Set for spring

Spring Prep Playbook - Spring Prep Playbook

Kick off a successful lawn care program.

February 7, 2018
Kristen Hampshire
© Jamie Hooper | Adobe Stock

Lawn Tech has about 3,000 customers, and every property is different, so every yard is prescribed a version of the company’s program, based on its history of weed pressure and nutrient needs. Heading up to spring, Cory Dennis and his team call every client, after reviewing notes from the previous year. The idea: Thank customers for their business and collect other insights that might not be in the technician notes.

Is there a new baby or a pet in the house now? “They might ask us to not spray their yard with weed control,” says Dennis, general manager of the Avon Lake, Ohio-based company. Does the client have plans to add landscaping or otherwise alter the property? This changes the service area.

These client conversations combined with notes about the property, which are included on every invoice, provide a basis for starting spring off strong, Dennis says. “We note any special instructions, so our technicians know how to service every property,” he says. “Everyone wants their property done a certain way, and our job is to apply products correctly.”

Lawn Tech has a base program that it tweaks based on customers’ needs and wants, and depending on a property’s tolerance to products. For example, a lawn with significant crabgrass pressure will require a different formulation of that first pre-emergent application than a property that doesn’t tend to see much activity.

The key for creating the ideal lawn care regimen for every property is to make modifications while maintaining the consistency of a proven program. For Giles Vaughan of YardApes in New Milford, Connecticut, success begins with a soil analysis. “That’s the first step that dictates any treatment we do,” he says. “Before we even deal with weed control, we need to balance the pH of the lawn, otherwise it won’t absorb nutrients and you’ll fight an uphill battle.”

Vaughan adds, “We try to work hand-in-hand with Mother Nature. We are constantly monitoring soil temperature and germination timelines.”

Control out of the gate.

Timing that first spring application is everything. “Right out of the gate, we want that first pre-emergent application out by April and no later than May,” Dennis says, relating that a lingering winter in Ohio could push back the first application. Often, there’s snow in April.

In Connecticut, it’s the same story with predicting spring. Some years, the first application goes down in March, and other years, the weather isn’t ideal until May.

“Timing is the most critical piece for Round 1, because if you put that down too early it will break down before it can create a barrier,” Vaughan says.

At YardApes, Round 1 consists of a granular crabgrass pre-emergent weed control along with a three-way herbicide to control early signs of weeds that can crop up in areas where soil is warmer, such as along sidewalks. Getting that first pre-emergent down is important because crabgrass germinates earlier than turfgrass, Vaughan points out. “Usually, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the key temperature in terms of crabgrass starting to germinate, whereas turfgrass germinates at about 60 degrees,” he says.

While it may change with the weather, the timing of your applications is critical for the success of the treatment.
Photo courtesy of Haller’s Landscaping and Lawncare

YardApes chooses a granular pre-emergent because Vaughan believes it provides more consistent control, and there’s less of a likelihood of run-off than with liquid. However, the company does use a liquid for spot-treating weeds.

At Haller’s Landscaping & Lawncare in Sparta, Tennessee, the first application is a slow-release granule sulfur-coated nitrogen pre-emergent fertilizer. “I usually make two granular applications, first starting at the end of February or the first of March, depending on the weather, and then again six weeks after that,” says Patrick Haller, president.

Haller will change the pre-emergent product he uses – the active ingredient – from year to year. Dennis follows the same practice. “If the crabgrass was crazy last year, then we may up the formulation to put on more active ingredient,” he says. The application rate stays the same, however.

What helps assure that the first application really “sticks” to a lawn?

Vaughan combines the broadleaf pre-emergent with a spreader-sticker product. “That has been a huge help because we deal with a lot of broadleaf weeds here that have a waxy outer shell,” he says. “To make the most of our applications, we find adding a spreader-sticker is a lot more effective than not using one as far as getting the product to (adhere).”

Dennis also uses a spreader-sticker with weed control applications. “The chemistry allows it to go down the front and back side to kill the weed,” he says.

“We try to work hand-in-hand with Mother Nature. We are constantly monitoring soil temperature and germination timelines.” Giles Vaughan, YardApes
Application success.

That initial spring application is key to reducing weed control effort throughout the year, Haller says.

Dennis says the first lawn care application kicks off a lawn for a healthy season – and the second application can prevent damaging grubs, if clients elect the fertilizer with grub preventive. (Lawn Tech also provides a fertilizer-only application for the second round.)

Educating clients about the products and why each step matters also helps with the success, because how a lawn is maintained in between lawn care applications plays into the program’s success. “We try not to treat lawns that we don’t maintain,” Vaughan says, adding that the lawn care and landscape maintenance crews’ schedules are organized to ensure “a happy balance.”

“If we’re applying a product, it’s super important that there is no (maintenance) activity on that lawn for a week to two weeks, depending on what we’re putting down,” Vaughan continues. “So, having the ability to schedule maintenance around treatments is really important. If you put down a treatment and the lawn is mowed the next day, the chances of a product being successful aren’t that great.”

Vaughan and his team talk to clients about integrated pest management and curative practices (aeration, mowing height, watering) to prevent weed and disease. “We are not doing blanket lawn care applications unless they are necessary,” he assures clients. Spring pre-emergent happens to be one of those necessary times, though. “And, we do lawn checks at no additional charge, so if a client is in between applications, our lawn crews are trained to identify problems, so we can stay on top of turf problems, insects, disease and weeds. We can address those quickly, which is the key to control.”