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fertilizer questions

Discussion in 'Fertilizer Application' started by formerscrub, Dec 28, 2001.

  1. ohiolawnguy

    ohiolawnguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 397

    sorry about that response to the loaded question ric. just trying to voice my theory and opnion is all. :) ive been in heated discussions with trugreen on the phone many times concerning their business practices, and have called the ohio department of agriculture on them before also. ohio law requires that you clean off all driveways and sidewalks after an application which trugreen tends not to do. also there is supposed to be a date, time, and code for what they have applied to the yard. occasionally they dont do that also. i have told those customers who have situations like this arise that i shouldnt be the one to clean up after their mess, and that we should be the ones who do the applications, or we would no longer maintain their property. i dont have a vendetta against trugreen chemlawn(though that may appear to be the case), rather i feel that the law should be applied equally to all companies. 85% of our customers who receive fertilization now have us do the applications. the remaining 15% receive service which i feel is done properly, and to which i have no complaints about. this would include some trugreen contracts, and a couple other companies also. sorry for the long post. just trying to explain my reasoning, and thoughts.
  2. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969


    you have as usual offered some good advise. However you do not know Fla. Laws, Horticulture and Soil. As I do not know New England Law, Horticulture and Soil.

    First I would like to state that Lesco has very good products and also include the fact that Lesco helped me before I went back to college. I still buy some products from Lesco. I even took one of Lesco's blends with small changes to another manufacture as a custom blend for me. They liked it so much that it is now a standard blend for them. I am on my third Lesco motorized spreader and would have no other. My gripe is price only.

    Second FLORIDA LAWS You did not read what has already posted about apply licenses. Here in the bug capital It is hard to get a apply license and takes a minim of three years working under a certified applicator. The Florida apply test is one of the hardest in the nation. Florida can and will give $ 5000.00 fines for unlicensed pest control. I would hate to have someone read this thread and end up with a fine. Grub control and Weed And Feed are PESTICIDES. FIRE ANTS ARE NOT COOL THEY ARE A PEST THAT DOES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF DAMAGE EACH YEAR. Control of fire ants by PhD entomologist is difficult at best. Let alone some novice. Other threads we have talked about Florida laws on application so I do not want to open an old sore. I do not make the laws I only follow them. Many suppliers of chemicals who are on every corner not only sell to unlicensed people they push the idea of unlicensed pest control. The local Ag inspector has posted the laws in these stores because of this.

    Third I would like to refer you to a thread about sulfur that I replied to. What I did not say was Dr Lee Bendt of the U of Michigan did a study proving that sulfur causes black layer in soil by causing an anaerobic condition. Since high pH soil is the rule in coastal Florida soils, we have found that ammonium sulfate does a better job of controlling pH. It is this fact that gave me a competitive edge and I am letting out my secrets.

    STEVE AM I JUMPING ON YOU??? YOU BET YA.! Your job is to sell chemicals and you must defend them and there use. Your own words state that chemical suppliers have a interest in our success in selling application, because it is there success in selling more chemicals. It is my job to design, install and maintain health landscape. It is my moral duty to do this without contaminating the environment with excessive chemicals. It is also cost effective for me not to apply more chemicals than needed. Steve I have respected your posts in the past and learned from them. However you need to study Florida Law, horticulture and soil before giving advise on fire ants and other thing you know nothing about. Here in Florida we have a very popular bumper sticker it reads "We don't care how you did it up North". Please Steve don't be a dam Yankee just a Yankee I do respect you and feel you have given some very informative information in the past. We have clashed on more than one post and I would like to think this is good because it gets people thinking. Advanced education teaches us how to find answers and work through problems, not the answers.


