Lawn care services feeling positive and negative effects from drought

Sunday, July 15, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
With the drought this summer, lawncare companies have seen the need for mowing decrease but are getting more requests to replace dead trees and shrubs.

COLUMBIA — Not just plants, shrubs and grass are shriveling in the grueling heat and drought plaguing much of the Midwest this summer.

Lawn service companies — especially if their focus is mowing — are not exactly thriving.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that nearly 83 percent of Missouri — including Boone County — is in severe drought.

That's meant a huge decline in mowing services but has turned several larger Columbia lawn care providers into undertakers as they work to remove and replace dead plants and bushes.

"I’ve been in the business since 2003, and this is by far the worst (drought) I’ve ever seen," said Ben McVey owner of McVey Mowing.

He said the dry weather has cut his business in half this summer.

During normal conditions, McVey provides a weekly mowing service for approximately 60 accounts, but this summer he’s only been able to mow every three weeks, at best, for the majority of those customers.

"I think (the drought) hurt the industry in general," he said. "Once people saw their first or second water bill they just turned the sprinklers off."

George Young, owner of My Three Sons Mowing, said he has also felt the negative effects of the drought. He offers mowing and landscaping services, but about half of his 40 accounts have only required mowing services once a month because they're not irrigating.

"Normally, we run a seven- or ten-day mow cycle, but we’ve had to push those back," he said.

Meanwhile, the larger lawn care businesses have been busy with landscaping and irrigation services. Those with commercial clients are still mowing, though not as much.

Casey Henage, owner of Grizzly Bear Lawn Care, said his mowing business has dropped off some while requests for removal and replacement of dead plant material have increased.

Other providers, such as Atkins Pest Control, which does lawn maintenance as well as irrigation and pest control, said that delivering additional services has actually increased business during the drought, said Emily Thoroughman, senior vice president.

"We have had quite an increase in sprinkler system installations," she said. "It’s hot and dry, and there’s no way around it."

Water use in Columbia peaked earlier in the summer than usual, said Connie Kacprowicz, utility services specialist for Columbia Water and Light. August is generally the month when water use peaks for the summer.

She said the peak for July so far was 23.6 million gallons of water pumped into the treatment facility on July 2.

"Water use has been pretty steady," she said. "My assumption is that it’s due to automatic irrigation systems. Just driving around town you can see the people who do and don’t irrigate."

And there's always the fall and recovery.

"We also expect to have a lot of requests for (grass) reseeding," Henage said.

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Corey Parks July 15, 2012 | 6:53 p.m.

At least they seen it coming. The drought started last year and was predicted to last for a while. I am sure this slow down of work plus the loss of income from snow removal last winter is really hurting them. Some of us might be able to pick up some nice equipment going up for sale as the year goes on.

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