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(Plant) food for thought

December 4, 2020 -  By
Spreading fertilizer (Photo: BanksPhotos/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Photo: BanksPhotos/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

In helping create a healthy stand of turf, fertilizers can also help lawn care operators take back clients’ yards that had previously been plagued with problems.

Landscape Management got the scoop on how fertilizers have helped eradicate such issues from Jimmy Tompkins, owner of JT’s Landscaping & Lawn Care, a full-service maintenance and design/build company that services residential and commercial clients in Wake Forest, N.C., and Luke Hawthorne, owner and CEO of Emerald Lawns in Round Rock, Texas, a lawn care, irrigation and tree care company that serves a 95 percent residential and 5 percent commercial clientele.

The problem: Fungal damage, such as brown patch, gray leaf spot, summer patch

When JT’s Landscaping & Lawn Care switched over to Greene County Fertilizer Co.’s products about two years ago, the company was excited about using a solution that had less nitrogen than what he was previously using, according to Tompkins.

“Our approach on it was trying to be as sustainable as we possibly could and not just slinging an abundance of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous all over the yards,” Tompkins says. “I feel like a lot of companies overfertilize, which can create fungal issues.”

Supporting that theory, in an article titled, “The plant doctor — plant disease and fertilization,” Alan Henn, Ph.D., Extension professor at Mississippi State University and Extension plant pathologist, disease management of ornamentals, peanut, turf, fruits, nematode program, writes, “Plants with balanced fertility are less susceptible to diseases, but plants with imbalanced nutrition may be predisposed to attacks by pathogenic organisms such as fungi or bacteria. We know more about the influence of nitrogen on the development of diseases than we know about the influence of other elements. Too much nitrogen often causes more severe disease.”

Further complicating the issue, JT’s Landscaping & Lawn Care is located in an area with clay-based soils that make the fertilizer take a while to break down.

“(Since using the new program), we’ve been able to increase the organic matter of the soil and get a good organic layer,” Tompkins says. “So, there’s less stress on the plant because there’s less we’re taking off on every mow, and the roots are driving deep into soil, which creates drought resistance.”

Since the company started using Greene County’s products, Tompkins says he’s seen the amount of fungal damage in clients’ yards decrease.

“Our lawn care program before was really good, but this has just enabled us to be able to use less fertilizer in general,” he says.

The problem: Take-all patch, brown patch

Emerald Lawns was first drawn to Anuvia Plant Nutrients’ products about three years ago because of the sustainability factor.

When Emerald Lawns started implementing Anuvia’s fertilizers into its program, crews noticed less damage in lawns from take-all patch, because the fertilized stands of turf were healthier overall.

“It keeps new cases from popping up,” Hawthorne says. “Take-all patch is something you can’t just treat once and it goes away. Typically, you have to hit it once a year, once every two years, but if we’re able to use Anuvia two, three or four times a year, we don’t really have to deal with it anymore.”

Hawthorne says the fertilizer products have also helped with brown patch, but it’s the effect they’ve had on take-all patch that has saved the company time and money.

“You’ll be driving in older neighborhoods, and you’ll just see huge circles with nothing, just dirt where the take-all patch claimed the grass,” he says. “The only way to get the grass to come back is to treat the soil and then resod that area, so it’s pretty expensive, and if you can prevent that from happening as much as possible, all the better.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

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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