The summer’s drought has hit local lawn care companies hard. While homeowners have gotten a break from mowing this year, lawn care companies that don’t have sources of revenue other than mowing have struggled to stay busy.

It has been especially hard for many local companies because the region went through a winter with almost no snow. Most lawn maintenance companies also provide snow removal, and they’re hoping for a snowy winter to make up for the past 12 months. But that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast. The National Weather Service predicts below-normal precipitation levels for the winter months.

The more diversified companies say that although they saw a decline in revenue, they have been able to stay busy installing irrigation systems or building landscaping structures. But the tough period has many companies laying off employees or keeping their seasonal workforce low. Columbia LandCare generally has a seasonal high of 80 to 85 employees, but this year it kept its workforce at about 60. Other companies have had to close or be absorbed by larger, more diversified lawn companies. 

While the larger lawn companies have seen their maintenance and mowing divisions drop off, the number of homeowners and businesses that have installed irrigation systems this summer has spiked.

Beyond this fall and winter, the companies that perform tree care and removal could see brisk business. The hot, dry summer will weaken many trees, making them especially susceptible to disease and pests, said Christopher Starbuck, an associate professor at the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Younger trees are especially sensitive to the drought, but at this point, even older, more established trees are showing "major stress," he said.

In a weather-dependent business, it’s near impossible to plan for a drought this severe. All they can do at this point is pray for rain – and hope for snow.

Click here for the full article at The Columbia Daily Tribune.