is there a good reference book/site?

Discussion in 'Lawn Care Business Management' started by gcbailey, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. gcbailey

    gcbailey LawnSite Silver Member
    from WV
    Messages: 2,761

    We have recently (June) acquired our business pesticide application (WV) and I have recently passed my technician license. I have a full time guy who is a commercial applicator (WV 4A), but 80% of his experience is on the herbicide/pesticide side. He does contract work for a local school system for weed application, but not fertilize.

    I've signed up for an online course from Purdue University on pesticides, but from what all I've covered so far it's mainly from the technical side and not a lot about fertilizer applications, unless it's a section I haven't got to yet. From what I've been told by the state upon successful completion of the course, it counts as the 1 year understudy and I will be eligible to sit for my commercial app license.

    From a business side my main goal was to be able to legally apply weed treatments to flower beds, banks, etc... For years we've had clients request for us to do so. However, I would still like to learn about the fertilizer side, just so I'm not ignorant. Right now and in the foreseeable future as a company we have no plans of getting into the large scale fertilizer applications, but still... I'd like to know.

    We have a good relationship with probably the largest fertilizer application company in the area and I've approached the owner with our intentions and he knows that I'm not trying to cut in on him. He's also offered to tutor me some in the off season, but I honestly hate taking up a lot of his time. He's probably a $2.5M year fertilizer/weed/hardscape company and we are about a $355K year mowing company. For years I've referred my clients to him for treatments and he's referred his to us for mowing and maintenance and it's worked well.

    So after saying all of that... I guess my question is, are there any books or websites out there that covers "general knowledge" or is the "search" feature my best friend?
  2. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    Congratulations on getting to the next level gc.

    For your area Penn State, Rutgers, or VA (do they have a turf dept?) would probably offer the most relavant advice. Purdue is certainly fine. I am partial to Michigan State :)

    Best thing you can do for yourself and customers initially is develop a keen awareness of the predominant soil types and grass species in your area. Then begin learning what those grasses require annually and how those soil types handle fertilizers.

    You are going to arrive at a range of needs per thousand square feet (M, some use K as abbreviation) per year. That baseball field might be a good place to experiment and they might like to have a couple free or cheap fertilizer trials. Anyway, your reading and talking to others will help you arrive at something like this for your area:
    Low maintenance and overall standards 1.5# nitrogen/M per year. Probably does not treat for weeds, mows every 10-14 days, non-irrigated. Many places that are truly low maint don't fertilize at all.

    Medium Maintenance maybe something like 2.5# N/yr

    High end could be something like 4-5# N/yr (I do not have any athletic fields that use more than 4#/yr fwiw).

    Then it becomes how should you deliver it (apply), how often, and when-a slightly different question from how often. Most cool season turf is better off with a big chunk of its total nitrogen delivered in Fall. It ell places that only want to fertilize once to do it late September to early October (southern MI).

    Distinguish yourself by buying and using good products. My customers appreciate that I use high end slow release products and do not have to come as often. In Fall I will use all mineral (cheaper) fertilizers or low percentage slow release. You can learn a lot from your dealer/distributor. I don't buy fertilizer from them any more but John Deere Landscapes would be a good place to start.

    I am not ignoring P and K, just trying to get you started on N, which is the key element of turf fertilizer plans.

    Also, read about the nitrogen cycle to learn how various sources of nitrogen break down and become available to the plant. That should get you started.
  3. gcbailey

    gcbailey LawnSite Silver Member
    from WV
    Messages: 2,761

    Thanks for the reply... I was somewhat surprised that the state suggested Purdue. I'm about 40 miles from Va Tech (cough, cough) and they are a huge AG school. Myself personally I'm for the other Michigan, GO BLUE!! haha.

    One thing I've been learning is that this particular area is somewhat of an anomaly. I guess we are technically listed as a transition zone, but we are up in the mountains, where in no amount of distance you can go from 1,400ft to 3,200ft and 15-20 degrees variations of temperature and seasonal changes.

    The types of grasses is something I'm somewhat weak on. I can tell the difference between bluegrass and fescue, but then you start throwing in all these "hybrids" and everything else... I've also noticed several of our higher end properties contain multiple species of grasses, so I assume you have to treat that a little different too.

