BEVERLY — There's at least one person who's ready for the summer sunshine to end — Shawn Wear, owner of Shawn's Lawns in Beverly.
Wear grew up in Beverly, and he has been in the landscaping business on the North Shore for 17 years. He employs a crew of four guys, including his son and his nephew, who do everything from mowing and mulching to building patios and walkways.
Wear says this year's dry, hot summer has been one of the worst — both for lawns and for business. He shared some tips with us to keep your grass green and your flowers blooming.
It's been a dry summer. Are people still cutting their grass as often?
No, they're not. We've been fortunate the last few years to have nice, rainy summers. The drought actually started in June, and we started slowing down in June, which is real early. ... There's been a lot of water bans, too. Topsfield, Hamilton, Wenham — they have no outside water at all. These towns have hit me hard. I've had to skip them a lot.
The economy's not helping either. Everyone's seeing cutbacks, and everyone's cutting the landscapers first. ... Looking at the books, it's starting to come back a little bit, but over a three-year trend I haven't had any real growth, and (previously) I've had strong growth the entire time I've been in business.
Is summer usually your busiest time of year?
The spring and fall are our busiest. In the summer, it's mostly mowing, trimming shrubs.
What has it been like working outside in this heat?
You just have to put up with the heat sometimes. You have to drink a lot of water. My guys bring a gallon of water to work with them every day. And it's OK, I tell them, if you start to overheat to sit in the truck with the air conditioning for 10 minutes. I'm not a slave driver. As long as the work gets done, I'm happy.
Have any tips for homeowners with dead grass?
It isn't dead; it just goes dormant. The coolness in September and October will help the lawns, and they will bounce back. ... A lot of people's lawns are dormant or have heat stress, and the best remedy in August or September is to aerate the lawn. ... That pulls plugs out of the grass and lets water, air and nutrients get into the root system.
Set your mower height. ... We usually set it at 3 inches year-round. That's pretty much standard for New England lawns, but we've been doing 31/2 to give the grass a little more shade.
What's your favorite part about your job?
Pretty much the interactions with the customers. I had a new customer just call me and leave a message saying how happy he was with the job. That's the kind of stuff I like.
It's best to water after the sun goes down or before it rises. "Not in the hottest part of the day because that's just a waste of water," says Shawn Wear, owner of Shawn's Lawns. "The water will not only evaporate, but sometimes it creates a boiling effect that does more harm than good."
Wear suggests watering 11/2 to 2 inches each week. He recommends a couple of heavy waterings a week rather than a light one each day. "A lot of people set up their automatic sprinkler systems to water every day, and it just evaporates off the surface."