Turf sales at all time high
According to Chris Carr the industry has seen a tremendous change in buying patterns this year. Instead of despatch volumes peaking in May and then gradually reducing through to the winter months, as has been the norm in recent years; this summer was noticeably busier than last and volume sales are picking up again.
Chris's theories on the reasons for Q Lawns success this year are threefold.
Firstly: increased product awareness and demand. The average consumer sees a gardening program on the telly, looks out of the window, compares lawns, finds his sorely lacking and rather than initiate a treatment program, he has the whole lawn replaced with new turf. More and more people out there are becoming aware of their gardens as an outdoor extension to their homes, but they don't have the time, the patience or the skill to use traditional gardening techniques, instead they go for the instant option - turf. Added to this, the number of new homes being built (and landscaped) is still as high as ever.
Secondly: A general shift in the market towards higher quality turf. Consumers are more careful with their money, they shop around, comparing and contrasting different products. The Internet makes research extremely easy and of course most of us are willing to travel quite a distance to obtain the best possible value for money. Nowadays, people tend to buy the best they can afford when trying to improve their surroundings.
Thirdly: Q Lawns are very flexible. Situated in one of the best places in the country to cope with extreme weather conditions. The area is relatively well drained and although part of the crop was under water in the early part of the year, the majority of their turf was unaffected by the wet winter and spring. Additionally, Q Lawns have the means to irrigate when necessary and so have continued harvesting and despatching turf throughout the dry season. "Customers have been able to clear the backlog of work which built up when the ground was too wet to work with by working through the summer months. As long as the newly laid turf can be watered, our product can be installed at any time of the year.
When daytime temperatures were at extreme heights, the harvesting teams worked at night to make sure turf was as fresh as possible for customers to install the next day. For optimum results, rolled turf should be kept as cool as possible says Carr, otherwise it tends to discolour and heat up in the roll.
Flexibility comes at a price though. For three months now seven diesel fuelled irrigation units have been running almost every night, just to ensure that Q Lawns' customers receive the high quality product they have come to take for granted. "Irrigation has had quite an impact on production costs this year" says Carr "we are lucky that we can be so adaptable, but a change in the weather would certainly be very welcome"
Looking ahead to next year; coming into the winter months with such dry conditions is worrying for all turf growers. Developing turf crops that were expected to mature in time for dispatch next year are currently under quite a lot of stress from the dry conditions. "Speaking purely from Q Lawns' perspective" says Carr, "it is simply not practical to irrigate a turf crop throughout its entire development. The concern is that the grass plants will enter their winter dormancy period before they have had a chance to recover from the drought. As a result, quality turf could well be in short supply next year."
The Turfgrass Growers Association will be carrying out a survey this winter to discover more about current and projected stocks of quality turf in the UK.