“We’re doing the same amount of work and probably spending an extra 15 or 20 percent in man hours to get the work done because of the weather,” said Andrew Santa, the owner of A Cut Above Lawn Service. “It definitely is cutting into our gross profit.”
Monthly rainfall counts have set local records this summer, plaguing groundskeepers trying to find a dry day to maintain yards that thrive in a wet environment.
“We’ve been days behind on doing properties,” said Santa, whose crews service lawns across metro Augusta. “We don’t normally work weekends, but we’ve got to work a lot of weekends in order to get caught up.”
As drier conditions have prevailed in recent weeks, Santa said he and his team of eight employees are beginning to return to a normal routine – working an average of 25 to 30 lawns a day.
For most landscapers, summer is their most lucrative time of the year, but for Millie Goodwin, what typically are her busiest months – from June to August – coincided with the wettest weather and a downturn in profit.
“I would say my summer has been cut to one-fourth of what it usually is,” said Goodwin, who owns Lawn Master.
Even on days when rain didn’t fall, the ground often remained too saturated with water for work to commence. Many workers didn’t want to risk ruining equipment, like Goodwin’s $17,000 riding lawn mower, or destroying lawns in soggy yards, Goodwin said.
Goodwin said she’s also had to hire more part-time workers to make up for lost work and longer hours because of the rainy weather, causing her payroll to increase. Her pressure-washing business has suffered as well, though not as badly as the lawn care company, she said.
“It’s just been tough,” Goodwin said. “It makes me feel like I want to retire. I’ve been in business since ’88. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Scheduling posed the biggest weather-related issue for Green Keeper Landscaping Inc., said office manager and vice president Tamara Davis.
“The positive end is it has been cooler,” she said. “It hasn’t been as hot but it’s very hard to work a schedule. We try to get to everybody as quickly as we can but once the next week starts, your schedule starts back over.”
In addition, workers ran into trouble spraying lawn-treatment chemicals without the rain washing them away, Davis said.
The family-run company has three crews that work about 70 commercial and residential properties, mainly in Richmond and Columbia counties.
Because lawns stayed soaked, groundsmen often opted for push mowers instead of riding ones, which takes more time per property and ends up costing Davis more money to pay workers.
“There’s no one to blame,” she said. “It’s just what it is. We just have to show each other mercy and grace, because it’s something that’s beyond our control.”
Though the response from local lawn care workers to the wet summer was predominately negative, a couple in the business said they didn’t notice much of a difference when compared to previous summers.
Willie Moore, of Moore for Less Lawn Service, said this summer was about on par with last year, and maintenance of his 40 commercial and residential lawns was not affected.
“Rain doesn’t stop me,” he said. “Rain or shine, I work.”