How you use chemicals and in what form may depend on many factors.
When choosing sprayer and spreader equipment, durability and ease of use are of the utmost importance. When selecting equipment and preferred options for your team’s fertilization and weed control applications, there are several key considerations to consider.
Affordable commercial fertilizer spreaders are the preferred spreader of Adam Jackson, co-owner of Nature's Turf, which specializes in providing tree and shrub care and lawn management and pest management services to residential customers in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Jackson said his spreaders are more affordable than similar commercial-grade brands, and the support and proximity of regional distributors means that their equipment is “more readily available in our market,” Jackson said. "If we need one, I can run and get one in 10 minutes."
Weedex Lawn Care, which serves the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, uses 80-pound hand-push commercial spreaders instead of larger rides, because their customers’ lawns are only about 5,500 square feet on average.
"I tried other push spreaders, but their gearboxes are not that good," said Brennan Weir, Weedex's chief operating officer. Weir also found that the dial setting on the spreader (users can set the application level) is easier to use than the dashboard on other spreaders he has tried.
In addition, life and durability issues need to be considered. He found that his spreaders "are about $500, so they are not cheap, but they seem to be able to hold them," Will said.
Jackson said his spreaders tend to be lighter than their counterparts in some other brands, which makes them easier to transport and handle. Nature's Turf staff installed a fleet of approximately 40-50 commercial spreaders in custom racks mounted on trucks.
Due to the extensive use of a large number of sprayers, Nature's Turf team members have become professionals who repair and modify spreaders as needed to keep the lawn ready.
"Some parts on the spreader may be damaged prematurely, and you have to learn how to deal with them," Jackson said, using the roller pin that connects the impeller to the rotating shaft as an example. "The one that came with it broke very quickly. So, we replaced it with a heavier industrial-grade rolling pin, which tends to last longer."
Weir also stated that maintenance expertise is essential to keep the spreader ready.
"Obviously, when they are used at the speed we use, you have to do some maintenance on them," Will said. He tried to use the same standard equipment models in his fleet to reduce the types of repair parts he had to keep in In stock.
Although affordability and durability are of course key, Gary Barker, owner of Barker's Landscaping in Kentucky, also considers load capacity and equipment materials when choosing a spreader.
"When I buy a spreader, I look at the hopper and the type of drive that enters the spreader and the materials it is made of," Buck said. "I prefer spreaders with plastic funnels, metal gears and pneumatic tires. This provides you with a lighter, stronger, and easier to push spreader."
When choosing a hand-held sprayer, Barker prefers sprayers with battery-powered pumps.
"They provide you with a constant flow rate when spraying," he said.
Jackson's team at Nature's Turf has also incorporated more battery-powered spray pumps into their lawn care library.
Battery-powered nebulizers “have improved performance since they have lithium-ion batteries. They last longer,” he said.
Jackson said that, like Barker, Jackson believes that battery-powered sprayers can provide a more uniform and consistent spray flow - and they are easier for the crew to use because they don't require pumping.
For larger applications, Nature's Turf uses a fleet of 22 spraying vehicles, and the company equips itself with these spraying vehicles using directly ordered sprayer parts.
"We buy the components we need, and we assemble the truck ourselves," Jackson said. "Compared with buying a custom spray truck, in this way, we have saved tens of thousands of dollars per piece of equipment."
In Lake Park, Florida, Renaissance Landscape Services staff prefer to use equipment that combines the functions of spreaders and sprayers—while taking care of green spaces in South Florida’s homeowners’ associations, which make up most of their customer roster.
“We do business anywhere from more than 50 homes to more than 1,000 home communities, so I need equipment that can access large and small areas,” said Rob Gresham, owner of Renaissance Landscape Services.
He said he has a fleet of spreaders/sprayers of different sizes, from the lake bank behind to the side of the house, to the smaller front yard.
In order to ensure the longevity of the equipment, Gresham encouraged his staff to wash the equipment after shifts every day to reduce the risk of rust or corrosion.
"If you leave the fertilizer there for more than a few days, you will replace the parts left and right," he said.
Gresham added that if one of the spreaders fails, it will usually be shut down at the local repair shop for at least one or two weeks. Therefore, Gresham prioritizes preventive maintenance to keep the equipment running smoothly and ready to take action.
Gresham said 99% of Revival Landscape's fertilization applications are granular.
The Weir team at Weedex is in a similar situation.
"I want to say that 98% of our fertilizers are granular and are introduced from the fertilizer applicator," Will said, noting that the company sometimes uses a small amount of liquid fertilizer in the spring.
