Agronomic answers

Lawn care operators solve tough turf issues by leaning on university extensions, supplier education and industry seminars.

Properly training lawn care technicians and educating clients can lead to beautiful lawns and happy customers.

The thinning Bermudagrass on a client’s property was receiving plenty of sunlight, but moss was growing in the turf. Garrick McCarty wasn’t quite sure why the lawn was behaving this way, so he reached out to nearby Auburn University Extension to get some answers.

McCarty, owner of Running Roots Lawn Care in Birmingham, Alabama, customizes lawn care programs for every client’s property. “That has been extremely important to my customers,” he says. If a soil test comes back recommending an entirely different approach for a section of lawn, he’ll modify the nutrient and fertilizer program accordingly.

Insight from agronomy experts helps McCarty identify lawn problems if he’s not certain of the cause of an issue. That was the case on this Bermudagrass lawn. He sent in soil samples and learned that the soil was too acidic for that turf type to thrive. The extension recommended lime, and McCarty edited the lawn care program. Before he even had a chance to tell the homeowner about the program change, the client remarked on how well the lawn had bounced back.

“The fertilizer mix recommended was a deviation from my normal summer fertilizer program, and it contained more phosphorus to help with rooting,” McCarty says.

The client’s remarks: “What you did really turned this around!”

Lessons everywhere.

McCarty also relies on a sales representative who works for his lawn care product supplier to provide information about turf disease and pest pressure. The supplier also provides details about the latest technology and best practices for solving turf issues. A combination of resources gives him and other lawn care operators a proven foundation on which effective lawn care programs can be built.

“You can’t just throw down fertilizer and be successful,” says Robert Louiso, president, Louiso Lawn Care & Landscapes in Batavia, Ohio. He draws most of his turfgrass knowledge from experience working for the grounds department at a local golf course growing up. “Beyond that, I go to trade shows and attend seminars, read the trade magazines.”

Information gives LCOs the power to tackle the most challenging lawn care issues. And accessing agronomic resources keeps operators’ knowledge up to date.

That’s why McCarty seeks out trade shows and classes held by the extension service so he can continue his education and pass that information on to his technicians. “If you can’t find training, you aren’t looking,” he says.

An extension of turf knowledge.

McCarty only focuses on lawn care, and he regularly sends out soil samples to Auburn University and emails questions to staff. “I might ask about different turf varieties that I don’t always service or ways to fertilize grass when we see certain symptoms,” he says.

A quick email can yield critical information for properly diagnosing and treating turfgrass issues, McCarty says. Soil samples are necessary when a lawn is not responding to McCarty’s typical program.

Sometimes, customers ask for soil samples, and McCarty happily complies. When a client is invested in gathering information about soil to ensure the best lawn care program, he knows that’s a customer who will value Running Roots’ customized approach.

“Between the extension office and my supplier who has been in the business for 30 years, we get the information necessary to manage turf issues.” – Garrick McCarty, owner, Running Roots Lawn Care

“I run a small company, and the response that I provide to customers is a differentiator for me,” McCarty says, adding that he addresses turf issues with a sense of immediacy and educates clients in the process.

“We don’t take a cookie-cutter approach,” McCarty adds. The information he gathers from agronomist experts and longtime suppliers helps inform lawn care programs for clients. “We focus on being flexible, responsive and customizing.”

“I have a sales rep who does a tremendous job of keeping me informed,” McCarty adds. “Between the extension office and my supplier who has been in the business for 30 years, we get the information necessary to manage turf issues.”

An agronomist’s perspective also helps the way disease issues are managed at Guilford Garden & Lawn in Greensboro, North Carolina, says Eric Campbell, lawn and yard care manager.

Campbell often references TurfFiles, an online resource through North Carolina State University’s turfgrass management program.

He can watch for pest, weed and disease pressure and learn about common symptoms he might find on clients’ lawns. Images are especially helpful. “This is a recognized resource,” Campbell says, adding that his customers are also aware of it. “I can tell a customer, ‘I looked on TurfFiles,’ and I can email customers links, ‘Here is what TurfFiles says.’”

March 2017
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