    As far as a local dealer, that's somewhat of a problem. There is a JD lanscapes about 2 hours away in Roanoke, VA, but within the immediate area we have a Purina Farm and Feed and they are mostly AG related and don't have much knowledge of anything related to specifics of fertilizers outside of "we carry this...". We also have a TSC, for what it's worth. I know the fertilizer company I mentioned in the previous post orders everything by the truckload straight from the manufacturer or regional distributor.

    Even as far as purchasing a decent spreader or sprayer, none of that is available for local purchase. Around here it's Lowe's and their Scott's products and from what I've read on LS, that's paying for a brand and most of their application rates are for their cheap spreaders, then you have to do extra math to use another brand spreader with their products.

  4. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    Ha ha! That field requires no fertilizer, only disinfectants and crumb rubber. Really though? Even after they took two of your coaches? :)

    Don't get a cheap spreader. I don't know if that means UPS, a road trip, or eBay or what but you will only need to do it every 10-12 years if you get a good one.

    Do you have room for a couple pallets of fertilizer somewhere? Maybe talk to a golf course superintendent in your area and see if you can piggyback on one of their deliveries. Chances are somebody is delivering fertilizer to small guys like you and me somewhere in your area - you just need to find them. Home Depot has some LESCO/JDL fertilizers. Price will probably not be as good as you can do with a turf distributor and, personally, I just don't like the idea of it professionally. If you only want 10 bags or something to get started then it may be worthwhile. TSC I am not too familiar with. I would not use any fertilizer from Scott's.
  5. gcbailey

    gcbailey LawnSite Silver Member
    from WV
    Messages: 2,761

    I never said I was from WV ;), but oh I had to listen to every hillbilly leprechaun during the Rich Rod era...

    I do have a 30x50 metal building that we store our equipment in. It's not heated or anything, just protected from the elements...

    What are your thoughts on EarthWay spreaders? I have an prime account and I can get free 2 day shipping on them.

    The golf courses around here are a joke too... they have the same upkeep as those little league fields we've taken on! Until you get over to the Greenbrier, there isn't a decent golf course around. They are all Elks Lodge courses and leave a LOT to be desired.

    I will start calling around. I would ask the guy who owns the other outfit, but as I said, I don't want to come across as trying to cut in on his business. I've never believed in that and he's brought a lot of high end clients our way. Honestly he's probably at the point where he'd be willing to sell off his spray business because he's into the landscape/hardscape so much now. I do know he's hired a a guy to run his two trucks and crews. He's stepped back 85% into the shop (nursery) on most days.
  6. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    I do not have any experience with the EarthWay spreader. It has been discussed here by other people. Seems as though it is often mentioned as one of the 4-5 worth owning.

    Scary about your local golf courses. I understand about wanting to figure this out without involving the other guy. Maybe contact a couple fertilizer companies or look on their web sites for distribution info. Andersens and Lebanon would be good places to start. If you look outside known turf distributors keep an eye on SGN - you want to stay away from Ag type big granule sizes for lawns. Smaller SGNs are larger sizes, I believe. Also, you want at least some part of the material to be slow release of some type: UFLEXX, MESA, SCU, PSCU, etc. Organics, such as Milorganite! are slow release but expensive and only suitable for warm soil temperatures IMO.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  7. bamaturf

    bamaturf LawnSite Member
    from alabama
    Messages: 136

    i just sent you a PM
  8. Tyler259

    Tyler259 Banned
    Messages: 100

    I'm curious about seeding, fertilizing etc. Don't have time to go back to college for it. The Rutgers site has good info.

    Would be interested in taking a course in the Northeast also. Or some good books and websites.

    Bump :)
  9. oqueoque

    oqueoque LawnSite Gold Member
    Male, from Jersey
    Messages: 3,512

    The Rutgers site is a good start. It is a free online course. You can find it by searching You might want to ask your local West Virginia county extension agent for assistance. If you have questions on specific topics , it is good to add .edu to your search. This will link you to various university research that is published online. Penn State has alot.
  10. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,813

    Most soil fertility books are ag-related. James Beard's "Turfgrass Science and Culture" 1972, is the most complete textbook on turfgrass and has chapters on soil fertility. 672 pages. Fertility is discussed on pages 408 to 465. Look for a used copy, or drop by your library.

    For a quick read try Trey Rogers, "Lawn Geek" Pp 148 to 166, 2007. Teaches turf science at Michigan State.

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