"During the hot summer in Texas, if you try to use liquid fertilizer as the main fertiliser... then you will be discouraged from the market," Will said. "It's much cheaper to use granular fertilizer."
In addition to fertilizing, Jackson's team at Nature's Turf often uses spreaders to apply granular fungicides, just to facilitate logistics.
"We use more granular fungicides than liquid fungicides, because there may only be one or two customers on your route that need some kind of fungicidal treatment. The space in the water tank or sprayer is more suitable for other purposes," Jackson explained.
For weed control and pest prevention, Nature's Turf prefers liquid applications. The use of liquids allows the company to easily combine multiple application types in one spray as needed to obtain the given properties.
"For weed control, we will use liquid almost exclusively," Jackson said. "We think it works better. We usually combine multiple things. For example, we might apply pre-emergence to prevent weeds, post-emergence to kill existing weeds, and then we might even use some kind of fertilizer, Whether it's greening (turfing) or root health or micronutrients."
Recently, Jackson and his team have been increasing the use of liquid nutrition in lawn care management. "In many ways, they are much more efficient," he said.
When spray applications are required, Weir’s team uses concentrated mixtures, allowing them to customize the application as needed. Weir said that unlike some companies that might use 500-gallon cans for 100% soluble solutions, Weedex staff use 100-gallon tanks and 60-gallon product tanks to inject their concentrated mixture into the solution.
Like Jackson, Weir prefers to assemble his truck at home when it comes to spray equipment.
"We are buying pumps and engines, but as for the stainless steel frame that is being built for this equipment, we are all building it in-house," Jackson said. "We built all our own equipment here, whether it's spray racks, fertilizer racks or our water tank racks."
The author is a freelance writer in Kentucky.
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Even with a lack of labor on supply chain issues, some landscape and lawn care companies are still growing at an impressive rate.
As the pandemic continues to focus on outdoor living, this year is a landmark year for residential and custom design/build businesses.
"2020 is a record-breaking year for us. It's really good and busy," Larson said. "The COVID is definitely due to success-especially in the Midwest... 2021 is absolutely no different. We are almost sold out this year."
But Larson said that despite all the growth, COVID has exacerbated a problem-the labor force.
"The challenge that has also occurred before COVID is to find people who are willing to work with both hands," she said. "It's difficult to find someone who is not afraid to work outdoors instead of at the computer... It's not just about digging holes. There are a lot of tricks in it."
In order to solve this problem, Larson said she was willing to pay the price.
"Honestly, finding someone to do the job is the most difficult part," she said. "So you have to pay people a living wage. You have to pay them a salary that they can support their family, and a salary that they can pay for the mortgage."
Larson said that since the team is already small, with only five employees, paying a reasonable salary is essential to prevent them from looking for work elsewhere.
"I have an employee who drove far to work, and he thought he could drive closer to home and work for other people," she said. "He found that my hourly wage was 3 to 4 dollars higher than what they were willing to pay for his skills, so he stayed."
This seems to work well for Larson, who says her staff are very loyal.
"The shortest term of my crew is two years. Some of my people have been here for seven or eight years-they are long-term employees," she said. "As a team, they have indeed become cohesive. The company culture has become very important."
However, Larson admits that because she pays more to her team, her rate has also increased. Although this resulted in higher prices for some potential customers, Larson said she was not worried.
"As a result, landscape projects are usually impacted," she said. "Then they shop around and find that this is indeed the current price, and then they promise...I don't know if society has become accustomed to (increasing), but they will not have a choice."
Last year, the company grew by 100% and doubled in size. Revenue reached 8.4 million U.S. dollars. For 2021, Lingo stated that he expects growth to be close to 30-40%.
"This year is a challenge," Ringo said. He added that most of the problems are related to supply chain disruptions.
"From the factory to the PVC pipe to the equipment, almost everything takes at least four to six weeks," he said. 'We have been waiting for three months of new equipment to come in, just because they don't have chips, or they don't have hydraulic valves or other things. This is our greatest frustration. "
As a commercial landscape company and forest farm that provides services throughout Oklahoma, Lingo said they rely on rented trucks to transport materials.
"The current shortage of freight is a big problem for us," he said. "We can't get semi trucks to transport materials for us because they are in such a large demand."
In addition, Lingo said that supply chain issues have caused prices to skyrocket. For example, the company only pays about $100,000 per week for PVC pipes. Therefore, Lingo said they were forced to reconsider the cost of their work.
He explained: "The new estimate we put forward reflects the current bid price, plus allowance." "We give a 10% subsidy to all materials, and a few years ago, we just bid at the current rate. We think it is. It will be higher, so we set a higher interest rate there."
