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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / General Scaper Talk / REPLACEMENT COST$ : Everyone's got'em. How are we reducing them?
Posted:  10 Aug 2011 07:39  
Pre-stressed plant material?  Underpaid, poorly trained technicians?   Troubled installations?  Over-ambitious sales proposals?  Inconsistent pest control programs?
These are some of the roots of the growing REPLACEMENT CO$T money tree interiorscapers face. So,  wether precautionarily, conservitavely, retroactively, or flat out desperately... what are we doing to REDUCE REPLACEMENT COST$?
Posted:  10 Aug 2011 15:37  
We find that our replacement rate has actually gone down over time.  We used to have much more trouble with infested plants coming from the growers, but they seem to have gotten ahead of the problems in recent years, whether that's because of better scouting and control programs, I don't know.

We used to figure on 10% of the inventory's installed cost annually, and usually beat that for most accounts.  First-year accounts tend to vary from the norm moreso than long-term jobs due to lack of actuarial experience with the site until we've done it for a year or so and gone through all the seasonal and other changes of environment and discovered trouble spots (e.g., conference rooms left dark for days on end, etc.).  We're lower than 10% replacments now, and our pesticide application frequency has gone down to near zero.  Whatever the growers (and we) are doing must be right. 

Posted:  10 Aug 2011 15:40  
Buy plants direct from reputable growers if you can.  You have more control.  The term "reputable growers" is shrinking drastically.  Fewer industry sales and lack of sales to customers willing to pay the price for quality grown plants are the biggest culprit.  If buying direct is not an option buy from reputable brokers or local wholesalers and DEMAND quality plants.  Again this is becoming more difficult even for the broker/wholesaler who are allegedly visiting the nurserys.  Morning Dew-John Mendoza, Select Tropicals-Doug Lane, Custom Foliage Service- Mindi and Rick for smaller stuff in the Apoka are quality brokers from Florida.  Horticultural Sales, Inc. - Victor Scott ships Hawaiian & California from California.  Vickery-Texas, Creative Plants-Phoenix, Tri State Foliage-Cincinnati, Burnaby Lake Greenhouse-British Columbia are some wholesalers in large markets.  Most major markets have wholesalers.

Train technicians.  Outsourse some help if needed.  Kathy Fediw has valuable info.  The OFA Shortcourse has industry leaders training the technicians in a classroom setting.  Fewer plant replacements = better pay.

Plan, plan, plan for installs.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

When selling a job under promise, then over deliver.

Pest problems - please refer to the 1st paragraph.  You will eliminate most pest problems with buying quality plants.  Once had a technician whose accounts were nearly pest free.  There was no warning when inspections were occuring.  The secret to her success was her diligence in keeping plants CLEAN.

It all starts with quality, pest free plants.  This is becoming tougher everyday.  Place your technician in a situation they can succeed.  From properly selected plants for the location to patting them on the back when deserving.  Keep supporting those folks.  The replays will go down and profits will go up.
Posted:  10 Aug 2011 17:31  
One of the tactics that may be helping is that the product labels on many newer generation pesticides permit us to apply preventive applications rather than waiting for a pest outbreak to occur.  Kontos is one that specifies preventive use on its label, and the various formulations of Marathon are also labeled for use on production cycles of greenhouse crops in advance of any infestation.  So if you pre-treat susceptible plants prior to installing them, you will avoid them picking up any pests that may already be on the account, thereby breaking the cycle of reinfestation.

Posted:  15 Aug 2011 21:27  
Gee, Marcus, thanks for the nice endorsement! You made my day.

In addition to what's already been mentioned, I find that training techs on how to cut plants back really helps get replacements down.  And my observation is that when plants are serviced on a 2-week cycle they actually do better and replacements go down (although they may spike temporarily during the first month or two of transition.)  I think this is because many techs tend to overwater their plants and going to 2 weeks helps to eliminate that problem.

Thanks so much
Kathy Fediw
Posted:  23 Sep 2011 23:32  
Putting the right plant in the proper location, I know lots of time the client wants that specific plant for a spot plant and so you get a Spath in full sun, Crotons in dark corners, Ficus trees in hard to access areas...

Saucers plenty of moss/top dressing it helps hold the moisture, and you know those old plants that you can prune, add soil to do that.
Posted:  02 Oct 2011 20:31  
Clean, quality plants properly installed will not need preventive spraying.

Properly trained techs will spot any pest problems in very early stages when treatment is easy.

Properly trained techs know when and how much to water whether they are on a one or two week schedule.

Location, location! All sales reps should have had lots of prior maintenance experience and should be held accountable for using species in improper locations. Too often techs take the hit for plants that were improperly located.

