Profit in Fertilizer Applications

Turf Management

LawnSite Member
Location
Kansas
I am debating on whether or not to get into fertilizer applications. I currently maintain around 30 properties and have another company in town take care of all my fertilization. I expect my route to grow to around 70 or so properties this year.

I have been told that I am losing money in not doing the applications myself. Additionally, through the years, I have heard that fert has one of the highest profit margins for lawn care-- is there truth to this?

I know I need to be licensed and if I decide to take the plunge, I will secure the necessary credentials. Right now I am just looking for info on what it will cost me to get set up with the proper equipment, and how much it really costs for commercial fertilizers (and how many sq ft that should treat).

I personally think this is more of a headache than what it is worth to me but feel I owe it to myself to look into this side of the industry further.

Thanks for the help.
 

RigglePLC

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids MI
Usually no license needed for fert applications--HOWEVER--if you mean herbicide applications you need a pesticide license and insurance. And yes, it usually pays better than mowing--but you need more equipment, of course. You should take in about $60 per hour and your fert and herbicide cost should be about $25 per hour. YMMV!
 
OP
Turf Management

Turf Management

LawnSite Member
Location
Kansas
Usually no license needed for fert applications--HOWEVER--if you mean herbicide applications you need a pesticide license and insurance. And yes, it usually pays better than mowing--but you need more equipment, of course. You should take in about $60 per hour and your fert and herbicide cost should be about $25 per hour. YMMV!
You are correct, I meant herbicide applications. What is standard equipment?
 

tyler_mott85

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Wichita, KS
I am debating on whether or not to get into fertilizer applications. I currently maintain around 30 properties and have another company in town take care of all my fertilization. I expect my route to grow to around 70 or so properties this year.

I have been told that I am losing money in not doing the applications myself. Additionally, through the years, I have heard that fert has one of the highest profit margins for lawn care-- is there truth to this?

I know I need to be licensed and if I decide to take the plunge, I will secure the necessary credentials. Right now I am just looking for info on what it will cost me to get set up with the proper equipment, and how much it really costs for commercial fertilizers (and how many sq ft that should treat).

I personally think this is more of a headache than what it is worth to me but feel I owe it to myself to look into this side of the industry further.

Thanks for the help.

I can tell you some basic information. I used to be a registered applicator for a company about 8 years ago so my information is "mostly" from that period. I'm sure some things have changed. I also did just browse the Kansas Ag's website for this information before checking up on lawnsite for the evening so the fees, etc are accurate.

As for licensing you'll need two. One is your personal certified applicator license. You have to take a General Exam test and one Subcategory test and pass both within 12 months of each other. This license is good initially until the end of the second year you have license. Meaning if you get the license this March it's good until December 31st of 2013. At that point you can renew in 3 year increments as long as you either a) take a certain amount of continuing education courses or b) retake the tests. The tests cost $45 each. To be a complete pesticide technician I feel like I would need to be licensed in three subcategories. 3A - Ornamental Pest, 3B - Turf Pest and 7C - Industrial Right of Way. This is what you need to spray non-selective around commercial buildings or in cracks of parking lots, sidewalks, etc. So to be licensed as a personal applicator in these three areas you would need to take 4 tests for $180 total.

The other license is your Kansas Pesticide Business License. The fees for this are $140 per category and the license is good for one year. The 3A and 3B subcategories are a part of one category and the 7c is part of one so to have a business license in the Ornamental, Turf and Industrial subcategories you have to pay $280 every year. Plus provide proof of insurance every year.

I currently only have two properties that I could care for so $280 a year would actually make it so I wouldn't make any money. I'll probably wait until next year and continue to sub out this work.

As for equipment in a basic sense. You need a push spreader to apply granular products. Don't skimp here. You're looking at $300+. You also need a sprayer to apply liquid products. Tractor supply has their own brand which I own for my own personal use and I've been happy with the light use I put through them. I would recommend a backpack sprayer. I also remember you have to be able to lock up the pesticide from anyone getting their hands on it. So if you don't have a locking tool box in your truck you'll need like a jobsite box or something. We even had to lock up the sprayers with a cable back in the day.

Of course if you're doing a lot of yards you would probably want a ride on spreader and a tank sprayer in your truck and/or a spreader/sprayer combo. I have no useful information on that though. lol.