However, most jobs are booked within a year or so, so Lingo said they were hit by materials in this regard.
"For the work for which we have already signed a contract, we have to eat the increased costs," he said. "Therefore, there is no order change due to the price increase."
Lingo said that when Green Shade bid, the reason for the price increase was increased competition.
"The market is more tense than before," he said. "This spring is very tight. There are a lot of people bidding for the same job. Over time, some of these companies have stopped bidding because there are now a lot of jobs. So everyone can be replaced."
Nonetheless, Lingo said this work is still pouring in.
"If someone calls us to find a job now, we need four to six weeks because we have such a backlog," he said. "This is just our short-term work. Our long-term work will not be completed until August 2022, and the work will not be completed until 2023."
Walmsley said that in the past two years, candid communication with customers has brought this full-service landscape company to new heights.
"2020 and 2021 are extraordinary years for our sales," he said. "In 2020, we have seen a 40% increase, and then we are on track to surpass that goal this year."
Setting clear expectations for new customers is at the forefront of this growth.
"We had an open and honest conversation with our customers," Walmsley said. "We tell people immediately that we are not the cheapest company, nor the most expensive company, but you will get the most benefit from us."
Competitive pricing on the island can sometimes be difficult. Walmsley said he had to reject the low price offer.
"A bigger problem we have here is that we have about 64 registered companies on Hilton Head Island, and there may be about 40 unregistered companies," he said. “It’s difficult to try to set a price to compete with people who don’t have overhead, but it’s also difficult to make customers realize that people who don’t overhear usually don’t have the knowledge or skills.”
Even so, Walmsley said he would not let threats prevent him from lowering quality just to lower prices.
"We try not to pay attention to any competition," he said. "We are trying to examine ourselves, how we can be the best island environment tomorrow, and how we can be better than today. Therefore, entering the winter, a lot of our focus will be on how to improve our own processes and procedures in order to To provide our customers with the best service."
Walmsley said his team will strengthen training in the offseason, and he also suggested some internal promotions.
Quality is critical to the island environment, and another threat is labor shortages.
"Currently, we have 30 employees," Walmsley said. "Usually we are in the 38-40 range."
In order not to reduce quality, the company has transitioned to a smaller crew size and is considering additional changes to its maintenance route.
"We tried to make the staff thinner," he said. "We are about to evaluate whether we need to give up some maintenance accounts. Normally, we like to run a three-person team, but currently we have no one to do it. Therefore, in addition to our main customers, the staff of the two have been ours this year normal."
When Silvers restarted his business in 2014, he admitted that the situation was rather stagnant in the first few years, but that is no longer the case.
"This year, things have doubled," he said. "It's all because I answered the phone, I was outside, and I was recognized."
Silvers attributed his soaring sales to a true focus on his brand promotion and social media promotion.
"I have my website, I'm everywhere on Facebook, so I was discovered," he said.
Silvers says he posts stories on Facebook every day-from his dog Molly to his hat, lawn mower and truck.
"The people at Findlay know who Ken Silvers is," he said. "They saw my truck parked in a coffee shop with a big sign. People asked me if I was Ken Silvers, and they would say,'I see your truck everywhere in the city.'"
Leveraging Google and maintaining a leading position in SEO also allowed Silvers to reach a wider audience in his town. He suggested taking a moment to fill out a detailed Google business profile.
Silver said that by using his name as the company's name, people have established more personal connections with him.
"My name is there and I am doing this service," he said. "I don't want to hide behind other names."
Silvers had a different landscaping company in the 1980s, and he said that this company became quite large. But now, he says that by keeping the scale small, he can provide better, high-quality services.
"I used to be big, but I decided it wasn't me," he said. “I’m Ken Silvers and I want to serve my customers. I have to have time to do it. Therefore, if the 30 or so customers I currently have are reduced, I won’t accept other customers.”
Keeping his work within close range also helps Silvers grow its business.
"I'm not in a huge market," he said. "I won't leave Findlay in five miles. I can't afford to go 20 miles one way to plant a lawn. So, I keep it small."
Even if it is a one-man operation, Silvers said he can keep up with the competition and charge a reasonable price.
"People are not charging enough," he said. "I charge 10 to 15 dollars more than most people."
The 36-year-old company managed by Kim Bius provides annuals, perennials, ornamental plants and even wind chimes to many customers. But Kim's Home and Garden also provides a landscape design department for multi-family, commercial and real estate clients, who are accepting new orders every day. Bius said that the company had a large number of orders before October.
