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Large Company's and Soil Tests

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by LushGreenLawn, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,121

    Hey Guys,

    Do you guys know if True Green and Lawn Doctor offer soil tests? I know my customers that have them do not have soil testing done as part of their basic plan.

    I have decided to do a soil test for all of my customers going forward. I would like to be able to push that as a benefit over TG and LD but I'm not sure if they offer it at all. I could call and ask, but I would be irritated if my competition started calling me and poking for info.
  2. garydale

    garydale LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 813

    I would call for an estimate of your own lawn.
    Then question the estimator.

    In MD we are all required(over 10 total acres) to test every three years.
  3. JWTurfguy

    JWTurfguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 327

    I've noticed that a lot of guys now are doing soil tests, but they tend to focus solely on pH. If you're trying to set yourself apart by doing soil tests, my advice would be to find a way to use them in such a way that the customer can see the regular progress that is going on with their property. For example, a spring test followed by a fall test to show the corrections that have been made, etc. Or maybe showing that you're using a specific fert that has some other micronutrient in it that their soil shows a deficiency in. Or, let's say their cation-exchange-capacity is low.....using that to sell a soil ammendment incorporation sets you way over most of the Lawn Doctors and TG's.

    In other words, I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't worry so much about whether or not the other guys are offering soil tests. What's going to set you apart is not just whether you do the test, but how you sell your services as a result of the tests.
  4. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,121

    Thanks JW, that is good advice.

    This is a learning experience for me. I have been using Lesco's standard program, and while I was somewhat happy with the results, I feel like I could be doing better.

    This will be the first time I have really pushed soil testing. Lesco was charging $30 for a soil test, after I found out that my local university does it for $7.00, it does not make sense not to. I am doing a soil test for each of my clients for free, but feel like I could easily make up $7.00 and a few minutes per account in referrals and new business gained from advertising my new process.
  5. mrkosar

    mrkosar LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 664

    good advice. i have been wanting to ask a question for a while and part of your suggestion made me think of it.

    aren't you supposed to have soil tests done at the same time of year when comparing them? if you do a soil test in 06' in december, then you should do one in december in 07' correct? or does it not matter.
  6. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    When a soil test is done doesn't matter. Knowing how to read one and make apps to get everything into balance does. Let's say pH is too high. Will you use iron, aluminum or ammonium sulfate? If there is plenty of iron... aluminum could be used, but ammonium is the likely choice. If the P or K is low or high.... change up the fert mix. If the manganese or iron is low... same thing, make those adjustments.

    I'm saying the same thing JW said. Use the soil test and show the customer where deficiencies are, explain how you will make corrections. I am new to the apps side, so keep that in mind, but I am repeating solid advice from some experts I know. making adjustments will show up in the turf, and that's the bottom line.

    I have heard of some...er... "discrepencies" in extension soil test results and the results from suppliers who have an interest in selling you more product based on those results. I will put this .... er... "rumored difference" to the test this year by sending at least 3 duplicate samples to both a supplier and the cooperative extension myself. Not accusing any company of anything, but still, buyer beware.
  7. cpel2004

    cpel2004 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,416

    Whitey4 is there any books that you would recommend that will help educate me on reading and identifying what the soils needs?
  8. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    Like I said, I am new to apps, but have some formal edumacaion (intentional) on ornamental hort. I've seen some recommendations for books, and I'm not sure which ones are the best, maybe someone else can chime in on that.

    I am getting my info from the NSLGA, which is a pretty big landscaper/gardener trade association here, and from the local Cornell cooperative extension. Cost me $145 for membership in the assoc, and only $35 for the extension. They mail out the latest and greatest news, but the coop has a TON of really good stuff. From pocket handbooks with full color pictures to help identify insects, fungi, weeds, and turf diseases to an archive of other great learning materials.

    The people at YOUR coop will be VERY helpful! Aside from the great (and cheap!) books they have, they will help you identify if a disease is red thread or leaf spot, just bring a sample. They will also recommend fixes. I would ask them what one turf book they would buy... and they will likely either have it, or be able to tell you where to track it down.

    Find out if there is a trade organization in your area. It's like having a group of expert consultants if it's a good association. I am lucky.... the guy that heads up the NSLGA is not only an expert (he is credited in the CORE manual for the northeast as a contributor, and is about the only one that doesn't have PhD after his name) but his advice is available to me as well.

    The people at your local extension are there to help you. Join as a member, and get to know them. More almost free consulting services. Visit them and ask what turf book would be the best to buy in your area and zone. Different pests of all kinds, weeds, insects etc are usually dependent on YOUR area. They are well versed in what works and what doesn't. A turf book for Florida would be worthless for me. It would be for you too. The coop extension can guide you. I think you are in a transition zone? Toughest zone to manage turf in, if you are. I am in the cool weather turf zone.... rye, blue and fescue are all I have to be concerned with.

    Sorry I could not answer the question directly, but this is what has worked for me so far.
  9. JWTurfguy

    JWTurfguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 327

    This might sound funny, but you'd be surprised how much you can learn on Google. Especially if you pay attention to University Extension sites and tech references (common sense should tell us that there's plenty of less reputable sites we should stay away from).
  10. Puttinggreens

    Puttinggreens LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from southeast PA
    Posts: 376

    I do not offer soil testing as a choice, it is part of the application program.

    We take samples every year at the beginning of the visit for our last fert app. in Nov. It is very convenient, we are already visiting all our clients. Samples are sent to a university for testing. I charge anywhere from $27.50 to $35 depending on the # taken at one site.

    This gives us some work just processing the samples in the wet weather of December. By Christmas we have the results which in turn generate several weeks of lime apps for the winter.

    Most customers receive a copy of the test with a simple note of explanation. Some explain how the test will save them $ because no lime app. is necessary. The others receive a copy with a short note showing why the app is necessary. " We are not just guessing, we know lime is needed." I feel this alone makes us look more professional. On top of which it is the right thing to do.

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