Plant under stress are much more susceptible to pathogens. If sales people don't allow for proper light and techs don't know how to irrigate properly, then replacement rates and pest problems will soar.

Buy quality plants even if it means paying more. You'll save money in the long run.

This is not rocket science.
Posted:  07 Oct 2011 02:15  
Very sage advise Will, clean plants will not need chemicals and spraying, just proper light and water and minimum food during growing season for certain varieities
Posted:  07 Oct 2011 15:12  
"Clean plants will not need chemicals and spraying"...until they become infested!  What happens when your fastidiously-maintained plants come down with a "mysterious" case of fungus gnats or mites due to a vector that is out of your control (e.g., supermarket plant brought in by an employee)?  Never say "never".

Posted:  07 Oct 2011 23:42  
You keep spraying those chemicals Clem, the poisons will seep into your brain!
Posted:  08 Oct 2011 15:24  
You'd best be getting back to Zuccotti park now, Lacy...the People United will never be Divided!

Posted:  08 Oct 2011 20:34  
Please read this thread again Clem.  You might learn other methods than the methods of spraying.  Many places you cannot spray anyhow and the advise of others here is very sound.  It seems the only advise you like is your own which is very sad.
Posted:  10 Oct 2011 03:50  
YOU might want to read ALL of the other threads on this forum and others to find out what my "advise" has been over the long haul instead of trying to pick a fight with me here.  I don't know what the point of your nitpicking is, but obviously it's all-consuming to the point of obsessive-compulsion.  I've recommended everything from hand-picking to biocontrols to chemical controls WHERE APPROPRIATE.  One size does NOT fit all.  Unfortunately, some jurisdictions (Canada, UK, etc.) have severely crippled the green industry with over-regulation based on fear and ignorance and political correctness instead of science and experience.  For those folks so handicapped, I guess your methods may be the only recourse they have.  Fortunately for us in most of the US, that's not the case.

Posted:  11 Oct 2011 17:26  
Really?  Do we have to take digs at each other on a forum?  Where's the professionalism in that?

In Canada, yes, we're severely limited in what we can use to control pests.  I know here in Newfoundland, you're pretty much limited to what is labelled as Domestic.  There are very few Commercial pesticides available, and the restrictions on applying them is such a hassle, it's easier (and often cheaper) to just replace the plants.

The US are more lenient.  They allow spraying, and, let's face it, spraying can be a hell of a lot more convenient than removing large plants, using biological controls, hand-picking, etc.  You have to consider the pros and cons, and, don't forget, it's a business.  If spraying is going to cost a fraction of what it would with another control option, you'll consider it.  If I were a large interiorscape company and had that option, I certainly would, however, I'm not dealing in anything sophisticated, I'm small potatoes at this point.  For me, it's easier to pop the plant out and plant another.

Anyway... stop the bickering.  We all have the same goal in mind: install beautiful plants and make a living from it.
Posted:  13 Oct 2011 16:57  
I know you Canadian 'scapers are severely limited as to what can be applied in your accounts, but if you remove the plant and replace it, what limitations are there on what you can use to clean up the infested plant at your facility and perhaps re-use it later?  Are the restrictions on pesticide use as draconian for greenhouse/nursery applications as they are for interiorscapes?

And BTW, the "bickering" would stop if some of us would do our homework before painting a false picture of the beliefs and recommendations of others.  Golden Rule, y'know...

Posted:  13 Oct 2011 22:40  
There are plenty of contact pesticides registered for use in greenhouses in Canada, but not a lot in the way of systemics.  If anyone has a systemic pesticide that's been since banned, it's like having gold really!  Contacts are a pain in the arse!

Personally, I could take my infected plants into where I work my fulltime job and treat it, but for all the hassle, it's better to just throw it out.  My pricing formula has this situation factored into it, so I don't mind throwing it away.  I can get an excellent deal on plants from my boss as well.

Spidermite is something I don't bother to treat if I have it on any plants.  It goes straight into the garbage.  I use Avid on plants susceptible to them before I install, it's a local systemic and really does the job on them.  Can't use it indoors, only in greenhouses.

Trumpet was a fantastic treatment for whitefly, especially on poinsettias.  It's applied as a drench and is active for 2 or 3 months.  You can only apply it twice, but that's all you'd need for poinsettias.

I don't know what the pesticide enforcement is like in other provinces (or states), but in Newfoundland it's a joke.  If those responsible in government for making sure applicators are adhering to the regulations would do their job, MANY places would be shut down.  I remember the 3 day pesticide applicators course I had to attend when I first acquired my license.  It started out as romper room and was never taken seriously by those in attendance, or even the instructors.  When the day of the test came, the instructors were giving the answers to those who had no idea how to find the area of a rectangle.  These are the same people who made the course a joke, and now they're treating people's lawns for local lawn care companies.  Personally, I think these applicators should be giving a dose to the lawn, and then to themselves!

