Best of The Woodlands: Lawn Ranger's Walt Crowder digs the landscape life
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Lawn Ranger has received Best of The Woodlands accolades for 10 consecutive years, much to the delight of owner Walt Crowder – especially considering the fact he never saw himself as a business owner in the landscape industry until he was in his mid-40s.
Crowder, originally from Arkansas, has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Theology degree from the former Southern Bible College in Houston, and a master's degree in education from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
For 25 years, Crowder was in church-related work, whether it was on church staff or administration in a Christian school.
But in the summer of 1995, when he was 48-years-old, Crowder wanted a change.
'I was more than halfway through my earning years,' Crowder said, 'and I literally had nothing in place for retirement, for the future. My work just didn't put any money in the bank. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I knew I had to figure it all out, so that summer I started mowing some yards, burning some energy and getting some sun to help clear my mind.'
Crowder quickly landed a few gigs mowing lawns.
'I pulled out my handy dandy little homeowner personal mower, weed eater, leaf blower and off I went,' he said.
Within a few weeks, Crowder was working with a property management company that provided services to homeowners who required regular lawn maintenance but were often out of town.
Crowder began with 8-10 customers, but that number quickly doubled. By the end of that long hot summer, during which he worked 'daylight to dark-thirty,' Crowder's mind was made up.
He had burned out his lawn equipment, which wasn't meant to run 12 hours a day, seven days a week, so he invested in new equipment, took some college classes at North Harris College (now Lone Star College) to learn more about landscaping and plants, and launched Lawn Ranger.
'By the third or fourth year, I had to pull myself away from walking behind the mower to manage the admin part of running a business,' Crowder said.
The company has since grown to 20 employees, 10 trucks, 13 trailers, 26 72-inch finish mowers, and multiple aerators, tillers, fertilizer spreaders, pole trimmers, power trimmers, chain saws, shrub trimmers, string trimmers and blowers.
Lawn Ranger has three main divisions: landscaping, lawn maintenance and fertilization (Green Lawn system). They also provide landscape lighting and pest control services.
Crowder laments that his master's degree in education isn't put to much use anymore, but anyone who reads his monthly blogs on Woodlands Online would beg to differ. His entries are full of information about plants, irrigation, shrubs, trees, landscape lighting, fertilizing, lawn pests and more.
Now 71, Crowder, a married father of two and grandfather of four, occasionally thinks about retirement. But for now, he still digs the life of landscaping.
'I had no intention of going into the landscaping business,' Crowder said. 'I had no specific plan of where I was going to go. Literally, I was pushing lawnmowers for that summer trying to figure out what I was going to do. It just evolved, and once I started getting a good customer base, I realized I could turn this into a business. The rest is history.'