LANDSCAPE PROS - When quality makes Heaven on Turf15 jun.
‘Heaven on turf’ is certainly a reality for Andy Cox’s customers. You only have to look at his stunning Instagram photos to see the kind of magic this former greenkeeper brings to lawns across West Yorkshire: lush, healthy turf and stripes to die for.
His photos are of such quality, in fact, that Andy won a Kawasaki Engines competition looking for the best lawn image on social media. We spoke to him to find out more about his business, experience and any lawn care advice he could share.
From the fairways of Florida to the gardens of West Yorkshire, Andy Cox has been honing his craft for over 20 years, his beginnings in greenkeeping setting the foundations of his future gardening success at Heaven on Turf. Here’s what he had to say.
What is your approach to lawn care?
“My ethos is based around doing the basics but doing them as well as possible. In my opinion, there’s no right way to approach lawn care – everyone can get to that end goal, we just all get there differently and that’s what I enjoy the most – the diversity. If there was one right way to do things and one magic potion to use, I’m pretty sure we’d all have heard about it by now!”
What were the most useful lawn care lessons you learned from greenkeeping?
“I think the most impactful part of my years as a greenkeeper was learning the skill of anticipation. Using this in lawn care can be invaluable – realising the situation a lawn is in, what’s the next move and when to act on it. Having a relatively small customer base really helps me have control over the lawns and when to act on situations. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is so relative to lawn care – why wait to react to a situation, when you can prevent it from becoming an issue.”
“I was fortunate to spend a year in America in 2003 on the Ohio State Programme, which gives greenkeepers a chance to experience how they do things across the pond. I learned so much about warm and cool season turfgrasses and was lucky enough to be placed on a golf course which held a PGA tour event. Experiencing the detail which goes into tournament preparation was really something to remember.”
How did you move from greenkeeper to owning your own landscaping business?
“In my last role as a greenkeeper, members were asking me about their lawns, and I started getting offered gardening jobs by them. I was fitting that in after work and on the weekends, and before I knew it I was at that tipping point where I either started turning people away, or I made the jump into making it a business.”
And so, Heaven on Turf was born, with an early focus on general gardening work, which very soon streamlined into a specialism in lawn care.
Is there anything you look for in your customer base? And do you have any advice for maintaining long-lasting relationships?
“I’ve always looked for customers that share a similar mindset to my own – people who understand that lawn care isn’t a one-visit, quick-fix scenario. My customers are really invested in their gardens and their lawns looking the best they can all year round, which always requires time and dedication.
With the right approach and a good aeration programme, lawns in winter can look good and still be a focal point – the leaves may have gone, the borders are all cut back, but the lawn is still there. It’s something nice to look out on in the drearier months of the year. I don’t have a large customer base because I didn’t want to spread myself too thin, and always knew I was happy being a one-man band. I can really put the time and effort into doing that extra 10 percent for my customers this way; I like to see myself as my customers’ personal groundsman! I have customer relationships that are really built on trust and offering a personal service – I do everything I can to provide the best results for them.”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“The most satisfying part of what I do is the treatment process – the products and research that goes into that. Getting the turf to the healthy stage makes the presentation side of the work a lot easier. The knowledge and skills you develop as a greenkeeper or in any sports turf trade will always give you a head start in lawn care.
I think it’s important to keep up with the latest products and techniques to use, which helps adapt your timings according to seasonal changes; I used to scarify early in the year, but after a few successive cold springs in Yorkshire, I now do the more aggressive scarifying work in August and September, when the weather is more favourable for the recovery process, and just take on a much lighter approach in spring. This, for me, gives the customer the longest possible window for a nice-looking lawn throughout the year.
As I said previously though – this isn’t the way that others will always do it, but it works for me. I’m always willing to try new techniques and approaches though, and I find it’s quite often a combination of a few things that ends up working, and gives me the best results.”
What do you value in your equipment? How important is equipment quality for your business?
If you follow Andy’s incredible work on Instagram, you’ll be aware of the “red mower” featured in the majority of his posts:
“I always like to do my research when it comes to machinery purchases; I’ve always tried to stretch myself to invest in higher quality, as reliability is priceless. There’s nothing worse than travelling to a job, getting set up and then being let down by an engine that won’t start, for example.
“My go-to mower is the Toro ProStripe 560. It’s powered by the incredible Kawasaki engine, and with the groomer brush attachment, it promotes healthier turf and undoubtedly enhances the stripes. It goes back to what I said earlier, about wanting the best quality for my customers and giving that extra 10 percent – you need the best equipment to do that, and for me, it’s not worth the compromise.
Can you tell us a little about your experience with social media, as Heaven on Turf on Instagram?
“One thing that has become new to me in the past couple of years is the networking you can do on social media. There’s so much talent out there, and people are really happy to listen, advise and share experiences. When you work on your own, it’s nice to have a network of others to check in with – and who doesn’t love scrolling through whatever lawn stripes are on offer that day, right? On the whole, it’s definitely been a positive experience for me.”
Thanks to Andy for his time speaking to us and sharing his advice! To see more of his legendary lawn stripes, visit his Instagram, and to explore some of that previously mentioned all-important quality equipment, visit our Powered by Kawasaki page.
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