Dry summer a double whammy for lawn care businesses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sprinklers are the only way Kansas City-area lawns are looking lush these days. Derek Smith is missing green, too -- from his pockets.

"I haven't taken a paycheck home this year yet. Haven't paid myself a dime this whole year," he said.

Smith is the owner and sole employee of Derek's Lawn Care. He is usually busy working from 6:30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

"Today I was finished mowing at 9:30 this morning," Smith said.

Most of his 25 lawns in the Northland are brown and have stopped growing. It's another disappointing season after almost no business removing snow this winter.

"The 3-and-a-half inches that we ended up getting was just a baseball bat in the back of the head," Smith said.

He said the lack of snow cost him $15,000.

The drought comes at a particularly bad time for Smith because in December he spent $100,000 on a new truck and custom-built hydraulic lift system for his trailer.

"It certainly doesn't pay the bills when you're getting home before lunch," he said.

Despite his difficulties, Smith plans to spend an additional $20,000 on snow removal equipment to grow that part of his business. He said that will allow him to take on more customers.

For those trying to keep their yards green, gardening expert Toby Tobin said most lawns need no more than two inches of water per week.

With blue Grass, Tobin recommends watering every two to three days. For fescue, water every three to four days.

Even after a lawn goes dormant, Tobin said it should be watered once every three weeks with half an inch. He said that will leave the lawn hydrated enough to return later.

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