"We are in the industry, and if people want to make incredible things, they will come to them," Bius said.
There are 6 employees in the department, and Bius also pointed out that the labor shortage is a shocking reason, even if income flows in steadily. This department alone-led by a foreman and a landscape architect who has worked in the company for 20 years-has generated approximately $600,000 in revenue in 2021 and will continue to increase.
However, labor shortages are familiar areas for Bius. What is unfamiliar this season is that the abnormal weather in Texas delayed the start of the season and hindered overall production. Texas froze in February, and later, when the company began operations, rainfall fell by 36 inches in a month.
"The weather in Texas where I live is strange," she said. "We didn't start work until the end of April."
Bius said, thank goodness, her team handled the storm well. Although there was a foot of snow around Valentine's Day, they brought all the plants to the retail store just to keep the plants alive. Then, when it ended, they had two huge storage containers with heaters for the materials.
It's been a while since Beews had to act quickly like this because of the cold weather: She said that on January 2, 1985, the day she opened her business, there was a big ice storm. As she kept learning about weather reports in Texas this year, a strong sense of deja vu was imminent, she chose to act quickly.
"I just have a feeling how bad the situation will be," she said. "I don't want to lose $100,000 on the plant. This is my dime, so let's finish it."
The strong relationship helped Kody Ketterling's company deal with the early development of COVID-19, and now they are also helping the Idaho-based company manage supply chain complications.
Interestingly, Ketterling said that he had never met two of his clients. Last year he met a client who lives outside of Pennsylvania but owns a property in Idaho. But the frequent communication through the app and Zoom meetings allowed his five-person team to keep close contact with customers. Kettering said that despite the delay in the completion of work due to supply shortages across the industry, no one canceled his service.
"You have been ready for six months, seven or eight months-you'd better order before you need to order," Kaitlin said, adding that his "one-stop" company appeared in terms of obtaining parts. Delay. It's not just irrigation sprayers or plant material-it's almost everything. "Everything has been rolled out for weeks, weeks and weeks," he said.
The company is mainly engaged in commercial work and solves material shortages by not maximizing the number of jobs that the company can usually take on; instead, they mainly serve the same customers they usually have, although some jobs require another day or two. Because labor is as scarce as supply. More importantly, the heat wave earlier this summer exposed parts of the west coast to dangerous temperatures, which means that plants are also more likely to die prematurely. Therefore, Ketterling contacted his client and offered a compromise.
"We tell all our customers,'You can do this and cancel your warranty, or you can let us wait until it cools down,'" he said. All his clients chose the latter.
Ketterling added that his company has benefited from having many customers in 5-13 years, so these relationships facilitate difficult conversations. In addition, other gardeners in the area do not seem to deal with the heat, labor shortage and supply chain issues.
"We strive for quality and speed, so we work closely with our customers," Kettering said. "We don't care if we know you (through face-to-face meetings), our deal is to do this and approach it as if you were always there. We don't skip steps."
ExperiGreen has six locations in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina. It has been operating since 2016 and 98% of its chemical lawn care work is performed in residential areas.
As a newer company, the early development of COVID-19 is frightening-Irving can now easily admit this. In the Detroit market, pandemic restrictions are particularly difficult to navigate because they are closed throughout April at the beginning of the 2020 season.
"This is all production, all sales, so it really hurt us at the beginning of the season," Irving said. "I think people are just a little freaked out."
But that was now: Owen said that during the pandemic, his team strengthened its digital marketing department, and the results were "extraordinarily good." The business continued to grow in the early development of COVID, but in 2021, the company's growth exceeded its goals.
"I think our digital presence and our digital marketing really took off this year," Irving said. "We have our own marketing team, including a marketing director and a digital marketing manager. She has indeed done a lot for us in building our website, improving our website, and making it more interactive."
ExperiGreen publishes two blog posts a week during the season and keeps pace with social media platforms. Irving said that in a period of reduced face-to-face, a renewed focus on digital presence has helped — the company even redesigned its website before the pandemic began, and digital sales skyrocketed.
"We have established some digital reputation," he said, adding that his company's customers (single-family homeowners) were still able to spend during the COVID-19 period and were helped by stimulus funds. "I think the population has more confidence in their economic status and job security."
Of course, not everything is perfect for ExperGreen, but Owen said that their problem is that the entire industry faces, that is, labor. Unemployment rates continue to create fierce competition among companies trying to fill trucks with new employees, which also means that competition for the best salary in the region has intensified.
"You may have heard this from other people, but this year's recruitment, recruitment and staffing situation has become more difficult," Irving said. "This is harder than ever, and the price we pay is higher."