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Increased Oil Prices Hit Lawn Maintenance Costs

by Alex Russel, All About Lawns Columnist

It makes sense that high oil prices will affect lawn mower operating costs, but few people realize that fertilizer is one of the most price-sensitive commodities when it comes to the price of oil. Prepare your wallets, some lawn experts say.

According to lawn experts cited in the Decatur Daily, an Alabama newspaper, record-high energy costs are pushing up the price of fertilizer.

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Oil Prices and Fertilizer

A major component of lawn nutrition and fertilizer is nitrogen, which is extracted from the air by natural gas. Natural gas prices have risen a whopping 72 percent over the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Every time gas goes up, fertilizer goes up," said Decatur's Lawn Doctor owner Matt Spain. "This year we lost money." Across the country, fertilizer prices have gone up 15 to 20 percent from last year, the most dramatic increase many lawn maintenance experts can remember.

Mowers Use Little Gas

Surprisingly, the affect of oil prices will be more strongly felt in fertilizer than in the use of mowers and tractors.

"Lawn mowers don't use much gas," said Lowe's associate Buddy Beck. "With the lawn tools, it's not really an issue."

This maybe a little different for lawn maintenance companies that run lawn tools, several times a day, every day.

Lawn Maintenance Prices Creep Upwards

"We went up approximately eight percent, and that was just to break even . . . If this stuff keeps going up, we'll have to increase our prices," said company supervisor Preston Maxey. "It's gone up a little bit in the past, but nothing quite like this. I don't see them going down anytime soon," he added. Maxey said customers have been understanding, and so far, unwilling to forgo lawn service.

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About the Author
Alex Russel is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Since graduating from Syracuse University he has worked at many different media companies in fields as diverse as film, TV, advertising, and journalism. He holds a dual bachelor's degree in English and History.

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