    Loaded question because 4 or 8 apply per year can in fact be equal depending on the amount being applied. As you stated golf courses do many. They do them light and regular which is what the experts tell us. What I hate to admit is Truegreen/chemlawn has a very good program in theory. They in fact have people who have forgotten more than I could ever hope to know. Truegreen was the first to stop using Daconil because it causes cancer and I forget where I read that. There two hose gun is ahead of its time and will become an industry standard in years to come. We should not knock there system but learn from it. The problem comes because of the man on the end of the hose does not have the knowledge to make there theory work. They are in fact a marketing company and sales driven. The middle management loses sight of the company application theory and therefore over apply chemicals to try and keep customer. The general public will accept that they are a growing animal and need time to heel or grow, but they think there landscape should be instant. No I never worked for TG/CL, I have taken many customer away from them. But this appears not to effect them because there style is to lose 4 and pick up 5.
  3. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Good points, every one of them.
    I'm in CT where we do have the most difficult test for a pesticide lic. in the country (CO. is a close 2nd). But as such, we don't have an apprenticeship program like it sounds as if FL does. I also operate in NY, where just such a 3 year apprenticeship program is in effect. However, if you have worked for someone else, using pesticides, the prior employer can write a letter for you thereby waiving the 3 year wait. Obviously the laws vary by state. But my post said in all caps to GET A LICENSE. By whatever means isn't an issue to me. If it takes 3 years, so be it.
    Fire Ants, yeah, your correct, not cool when you get stung. I did once. By cool, I only meant to imply that some of the pest & agronomic challenges offer up some interesting and potentially profitable opportunites for Floridians who choose to capitolize on them. Most of our northern pests in turf are fairly predictable & boring by comparison. I do NOT advocate the indescriminant use of ANY pesticides for ANY pest ANYwhere. EVER. I've made this my lifes work and don't want any yahoos screwing up my field of work to simplify their life. There is no excuse for not knowing how to scout for & appropriately spot treat any pest as opposed to the old "blanket spray & run" approach of days past. Sure, guys like me sold more chemicals. But for how long would that have lasted? Those days are gone. I for one am glad to see IPM. Anything that raises the bar of professionalism is good for our industry.
    Prices are directly attached to cost. It's no different for us than it is for you. If we occupy a 5,000 sq. ft. bulding & fill it with 2-3 payrolled employees, a forklift, & all the stuff that lawn care professionals need, someones going to pay for it. 15 years ago, all we did was make fertilizer & ship it on a truck. When customers said they wanted forklifts on the trucks, we got them first (around here anyway). When smaller applicators wanted to get in on the deal, we decidied to pay for their warehouses for them & the Service Center was born (in Florida). If we were willing to raise the bar of professionalism as high as we did, why can't we get paid for it? Locally, a 5,000 st ft building leases for (@ $11.00/sq ft) $55,000 per year. Electricity, heat, phone,insurance, 2-3 people, etc. You get the picture. If a lawncare applicator wants to save $200,000 per year on these expenses by having someone else pay them instead, they now can. I know guys who have rented out their old warehouse & now run their business from a home office, a leased Eagle trailer for storage, & a surface lot for parking trucks. Eagle bill- $75.00/month. Rent for surface lot $200-300/month. Home office, mine is a spare bedroom we didn't use 3 times a year. Clearly it doesn't work that way for everyone. But it does seem to satisfy the majority. We still drop ship fertilizer in a lot of markets too. That's my job today. Rural areas may not need a store, but our customers are just as valuble to us there.
    I have to sell against AG Grade competitors every day. Some don't even have 1 screen in their plants. We use 3 at our local plant. It takes a little longer to blend this way, but thats what folks have come to expect. The bar is high. I like it high. It helps weed out the riff-raff.
    It wouldn't be ethical for me to get further into this matter in this format, but I'll help any customer if I can. Drop an email to me with your business phone # and a good time for me to call & I'll see what I can do for you.
    Thanks for keeping on my toes. It's good for everyone!
    All 4 now,

  4. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969


    I send you an E Mail and have not heard anything from you. I even gave you my 800# so the call wouldn't cost you a penny. This only reforces my feeling that Lesco does not want My business. So I guess I will stay with my present suppliers who not only return my calls but give me prices that are lower. Talstar T & O is Talstar T & O and I am one of a few who read and understand a fert label
  5. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    Here's another % question....

    Is there a rule of thumb that anyone uses as to what the maximum % of fertilizer revenue should be the actual product cost when pricing Fertilizer Applications?
  6. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Sorry Ric, Just got back from our sales meeting.
    Call you When I'm back in the office either Fri or Mon. Hope you're in.

    Hey Nebraska,
    Probably not possible since "bag cost" to treat, let's say a 1/4 acre lawn (11,000 sq ft), could run cheap for a fall fert in large quantitites, for maybe $7-8.00 assuming you don't get fancy. Now if you charged the customer $75.00 per application (going rate here a couple years ago) you'd then equate the cost vs. sell price ratio at 1:10 or 10%=cost.
    However what happens when you have to apply a bag that costs $16.00? The customer then gets billed $160.00? That pretty pricey.
    What about that $40.00 bag of Merit+Fertilizer? You'd probably have a hard time collecting $400.00 for a 1/4 acre lawn. Most of the guys I know would still use the $40 bag. But they'll leave a $75.00 bill for the summer service & at least $90.00 for the grub control or $165.00 total. That's only a 1:4 ratio I know, but you have the economy of only one trip over the lawn so.....
    Most people average all their costs over the entire season, including overhead, profit, service -call potential, etc, then provide an "averaged" per application price per treatment.
    This seems to work well since most consumers want the price per service to be consistent but your "per bag/round expenses" can almost never be the same. You therefore have some "slim profit" & some "fat profit" rounds through out the year.
    Most "big-turf" applications (15+ acres?) should probably be priced "by the round" at fair yet different prices. This protects you from the big grass cutting subcontractor who has you do the harder & costlier spring work,then cancels, then applies straight fert all the rest of the year. Often at your price but almost no cost. These characters are in every market of the country. I hope none of you ever get raped by any of them.

