Even though we are still looking at a decent amount of snow outside our windows, spring is definitely on the way. The days are getting longer, the sun higher in the sky, and snow is slowly melting. Soon we will begin to see our (still dormant) lawns again, and you may begin to look for a lawn healthcare provider. At face value, it may seem that most lawn care companies are the same. After all, don’t they all apply products and provide services that make your lawn healthier?
There are several ways that lawn care companies may be different, let’s take a look at a few:
1. TRAINING AND LICENSING
All reputable lawn care companies in Maine at a minimum must study the materials required to obtain Maine Board of Pesticides Control licensure and maintain minimum continuing education credits. Beyond this, do you know if your lawn care company participates in any additional advanced training? To truly understand all aspects of keeping grass and ornamental plants healthy, constant education is necessary. At Northern Turf, grass is our passion! All of our service programs and skills used to diagnose issues with your lawn are backed by college degrees in Horticulture and Turfgrass Management. This advanced knowledge allows us to not only determine WHAT is happening with your lawn but also the specific mechanisms as to WHY and HOW it can be remedied.
When it comes to the different products that lawn care companies use to take care of your lawn, there can be a wide range…not only in quality but in quantities used, how they are applied, how they function as a system, etc.
Let’s start with fertilizer, after all, it could be considered the core of any comprehensive turf health program. There are many standard “off the shelf” options, that utilize common industry analyses of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Some may contain a form of granular iron (Fe), and others perhaps a little calcium (Ca). Depending on the intended use, some may also have their prills impregnated with certain control products. While not inherently bad products, they live up to their name of “common fertilizer products.” They don’t allow the lawn care company to truly dial in the nutrients they are applying, thus a relatively cookie-cutter type program emerges from their use.
On the other hand, custom-blended fertilizer products that some companies utilize allow the exact desired nutrients to be delivered to the lawn. Once a comprehensive nutrient schedule has been created, fertilizer products are custom blended so that the exact nutrients can be delivered in the amount and frequency desired. This results in a much more tailored approach, without much or any of the fertilizer bag contents going to waste via fertilizer bag filler.
FERTILIZER PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS
- What is the frequency of applications? What type(s) and quantity of slow-release coatings are used?
- How much of each macronutrient gets applied over the course of the season? What are the sources of each nutrient? (All nitrogen sources are NOT created equally!)
- Are additional nutrients included within the program, or are they considered “extras?” A few examples include calcium/magnesium (Ca/Mg), various biostimulants, and iron (Fe).
Let’s talk about the next category, which would be considered control products. These are things like herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators…basically anything with an EPA registration number. There is a myriad of options out there, sometimes a dozen or more that make claims to all solve a similar problem but with wildly differing price points and/or use rates.
Several different herbicides, for example, may state on the label that they control a certain troublesome weed within your lawn. However, experienced applicators sometimes know that the control stated may not be 100%, or may require multiple applications of a more basic, low-cost three-way herbicide. Meanwhile, a premium four-way herbicide that although may be more expensive up front, has the ability to provide excellent control of the weed(s) in question in just one application.
CONTROL PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS
- What active ingredients are used? Are they only marginally effective on their target pest, albeit cheaper?
- What do they carry for an EPA signal word?
- What carrier volume should they be applied at, respective to their target pests to gain maximum control?
- If lesser quality products are used, is there a chance of phytotoxicity to the grass?
GRASS SEED CONSIDERATIONS
Finally, we reach grass seed. This is one product category that should always be prefaced with the saying “Pay once, cry once.” It is very evident to see when less than stellar grass seed is used by a turf care company. Premium grass seed easily pays for itself over time, requiring fewer inputs than lower-quality seed mixtures to look great. The mixture itself also plays a role, as even minimal quantities of what are considered “inert” ingredients, noxious weed seeds, or other crop seeds can ruin a nice new lawn in a hurry.
Is your lawn care company using grass seed that is:
- A-LIST and/or blue tag certified?
- Contains 0% noxious weed seeds and 0% other crop seed?
- Utilizes hand-picked varieties within a precise mixture of species, custom-tailored to the local environmental conditions.
If your lawn care company isn’t following guidelines similar to these, not using custom blended products unique to our area, or can’t even answer some of these questions…it’s time to switch to the professionals at Northern Turf. We can proudly say that we utilize all custom blended fertilizer and grass seed products in our daily operations, and the results speak for themselves.
The last of the major components of a lawn care company encompasses all of its equipment. Even with the best technician training and the best products/programs in place, these can only be as good as the equipment that delivers them. Just to name a few, lawn care equipment can include fertilizer spreaders (manual and powered,) chemical sprayers (boom, skid with hose/reel, handheld,) slice seeders and aerators. Many of these will deliver a similar finished product, but are they all efficient? Do they all utilize the latest technology so that their work performed is in the most efficient and calculated way possible?
In summary, make sure to do your research when it comes to lawn care companies. As you can see there is the potential for a very wide range of service delivery, cost, etc.
To get your lawn off on the right foot, contact us at Northern Turf Management at (207) 544-9420 to learn more about our lawn fertilization program!