Combination fertilizers offer multiple benefits in one product

Spreader using combination products (Photo: Bedell Property Management)
Spreader using combination products (Photo: Bedell Property Management)
Spreader using combination products (Photo: Bedell Property Management)
Less labor Using combination products can result in fewer visits, reduced labor costs and less soil compaction from equipment. (Photo: Bedell Property Management)

Combination fertilizer products allow lawn care operators (LCOs) to put down multiple products in one application, such as a fertilizer plus a preemergent herbicide or insecticide, and can help save on two crucial aspects of a lawn care operation: time and labor.

“As long as you use combination products at the appropriate rates, they work really well,” says Brandin Swisher, CEO of Alliance Landscaping in Auburn, N.H., which provides lawn care, maintenance and snow services to a mix of residential and commercial clientele.

Swisher and Michael Bedell, owner of Bedell Property Management in Milford, Mich., gave Landscape Management the lowdown on how they use combination products within their operations.

The benefits

Bedell Property Management — which provides lawn care, maintenance, landscape design and snow services to an 80 percent residential, 20 percent commercial clientele — implemented combination products about nine years ago and has reaped several benefits as a result of using them, according to Bedell.

“You have fewer visits to job sites and reduced soil compaction because the machinery may be on the job site less,” he says. “In some cases, you can decrease the amount of equipment that you need to complete the work.”

Bedell Property Management makes use of a preemergent herbicide mixed with a granular fertilizer or an insecticide mixed with a fertilizer. To decide on the right product, Bedell says he consulted with his supplier and other lawn care professionals in online forums and even at GIE+EXPO.

For Alliance Landscaping, combination products have resulted in fewer application visits per customer (five instead of seven) and lower labor costs.

“It was about being able to take on more work with the same amount of staff,” Swisher says, adding that over time, the company reduced its labor costs from 19 percent of its total operating costs to 17 percent upon switching to combination products.

The company has been using combination products for about seven years. It uses products that also help manage crabgrass and grubs.

Swisher adds that the company’s use of a slow-release fertilizer product can also help cut down on maintenance costs because crews aren’t spending as much time to go out and mow properties.

Words to the wise

Swisher cautions that it’s important to apply the products at the appropriate rate.

“Some people have made mistakes when switching to combination products. For example, say the bag normally gets 12,000 square feet in a regular fertilizer application, (but) if they keep that rate on that combination product, it might only cover 8,000 square feet,” Swisher says. “A lot of people switch to it and don’t put it down at the right rate and think combination products are subpar, but they’re really not if they’re used appropriately.”

Bedell adds that LCOs should take the time to figure out what products will be the safest and most effective to use in a given region.

“You see the results if you put the work in on the front end and take the time to learn about the products,” he says. “Read the label and learn from your local extension service, other contractors in your area and your supplier.”

Sarah Webb

Sarah Webb

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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