Thomas Norton’s father started Lawn Doctor hoping to provide his four sons with job security.
And Lawn Doctor is where Thomas Norton wound up. After earning a degree in environmental studies from Colgate University and playing American football in Spain for five years, he moved back home to Braintree in 1998 and went to work for the company full time.
Today, Norton lives in Hingham and has taken over management of the family business. The company now has 5,000 customers on the South Shore and Cape Cod, and in Metrowest and Boston.
What are some major changes that have been made at Lawn Doctor over the years?
We try to keep up with technology. We’re early adopters of innovative technologies. That’s really one thing we focus on. We better our company by the way of new technologies.
We give customers access to an online portal where they can go to manage their accounts. They can look at services and contact us through email. We always have a live person online to chat with through all hours of the night, and they text us information about customer issues. We try to use everything we can to be as efficient for our customers as possible.
We’re also working towards going paperless. We’re integrating tablets for our service personnel where they can collect data and enter information about properties they’ve done and the status of properties. We would get all that information through a real-time server.
What are some tips for treating lawns so they survive the heat of the upcoming summer months?
Probably the most important thing is to maintain the height of your lawn. You should keep it higher in the summer. The biggest mistake is cutting it too short. That causes various problems, but the biggest is that it allows soil temperature to get really high. Crabgrass and weeds grow and the lawn will suffer, thinning it out and weakening it.
The most important guideline is to maintain the proper height during the summer, at least 3 inches long. Of course, this is for lawns with full sun exposure.
In terms of fertilizing, more is not always better; it can really do damage. Choosing the right fertilizer and the right amount for the right time of year (is key). Fertilizing definitely has a science and technology to it–what to do and when.
Are people more concerned about pesticides and the safety of their children and pets?
People have always been concerned. I’m a dog owner, and most of our customers have kids and pets. We choose products specifically for the safety factor. We want to make sure we’re not using anything unsafe. The state has an agency, the pesticide bureau, that’s a part of the Department of Agriculture. They have strict rules with what products can be used.
A lot of products have been taken off the market. Industry-wide, these types of chemicals aren’t even available anymore. There’s definitely a trend in the industry moving towards more organic-based products.
Our goal to best protect against weeds and crabgrass is to create a thick, healthy lawn. If you achieve that, then you don’t really need the other products. We do a service called soil enrichment and power seeding. These services are unique to us; there’s no one else in the industry that does those. They really can help thicken lawns up so that typical lawn chemicals are not needed.
Do you have an organic lawn treatment program?
We do, but it’s not as popular as you would think. The weeds and crabgrass are not something you can control on an organic basis. There are techniques to get rid of weeds or crabgrass.
One trend: We use a lot of organic products for our regular hybrid program that controls weeds and crabgrass. We use a natural-based fertilizer called bio-solids. Its source of fertilizer is natural rather than chemical.