    Almost done with these emails, then bed.
  7. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525


    Understand that the cost will differ with the application...Our most expensive application is the Mach II with fert and we bill it out as two applications (for example our 6 step program is actually 6 steps but is done in 5 applications/visits) this worked well the first year we tried it (last year) with only one customer upset. That customer was only upset because they did not read the program that states the 3rd and 4th step are a combined application (billed 2x the normal application rate in the month of July). Anyway back to my original question...

    At the end of the year a contractor divides the amount of actual money spent on fertilizer by total revenue generated from fertilizing and come up with x%. What is an average number for this figure to be? Anybody?
  8. Russ

    Russ LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 540

    Good Question! But, I dont think your going to get a good answer on this form or any other. There are just too many variables. Product cost are different region to region, diff. for the solo guy with 250 customers than for the guy with a couple of RT's and 1,500 customers, diff. for the guy using drop shipments from a ag. supplier and the guy using the 7-11, just to start. Retail prices are going to be dif. in CAl. Fla. NJ. Ind. and very likely diff. in every city and by demografiics of that city. What's the average?, good question!, but I'm not sure there will ever be a good acurate answer. Just my .03 cents per square foot retail by app. $35.00 Min.
  9. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Hey Nebraska,

    Very good question if we consider the average expenses incurred over the course of the season. I misunderstood the original question. Obviously, everyone & their mother will have their own thoughts on this but I'm going to sumarize here the most common program that folks around here use.
    All costs that follow are averaged from any of several items that may be used. I did this for each round, so if you pay more or less, don't be surprised. I used more than 1 active ingredient for all combo rounds and at least 2 ferts for straight ferts.
    I based everything on the infamous 4,000 sq ft, which is the minimum for most applicators. The charge in my town is based on no less than 4 fliers I get in the mail every spring. That charge is $40.00. It bugs me that I've been in this business for 20 years as a licensed applicator, and that the charge of $40.00 has only changed for a period of 2 years during the '80's, & the trend was DOWNWARD! At least at this time, $40.00 is the very LOWEST charge for 4,000 sq ft. If you can get more, then you should. Too many of your expenses have gone UP to not get at least $50.00. At todays cost of doing business, I would'nt wave at you from a truck that I parked in front of your house for less than that.
    At any rate, here's how I did this:

    Cost of bag (example $16.00) divided by square feet covered in thousands (example 12,000 sq ft or 12) equals cost per thousand ($/M) times square feet treated in thousands (4,000 sq ft lawn divided by 1,000 equals 4) or:

    $16.00/bag divided by 12 = $1.33/M times 4 = 5.32 per treatment for Round 1.

    I will also assume that even if you don't blanket spray all lawns for weeds in their entirety, you MIGHT have to blanket spray a lawn twice the first year that the lawn is treated by you. Therefore we will estimate that cost into the equation. Since you're in NJ, the conditions are no different than here in CT. Most applicators here will spray at least SOME weeds both in the spring & fall on nearly all lawns.

    Round 1) Fert with Pre-emergant: $1.33/M or ...............$5.32
    this could be Team, Pre-M, or Dimension

    Round 2& 3) Fert with Grub: $3.86/M or .......................$15.43

    Round 4) Fert with Surface Insect: $1.23/M or ..............$4.92

    Round 5) Straight Fert: $1.00/M or...............................$4.00

    Round 6) Straight Fert: $.85/M or ...............................$3.40

    Weeds: 2 Blanket sprays assumed @ $.27/M each or........$2.16
    Total cost for season $8.81/M or .................................$35.23

    If 6 apps are charged at $40 each then total.................$240.00

    Profit before labor.....................................................$204.77

    So cost of year $35.23 times 6.8 equals........................$240.00

    I can't tell you much about your own labor costs or the market value of your service. But this has been an interesting exercise. I hope this helped.

  10. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    that was helpful! Will print that one out for comparison with the program here in NE.

    Does anyone out there use dimension? Is there any benefits of it over Pre-M? (beside the staining)

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