the seed box. Some manufacturers also incorporate a seed dial and an instruction chart on the overseeder that allows operators to set the machine for the desired grass seed type so no seed is wasted.
When it comes to service and maintenance, features that simplify the process lead to a fast ROI. One area to reduce maintenance time is on the blades. This is because some manufacturers design the blades with a cutting edge on both sides for double the service life. Also, look for greasable cast iron bearings on either side of the blade shaft because they last longer than nongreasable cast iron bearings and require minimal maintenance.
Lastly, look for a reputable manufacturer that provides resources, such as educational information, operational manuals and phone support for quick answers to any challenge. For example, some manufacturers have a turf care education section on their website with answers to questions like what problems to correct before overseeding. Reliable support saves on downtime and leaves customers with answers that foster long-lasting results.
Leaving a green thumbprint
A newly overseeded turf doesn’t mean the project is done — at least not for landscapers who want to leave an impact. Equipping customers with the knowledge they need to care for their new lawn is the first line of defence against problems and the best way to establish trust with customers.
It’s important customers follow a watering program for the best results. The first week after overseeding homeowners should maintain moist conditions, but take care not to overwater. This allows new seed to wash into the slits. Some manufacturers provide care tips and offer sample watering programs on their website.
Satisfied customers lead to more projects. Sow the seeds today for maximum ROI tomorrow.
Linda Beattie is the marketing manager for Classen, a registered trademark of Schiller Grounds Care, Inc. Schiller Grounds Care creates and brings to market a broad variety of landscaping, gardening and turf care equipment for residential and commercial use under the brand names of BOB-CAT, Classen, Little Wonder, Mantis, Ryan and Steiner. http://schillergc.com