Sorry for the venting   I get riled up at the thought of these morons out spraying in public.  THEY are giving pesticides the bad rap, as far as I'm concerned.

And, yes, let's all not jump to conclusions about others or assume things about others on here.  No more digs, let's let it go and move on to sharing thoughts and helping one another through our own experiences and knowledge.  That's the intention of this forum, right?
Posted:  14 Oct 2011 15:13  
I'm curious as to how you factor in your losses due to plants requiring replacement instead of pest control treatment?  How can you predict that?  We can predict pretty accurately our replacement rate due to other reasons because we know that, over time, a certain percentage will succumb despite our best efforts to maintain them, or they simply become overgrown or "tired" looking.  But I don't know how to predict what plants or how many of them will be hit by a pest infestation...that is truly variable: some years ago, marginatas would come down with mite infestations straight from the nurseries in Florida; nowadays, that's pretty rare.  But we do see things cropping up seemingly at random now and then, so you'd have to build in a pretty generous allowance for pest losses/replacements to be certain of covering something as iffy as that.

Posted:  15 Oct 2011 01:47  
I don't predict it.  I have no sophisticated method.  After I've covered my direct costs, overhead, and have added my profit, I take that total, and then apply either a percentage, or a set value, determined by the number of plants installed and their worth.

My costs and profit are taken care of, and that extra money will come in and be there in case I need it.  If I don't, great.  If I do, no sweat - that's what it's for.

If I have a problem with pests within a few months after installing, such as spider mite on Neanthe bella, I go back to my supplier (who happens to be my boss at my full time job), and he usually replaces them for free, especially if he's had the same issue.  If that route doesn't work, I dip into the "replacement fund."

Neanthe bella and Hedera helix are usually harbingers of spider mite - I try not to use them at all.  I don't want the hassle of treating them.  This interiorscape gig is to supplement my income for the time being and it's a small operation.  I try to keep it headache free.  I use spray as a last resort, simply because I don't want there to be any chance of backlash from it.  It stains the furniture, walls, carpets, or someone has an allergy and they complain, an environmental zealot makes a fuss about the whales and the snails dying, etc. - it's just not worth it.  For me, it's better to just get rid of the plant and pop something else into its place.

You may be shaking your head, but we're all in different situations.  This is mine, and it's what works for me.  Considering the costs of the pesticides, the time it takes to prepare, spray, and clean up, and the glares from the nay sayers, it's cheaper to replace.

And if I DO decide to go the pesticide route, I have to be VERY thorough with the spraying because I've only got contact pesticides at my disposal, I don't have the luxury of systemics.  I didn't get them all?  Well, let me try it again... and again...  and again?  Nah, throw the damn thing out in the beginning.  No fuss, no muss.
Posted:  15 Oct 2011 14:55  
We haven't sprayed a plant in years...we've found that drenching with Marathon II or applying the granular form and watering it into the soil gives very good results provided you don't use it more than once on the same plant.  Because it works so well in the interiorscape setting, there is almost never a need to re-apply.  In the greenhouse, that's another matter...you do need to be careful to rotate chemical classes to avoid creating resistant strains of the pest.  THAT is what causes most of the poor results that are sometimes complained about when using some of the newer classes of pesticides (and the older ones as well).

I don't begrudge you your methods...to each his own, as long as you really know whether or not it's cost-effective and how much it's actually costing you.  The "replacement fund" can get pretty thin if you run into a cluster of pest issues in any given year that overrun your budgeted amount for these replacements.

Posted:  17 Oct 2011 00:36  

So are you saying that Marathon II takes care of the spider mites as well as the mealybug and scale?

Posted:  17 Oct 2011 15:09  
No, Marathon is not a miticide.  But we have not had mite issues in accounts in the past couple of years, for whatever reason (producers doing a better job of controls, our own control program at the nursery, whatever).

There is a new product, Kontos, that is a systemic insecticide/miticide.  However, it is restricted in some states and is not safe for use on every variety of interior plant (read the label and supporting info from the manufacturer). 

Posted:  18 Oct 2011 03:01  
How many of "you guys" have a greenhouse as opposed to a warehouse?

Do you ever bring plants back, pot bound, insect riddled, too tall... and fix 'em up repot, spray, cutback and re use as a replacement?

How about making specimen plants out of them? Not a huge market and tending towards the minimalist look in some places. but...?

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