Get onto the kansas ag website and follow links you can download the study guides for free from the KSU's website. I just did. It's about 275 pages for the general exam and all three subcategories I'm interested in.

As for the money side of it. A friend of mine use to handle like 10 properties without a license. He couldn't buy enough product to keep the costs down so he was barely making anything if he kept his prices competitive. Larger companies naturally make more money after product expenses because they get better deals. Even purchasing one pallet helps.

Good luck!

p.s. I just re read your post and what I posted and it's not even close to what you were asking. But oh well. That was a lot of typing. :)
 

KS_Grasscutter

LawnSite Gold Member
I personally don't see how there is any money at all in doing it on a small scale. The only reason I am getting licensed is to be a 1 stop shop for my customers. I will probably only end up doing 30 or 40 accounts. It will take me a couple years to break even after buying equipment, but oh well lol.
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OP
Turf Management

Turf Management

LawnSite Member
Location
Kansas
I think I am going to continue subbing the work out. There is too much that I don't know about to feel comfortable providing my customers a great service. The company I use is probably the best in town in this area and treats me and my customers great. All billing goes through me and my customers don't even have contact with the other company.

From their prices, they appear to only be grossing around $4/1,000 sq ft. That is with a small discount for my bulk account but that still doesn't seem worth it to bother. I've heard that guys in KC are getting around $8-$10/1,000 sq ft so if I were ever in a market like that I may rethink this side of the business.

Thanks for the help guys. How about this crappy weather?? I'm hoping to see some snow before April gets here. =[
 

tyler_mott85

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Wichita, KS
I personally don't see how there is any money at all in doing it on a small scale. The only reason I am getting licensed is to be a 1 stop shop for my customers. I will probably only end up doing 30 or 40 accounts. It will take me a couple years to break even after buying equipment, but oh well lol.
Posted via Mobile Device
Being a one stop shop would be the only reason I would go for it. I always plan on being a solo operation except with the occasional seasonal help. In the perfect world I would have 50 accounts that I would maintain everything on. Lawn, landscape, irrigation, fert program, snow, etc. Even with 50 properties to spray I wouldn't be 100% certain I would make any profit. To get to the point of doing 50 properties you would need a larger spray tank and perhaps a ride on spreader just to be efficient enough that you can keep up with your mowing and other maintenance work you have to get done. Even spot spraying one 4 gallon backpack of spray on each lawn would be 200 gallons of spray for one application. I can't imagine spraying that much and still doing everything else.

But perhaps just breaking even but having that security of knowing exactly what is being put onto your properties would be worth it. There's always a chance of that sub screwing you over. Plus having all that extra equipment is just cool. :cool2:

This weather is a joke for making money. I bought a new snow blower thinking I was going to get rich this winter. Oh well. Extra equipment, right?
 

Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
Spot spraying with broadleaf herbicide only in 4 gallon backpack sprayers, you only spray the weeds that are seen... Best time for kill is Fall and most important for looks is late Spring...

Unless you are spraying a vacant lot full of pigweed and lambsquarters you should be able to breeze over several 6K lots with a single fillup... You'll charge mostly for time only because you set your 'Minimum' @ 1 hour plus estimated product...

Everything else is fine in granulated form and takes very little time as well... 50 average properties, 5/da , means you could finish the entire cycle in 2 weeks... That is actually a very desireable window of opportunity... let it stretch out to 3 or 4 weeks, no problem...
 

mikesturf

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Chicago, IL
Exactly what Smallaxe said. Most of my properties are 6,000 ft2. I use a push spreader and a 4 gallon back pack sprayer to spot spray weeds. I can usually do 20 per day. I never needed to invest in a skid sprayer to blanket spray lawns. When I take on new lawns they usually have had another service take care of them, so they were in good condition (which seems like all of your lawns). After you get your license, you can get started for (not including fertilizer) $1,000.
 
OP
Turf Management

Turf Management

LawnSite Member
Location
Kansas
Are there significant benefits to blanket spraying the lawns? The guys in my area seem to do both, depending on the specific application.

I suppose the spot spraying step has a wide profit margin. Perhaps I should dip by toes in slowly by taking over certain steps from the other company. That would probably send them through the roof though. Better not.


On a side note, Tyler & Grasscutter, Accuweather's 15 day forecast shows significant snowfall to occur on January 23 & 24. I know it's a ways out but it's better than staring at all these sunny days we keep getting.
 

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