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How to stop common landscape problems in their tracks with a landscape troubleshooting process

What might look like one thing on the surface may be something completely different once the team digs a little deeper. That’s why it’s imperative lawn care operators (LCOs) and landscape maintenance teams can spot problems, identify the causes and offer solutions. Walking them through that landscape troubleshooting process is Ian Rodriguez, Ph.D., technical services manager, Quali-Pro.

Ian Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Ian Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Rodriguez will cover examples of commonly encountered issues, how to figure out what’s causing those issues and what to do about them in an upcoming webinar hosted by Landscape Management and sponsored by Quali-Pro. Topics will include plant selection/adaptation, climate/weather, soils, water, diseases, insects and weeds.

“You have to address the underlying problem, or it will be a recurring issue down the road that can blow up your margin,” says Rodriguez, adding that the solution isn’t always one product or approach. “If it’s a constant problem, the customer’s perception of you won’t be good either, even if you didn’t cause it.”

Graphic: LM StaffRodriguez developed this landscape troubleshooting process based off of his extensive industry experience and from solving problems on hundreds of commercial landscapes. He worked at an ornamental nursery before studying horticulture at the University of Florida, later earning a master’s degree in turfgrass science and a Ph.D. at Clemson University in plant physiology.

He then became an instructor in the golf and landscaping programs at Florida Gateway College in Lake City for eight years before becoming ValleyCrest/BrightView’s technical director for the Florida region. In that role, Rodriguez provided technical support and training in agronomy, horticulture and pest control, as well as troubleshooting issues with customers.

Since joining the Quali-Pro team two years ago, Rodriguez has offered technical support and also manages the research for the development of new products. Quali-Pro manufactures both post-patent and proprietary chemistries, supported by its multinational parent company Adama.

Graphic: LM Staff

Not only does Quali-Pro look to the industry for what needs there might be when developing its unique combination chemistry products, but the brand also has team members like Rodriguez who have been on that side of the industry.

“Of course, we want people to buy and use our products, but we also want to make sure they pick the right ones for the issue at hand and consider additional factors that may be contributing,” he says.

The source of an issue — such as standing water — may not be immediately apparent. (Photo: Quali-Pro)

Weighing all the factors

Even with good product selection, if site-specific issues are favoring a disease or pest, it may seem that the product was less than effective. The reality may be that the product worked fine, but pressure is unusually strong because of bad conditions.

Some problems are obvious, like if there are noticeable insects chewing the leaves. If a plant turns yellow or begins to decline, though, the root cause might not be as apparent.

Photo: Quali-Pro

Sometimes the cause of damage, such as damage from the Sri Lankan weevil (Myllocerus undecimpustulatus) is readily apparent. (Photo: Quali-Pro)

“There’s a long list of things that could cause that plant not to perform, and a lot of those get overlooked,” Rodriguez says.

The goal is to solve the problem in the most cost-effective way possible for the company and customer. Often, that’s translated to mean finding one fertilizer or pesticide approach that will solve a problem, when in reality, it might take several products and/or approaches to remedy the issue. That’s why it’s important for lawn care and landscape professionals to properly troubleshoot problems.

For example, LCOs must identify weeds to choose the right herbicide and course of action. However, they also need to consider if it’s an indicator weed, which might mean there’s a reason why the weed is always popping up in that area.

Indicator weeds like sedges or dollar weed are often associated with wet soil conditions, which could mean the site has waterlogged soil. Those issues could be caused by an irrigation management problem or poor drainage — things chemicals alone won’t fix.

“You can find herbicides that will control sedge and dollar weed,” he says. “But, if the underlying condition isn’t addressed, you’re always going to have sedge and dollar weed problems.”

When a chemical is the solution, LCOs still need to consider the landscape’s conditions. If a plant has piercing-sucking insects such as aphids, whitefly or scale, for example, a pyrethroid like Quali-Pro Bifenthrin I/T can be highly effective — if spray coverage is good. That might be easy to achieve with shrubs or small plant material.

However, if there’s a tall hedge or tree where coverage would be difficult or impractical, soil-applied Quali-Pro Imidacloprid 2F would be a better option.

“Both are labeled for control, but the site and specific conditions within it may dictate whether or not both are practical options,” Rodriguez says.

Photo: Quali-Pro
Some long-term solutions will require more than just chemical approaches. (Photo: Quali-Pro)

Knowledge matters

Rodriguez has seen almost everything when helping troubleshoot a property: trees planted too deep, plants in the ground still in the pot, trees with the synthetic sock still on the ball, mulch volcanoes and other instances of sloppy installations.

Graphic: LM Staff“You don’t necessarily have to closely inspect every tree, since some symptoms and issues can be spotted from a distance,” Rodriguez says. “You’ll get a feel for common failures over time and some of the basic things to look for.”

Having the knowledge on how to solve lawn and landscape problems is what will help set a company apart.

“If you have horticultural issues going undiagnosed, that’s where your knowledge comes into play and where you will see differences,” he says. “That builds reputation and marketability. You have a better chance of selling that enhancement or corrective renovation if you have good reasoning with good knowledge behind it.”

Rodriguez will cover these topics and more during the landscape troubleshooting webinar Thursday, April 22, at 1 p.m. EDT/ 10 a.m. PDT. Sign up for the free webinar.

This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with Quali-Pro. NCM Content Marketing connects marketers to audiences and delivers industry trends, business tips and product information. The Landscape Management editorial staff did not create this content.

Header photos: Quali-Pro