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Soil Testing and Choosing a Proper Fertilizer

Discussion in 'Fertilizer Application' started by MikeD520, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. MikeD520

    MikeD520 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    I operate a pest control company and I was approached by one of my commercial customers for bid for a fertilization and weed control program. I got the bid and the management gave me a spec sheet with exactly fertilizer to be used for the lawns and ornamental beds, and what pre-emergents to use for the lawns and ornamental beds. A few of my friends with landscape companies are now referring thier customers to me for fertilization and weed control applications. I have all of the proper certifications! My question is how do I choose the appropriate fertilizers for my residential customers? Do I test the soil? What exactly is a "four-step" program? Does it mean four applications of fertilizer/pre-ermergent/pesticide per year (spring, late spring/early summer, late summer/early fall, and a winterizing application)? I want to know exactly what I am doing before I commit to any residential lawn customers (if I do commit to this add-on service). I used to fertilize relative's lawns when I was younger, but I just chose fertilizer that seemed to be the most popular in the store. Thanks for your information!
  2. heritage

    heritage LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,358

    What level of service(s) do you plan to provide? It makes a BIG differance as to how you decide what type of program you want to offer. I would strongly suggest that your basic program is a "5 step" program. The only 4 Step programs that I know of are Homeowner Products and "Penny Pinching" Condo and Commercial contracts where the client is trying to get the bare minimum.
    I do not offer a 4 step program for my clients because quality will be average at best. Do you want to compete with "Big Green" or do you want to offer your clients Quality Results and Great service? You replys will help us to help you with a program or programs.

    Pete D.
  3. MikeD520

    MikeD520 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57


    I want to offer QUALITY REULTS and GREAT SERVICE. I worked for a another pest control company before I went out on my own. I also got know owners of other companies and how they operated. When I went on my own I decided to take the route that few other pest control companies (atleast in my area) choose to take...building business through being thoroughly educated with multiple pest issues; customer education; the most appropriate solution to the pest issue; pesticide use, safety and regulations. By taking this approach, I have acquired more customers from referrals than I have gained through other types of marketing. Before I commit to any lawn customers I want to be able to offer quality results and great service. I appreciate your input and help. I am anxious to hear about the Five Step Program.
  4. I believe the number of steps depends on what services you are providing! My basic program is 3 or 4 steps, includes adequate fertilizer, a pre emerge for grassy weeds if needed, and broadleaf control.

    The number of steps depends on what services you offer, and the quality of products you use!

    The big companies like a lot of steps, why, each round is cheaper, and they must keep the applicators busy!
  5. MikeD520

    MikeD520 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    Here is the program the the property management firm requested. I also talked to the guys at the local Lesco dealer. They said it was a solid program and a little high on the nitrogen, but that is what a lot of places are requesting to make their community more attractive.

    Late March/Early April:
    Dimension 13-2-5
    Dimension 0-0-7
    Late May/Early June:
    24-5-11 50%
    Momentum Application
    Late September/Early October:
    Same as last application.
    Late November/Early December:
    34-5-11 Winterizer

    Opinions? Again, this is what a management company requested, not my program.

    What are the components of basic programs? How do I choose the proper fertilizer that contains the proper nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium? A soil test?
  6. airtractrdrivr

    airtractrdrivr LawnSite Member
    Messages: 126

    I wouldnt be so quick to judge other applicators 4 step programs if you dont know anything about them. I have a 4 step program that I use on my residential as well as commercial accounts, and ALL of my accounts are in perfect condition, with nothing "average" about the quality. A lot of it is just knowing what you're doing out here.
  7. cemars

    cemars LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    Do you have a choice? If the management company is giving you the spec's it seems like they think they know what is best. There is an excellent chance they are wrong, the spec's probably are generic and have little to do with soil test results. A soil test would be ideal but I have found they mean little to commercial property managers. There test is a decent looking turf for the least amount of money possible.
  8. MikeD520

    MikeD520 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    Does everyone conduct a soil test to determine what fertilizer the lawn needs? What are the components of your basic programs? Again, I operate a pest control company that has a commercial account that told me what to apply and when to apply it. Now, a few of my lawn maintenance/landscape friends are referring their customers to me about maintenance programs. I want to learn all of the proper steps before (and IF) I commit to these customers. And, I am already certified in the necessary categories.
  9. MikeD520

    MikeD520 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57


    No, I don't have a choice with the property management firm, but if I choose to take on the residential leads, then I do have a choice. I am assuming that a soil test is the way to determine exactly what the lawn needs. When I asked why they chose these products I was answered with "because we did..." It seemed like they pulled the fertilizer rates out of the air.
  10. cemars

    cemars LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 387

    With the residential leads, a soil test is a great idea. It will allow you to customize a program for the homeowner, and unlike most commercial properties they will probably listen to and appreciate your advise.

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