Time to spare

Time to spare

Biofertility programs are allowing lawn care operators to produce quality lawns, often with fewer applications than synthetic fertilizer programs.

September 22, 2011
Heather Taylor
Bionutrition Today sponsored by Lebanon Green Issue Green News / Practices Industry News

(Pictured: Jim Buck)

When Jim Buck was introduced to a biofertility program, he decided there were enough good reasons for him to switch completely from his synthetic fertilizer regimen.

“I can offer more services at the same price because I’m incorporating weed prevention and insecticides, I’m not going on the properties as many times, and my costs are down,” says Buck, owner of Terra Scapes in Stone Harbor, N.J.

Buck, like other lawn care operators, are giving the organic fertilizer – specifically bionutrition – a try because of the benefits that are believed to accompany it. First, there is the cost consideration. Because of its contents, bionutrient costs are different from traditional synthetics fertilizer. They’re not tied to skyrocketing oil prices like synthetics are.

Comparing the two from a frequency standpoint, many lawn care operators say fewer applications are needed with a biofertility program. For example, lawn care technicians at Northampton, Pa.-based R-Green Turf make four applications of its organic liquid fertilizer, where synthetic fertilizers would be applied six to eight times or more, according to the company’s owner, Ryan Wilmott.

“For anybody who has a standard four-step program, it’s basically the same deal: Spring summer, summer and fall,” he says.

Buck begins the first round of applications on the first of April, and it takes about two weeks to get through all the customers. The remainder of the applications follow on the first of June, the first of August and the first of October, though due to the heat in 2010, he waited until early September for the August application.

With the synthetics program he used, Buck applied fertilizer mixed with other treatments in April and June, followed by solely feeding applications in September, October and November. Now he’s getting everything accomplished in fewer trips.

“We’re going out four times, but each time we’re providing three separate services,” Buck says, explaining the compost tea he uses can include insecticide, weed control or other treatments.
While Eric Greenwood’s current program consists of applying the liquid fertilizer six times a year, he plans to eventually start cutting it down to four applications.

“That’s all we really need to apply,” says Greenwood, owner of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Heritage Lawn care. “I can deliver it in as few as four applications and get the results of six with the synthetic fertilizer. Typically with synthetics, you return every four to six weeks. With a four-step program, applications are spaced out more, so there’s more time between each round.”

Lawn care operators say they’re able to spray the fertilizer less often because of how the bionutrients work. The product contains live microorganisms which get to work in the soil. They stay active and continue to reproduce, Greenwood says.

The result is a material that continues working long after the application.

“We’re creating an environment where the lawn is basically creating its own nutrients,” Wilmott says.
Fewer applications result in fewer visits to each property. The company saves money on gas, labor and weed control product, Wilmott says, adding profitability is up.

Buck agrees that there’s a savings associated with the biofertility program.

“The price is still the same per application as it was with synthetics, but with synthetics we went out an extra trip, so the customers are saving money (with bionutrition),” he says.

Bionutrition is the only fertilizer program Buck is using now. He will analyze his clients’ lawns in July and determine if the program needs any fine-tuning.